We’re not kidding when we say that you wouldn’t be the first person to become a little infatuated with the UPS delivery person. (Google “crush on UPS man” and you’ll see what we mean.) And for many teleworkers, it’s not just that smart brown uniform—it’s because the cheerful person at the door is the only human they’ve seen all day.
If you’re falling prey to these or other danger signs (talking to telemarketers, talking to yourself ) it may be time for a change of scenery. Your home office was never meant to be a prison.
Working some breaks into your schedule, where you get out and see friends or at least other people, is a good start.
If you’re saving time on your commute, why not use that to reinvigorate your social life? Cooking dinner for busy friends on a work night is a sure hit.
Changing your work location is also effective. If you’ve got a laptop, try out local coffee shops, libraries, and anyplace else with an available chair, table, and electrical outlet. At first, you’ll be amazed at the number of people wandering around in the middle of the workday. But then you’ll realize that a lot of them are teleworkers, too. It’s okay to wave hello, just don’t expect long conversations—you’ve both got work to do.
Eventually, however, you might initiate or join a group “teleworker social hour,” with a regularly reserved table at your favorite local hangout- and-work spot. Afternoons tend to be best, when most teleworkers’ productivity is starting to flag.
Café Etiquette: Order Once an Hour
As reported by Marco R. della Cava of USA TODAY, a teleworker “touchdown” spot is any place with wireless access that isn’t a home or office. Most folks gravitate toward local or chain eateries, which provide both real and social nourishment. As with any public setting, rules do apply, even if they are largely unspoken:
- Tip big and eat often. Think of those hourly lattes or scones as rent for your table, payment of which is crucial for the survival of any business welcoming busy squatters.
- Take it outside. Keep cell phones and PDAs on vibrate, and when they do buzz, head straight for the door.
- Don’t be a hog. It’s fine to keep your things piled on a table when you step out for a breath of fresh air, but not if you plan to be away a while.
- Be careful whom you trust. Because thieves and hackers work fast, take important hardware and documents with you for anything but a quick run to the sugar-and-napkin station.
- Keep your eyes to yourself. Resist the temptation to sneak a look at neighboring laptops. With this crowd, it’s considered as egregious as stealing company secrets.
- Cords get right of way. All electrical outlets are fair game, so expect to accommodate the odd power cord as it snakes past your dominion.
- Look for the high sign. Even though mere inches can separate you from a fellow teleworker, realize that only when both parties issue a mutual greeting is it okay to invade those invisible offices.
- Come loaded for meters. Nothing drives veteran virtual office workers crazier than being asked for quarters to keep the parking police at bay, so bring your own stash. And if you want to make friends fast, bring a few extra quarters to help out a newbie.
“Computers, quiche and quiet; 30-million-strong army of workers plugs away, away from the office,” by Marco R. della Cava, October 5, 2006.