One of the advantages of working from home is the flexible schedule. No matter how many things you need to accomplish, or how many simultaneous projects you have, you can still control when you can perform certain tasks, as well as how long they take. While this is more true of freelancing than it is for employees, it’s this schedule flexibility that makes the prospect of teleworking more attractive.
Whether it’s a do-it-yourself renovation of your home office, a one-month trip, or participating in NaNoWriMo, there’s always the big, personal project that you’re trying to fit in your schedule. How do you make sure that it won’t have much of a negative impact on your work?
Evaluate Your Situation
There are several issues you need to address before you rearrange your schedule around your personal project. To start with, ask yourself the following questions:
Which projects will be affected the most? Some projects consume your time and effort more than others. Identify the clients or the tasks which will be most affected by the changes in your schedule. The best way to do this is to audit a typical workday and see which tasks you accomplish and how long it takes to finish them.
It’s also important to note how they will be affected. Will you have less time for live support? Will there be connectivity issues that will prevent you from uploading and downloading large files?
How will the work get done? Are you going to do all the work yourself or will you require assistance? Whenever I’d take more than a week off, I always do as much work as I can beforehand, so that only daily tasks such as checking and responding to email are affected.
Still, no matter how much work you try to finish ahead of time, new tasks will always accumulate and someone has to do them. Subcontractors or assistants can be helpful — but only if you hire and train them well. There are many things that can go wrong with such an arrangement, especially if it’s your first time to work this way. To ensure that your relationship with hired help will go smoothly, plan for a transition or trial phase and start working with them before you make any real changes to your schedule.
What is the best way for clients and colleagues contact you? While you’re working on your personal project, will your clients have to change the way they contact you? Let them know the best way to reach you in case of emergencies that can’t be easily discussed via email.
Develop a Contingency Plan
We’ve discussed contingency plans here at WWD before. If having contingency plans is important during regular workdays, they are even more important when you’re making changes to your schedule. After all, you might not be around when problems occur. Here are some problem areas you should plan for:
- Internet connectivity
- Hardware and software failures
- Data backup
- Revision requests and new orders from clients
- Complaints, questions and other support issues
Let Everyone Know
After planning the adjustments you need to make, you have to decide whether you’ll let relevant parties know about the changes. Sometimes, personal projects hardly make a difference in your schedule or work process. But if they will, your clients might need to know about it.
While you may have clients that are supportive and understanding, there will also be those who will worry and think you are abandoning them. Think about each client’s attitude to risk and changes before spilling all the details. As long as you don’t sacrifice the work quality or your adherence to deadlines, they shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Once in awhile, it’s good to take advantage of the flexibility that our teleworking schedules have to offer. With careful planning, we can strike a good balance between both paid and personal projects.
Have you altered your work schedule for a trip or a personal project? Share your tips in the comments.