Work-at-Home and the Immune System

Are you like me, a freelancer who enjoys the wonderful opportunity to make money from your home?  You may be a writer, or an artist, or a medical transcriptionist or any of the hundreds of other jobs that can now be done from the comfort and security of your own home.   The internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for those who never quite managed to hook into that whole unpleasant office scene.  Perhaps that is why I don’t really find The Office in either its British or American versions to be particularly funny; I just don’t get the humor, having done everything in my power to withstand my own personal version of hell: working in an office and dealing with office politics.   That is not to say I haven’t worked outside of the home; I have probably had more different kinds of jobs than almost anyone I know.  But finally, with the growth of the internet, I was able to live my dream of working full time from home.  Of course, as with any job there is a downside. 

Many people who work from home spend a considerable amount of their leisure time at home as well.  If you’re like me, you work during the day and then help take care of the kids in the evening.  As a result, many of us don’t exactly get out into the real world and come into contact with other people as frequently as others, nor as frequently as we should.  The hidden health danger of being a freelancer, or someone who works from home, is that the less time you spend among other people, the more your immune system weakens.   I have it particularly bad because my wife happens to be a teacher and I occasionally go down to the school to help her out or just to pick her up.  The key word here is occasionally.  If I were to go twice as much I’d be okay, and if I were never to go to the school at all, I’d be okay.  The problem is I go just often enough that, seemingly without fail, I bring home some kind of bug.  It has become something a joke around here.  Any time I spend more than a just few minutes at my wife’s school we can count on my being sick in a few days.  Usually, it is not anything serious, of course, but a day or two of running on a half-full engine means a lot when your income is dependent on your being at full power mentally and physically. 

Of course, many of you who are just now experiencing the joys of working from home won’t be in quite the situation I am.  I am scandalously antisocial and tend to avoid contact with other human beings as much as I can.  This means I don’t get calls at 2:00 AM in the morning from some friend asking me to pick up him because he’s too drunk to drive home and, believe me, that is worth a few extra colds a year.  At the same time, I have to be conscious of what I touch.  A good example is my notorious visit to Disney Hollywood Studios in the summer of 2008.  I brought home a nasty bug that essentially had me out of action (for me, of course, out of action means that I may only get two or three articles done a day) or else running on low cylinder for a full week.  If I was a brilliant person, I’d wear gloves whenever I go out in public, but it probably still wouldn’t help.   

Most of you probably are not as antisocial as I am and so won’t be quite as subject to the vagaries of a weakened immune system.  Nevertheless, especially if you are just now embarking upon a life of working from home, it is imperative for you to realize the dangers inherent in this solitary lifestyle.  By withdrawing from society even just eight hours a day during working hours you are immediately going to begin experiencing a weakening of your immune system.  This is doubly true if you are coming from a job, like teaching, where you are dealing with a high level of communicable viruses that you have naturally built up an immunity to.  God help you if you are coming to a solitary existence after working in a hospital or clinical setting.   If you worked as medical transcriptionist in a hospital and go to work doing the same thing on a freelance, be prepared to get sicker more often than you used to. 

Is there anything you can do to help offset the problems associated with a weakened immune system caused by long periods of solitary confinement that comes with working from home?  Well, you’re asking the wrong guy, but the first thing you might try is to get out more often.  Develop a social life away from the home after working hours.  Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after shaking hands with people.  Try not to touch things outside your house as much as possible.   And, like I should, perhaps consider wearing gloves.  Yes, you may get some strange looks, but if your salary is dependent on your being healthy, consider it a form of non-conformist rebellion.   

Designing Your Kitchen to Also Function as a Home Office

Today’s kitchens are not your grandmother’s kitchen. The transformation of the modern kitchen extends well beyond technological updates, new inventions and improvements in efficiency and design of appliances. When designing your kitchen today, you may very well also be planning space where work that has little to nothing to do with cooking is done. The kitchen can be designed to incorporate elements of the home office.

Why should you consider designing your kitchen to also function as a home office? Well, perhaps you simply don’t have space for an office anywhere else. Or perhaps you write a blog about cooking. Quite possibly you find yourself so hard-pressed for time in your demanding schedule that you already are using elements of your kitchen to get other work done while preparing meals. So what ideas and concepts work best for designing a kitchen to do double duty as office space? Well, not everybody will have the same needs, but here a handful of helpful tips to consider, contemplate and calculate.

