Aug 18, 2015

    Working from home's no walk in the park

    MANY people want to work from home. Or, at least, they think they want to work from home. At Zendesk, a software development company, we introduced "No Meeting Wednesdays". For the engineering team, this quickly turned into "Working from Home Wednesdays".

    Most of the time, this is fine. For many people, working from home is fantastic. The amount of time saved from the daily commute and fewer distractions is tremendous.

    Many people are also more productive in a quieter, less stressful environment. And of course, there is the added benefit of being able to spend more time with the family or on hobbies.

    For a start-up company, the main advantage of working from home is cost savings, since you do not need to rent an office unit.

    Unfortunately, for others, "Working from Home Wednesdays" just became an excuse to stay out late on Tuesday nights.

    The discipline involved in working from home can be really hard to attain, especially when you have a family. It takes a lot of focus, as there can be even more tempting distractions to derail you.

    It may also be hard to separate work from home, where you could sway from one end of the spectrum - looking into childcare, cooking, cleaning and various chores - to the other, in which you work around the clock.

    Another challenge for a start-up company that works out of a home can happen when you need to meet partners or investors.

    At Zendesk, for the first year or so, we worked out of our co-founder's loft in an old part of Copenhagen. We needed to climb five flights of rickety stairs to get to work, and the furniture included kitchen chairs and an old door on sawhorses for a desk.

    When we were trying to raise our Series A investment, one of the investors wanted to meet us. It was an intimate experience hosting a prospective investor in the kitchen.

    Fortunately for us, he was even scrappier than we were. Our lack of a real office didn't turn this investor off, and he subsequently became one of our investors and strongest supporters.

    Here are some tips to be better at working from home:

    Have a proper home office that both you and your family consider more "office" than "home". Let your family (especially young kids) know that when mum or dad step into the "office", they are not to be disturbed.

    Make Skype your friend. You have to check in with your team members, peers and boss all the time. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Let go of the fact that the house needs to be cleaned. This can actually be harder than you think, since you will be looking at the mess all day.

    It is remarkable that we live in times when we can work from anywhere. The bigger challenge is whether or not you have the personality to be productive at it.

    The writer is founder and chief executive of Zendesk. Excerpts of this article were taken from Mr Svane's book, Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything To Turn An Idea Into A Global Business.