Six Degrees From Your Bacon

You definitely don’t want grease, food items or bacteria to come into contact with papers, documents, computers or other items commonly used in a home office. Designing your kitchen to also function as a home office means putting as much space as possible between the workstations used for cooking and for office work.

Cabinetry

As added protection against cross-contamination, you might want to consider the added expense of investing in cabinets for customized use. Cabinetry can be designed, constructed and put into place in your kitchen as protection for your office equipment against the unique situation of working in a kitchen environment. Closing up books, files, computers and other office elements behind sturdy cabinetry can not only offer added protection against things like grease and smoke, but also function as a way to conceal the office part of your kitchen when desired.

Computer Mounted Office Desk

Another way to protect computers operating within the kitchen environment is to set to work designing your kitchen with a work desk in which the computer screen is mounted below a counter featuring a see-through inset and a sliding keyboard. This option offers one of the best kinds of protection of sensitive computer equipment from the hazards of sharing the space in which you cook.

Sliding Cabinet Doors

When designing your kitchen for any use, it’s always wise to at least give some thought to the efficiency of cabinets with doors that slide out to reveal concealed storage space. This cabinet option is especially suitable for a kitchen that also functions as a home office. The sliding cabinet door can be opened to give you only as-needed access to things like paper, staplers, envelopes, computer storage and other office necessities. If you start the kitchen designing process with sliding cabinet doors a central part of the plan, this space can be exploited to conceal just about every trace of a home office but the wheeled chair when not in use.

Islands, Bars and Countertops

L-shaped islands, peninsula islands and counter extensions offer the simplest way of designing your kitchen to be used for home office purposes. If you rarely use your bar or island area for cooking, you might want to think about adding some cabinets below the surface or at either end to provide storage space while revamping the surface area to make it suitable as either a temporary or permanent work desk.

The Magic Word for Work-at-Home Parents

One thing that many people with a work-at-home business don’t plan for is how the arrival of kids is going to change everything. Literally. Your work-at-home day before kids and your work-at-home day after kids might as well be two completely different things. Don’t despair, however. You can still enjoy all the benefits of working from home and still have time to raise a family. You just have to make some allowances and plan a little more carefully.  

The biggest problem you may face when trying to run a business from home with young children around could actually be more an emotional obstacle than anything else. When kids are needing your attention and your work is needing to get done, it can quickly become a divisive issue within yourself. You start asking your question if you are neglecting your kids. You start wondering if you are cut out for the work-at-home game.  

Before things get to that point, you have to lay down the ground rules. Obviously, these ground rules don’t apply to very small children who can’t do anything for themselves. When you are working from home and you have kids home from school or you just begin a stay-at-home job as your kids are becoming teenagers, however, that’s a whole other ballgame. And the ground rules that must be laid down essentially come down to making sure the kids understand the full meaning of the following question.  

Would you have walked to my office downtown to ask me this question?  

You have to make not just kids, but anyone else around the home understand that just because your work is done at home, that does not mean you are also a baby sitter, chef or limo drive. If one of the kids comes to you and asks you to make them something to eat, you calmly ask them the question posed above. Would they have walked downtown to your office to ask you to make them something to eat? Or would they have found something to eat by themselves?   

Would your kid make that journey to your downtown office to ask you to help them with homework or to drive them to their friends? Of course, they wouldn’t. Do your kids need your help with homework and need you to drive them to their friends? Of course, they do. And you need to make the effort to do those things when you have the time. Work comes before anything that is not an emergency. Does this sound like a cold way to treat you kids?  

Sure, it does. If you work at home. Because the one thing you will never stop hearing when you tell people that you work at home is how wonderful it must be to have the ability to live the rest of your life on your own time schedule. People who work in an office or sell things on the road or stand behind a register at the mall can’t just suddenly stop working to make their kids a sandwich or drive them to friend’s house. And yet you are supposed to feel guilty if you don’t do these things simply because you have a lot more flexibility when it comes to changing your schedule.   

The problem is once you start buying into the mythical world, it becomes your reality. That kind of reality is the quickest route to becoming more and more unproductive. You know the old saying, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Once you start interrupting your stay-at-home job to make a sandwich, it’s only a matter of time before you are frying chicken fingers. Once you postpone a task to drive a kid a few miles to a friend’s house, the next time thing you know you are driving across town to forgotten soccer practice. Before you know it, you’ll be missing deadlines and then missing assignments.   

All because your job that is every bit as serious as any other job is done from an office located thirty seconds from your child’s bedroom rather too far away to bother walking to.