Using a home office

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A home office is one of the most fashionable features of teleworking. Usually a desk with a PC, a printer, some paper and pens; an ADSL is a must; and of course, your unmissable cup of coffee to help the hours go. A home office has turned out to be the usual workplace for most freelance translators. Some others, for lack of a proper space, prefer to work in a cybercafé.

Contents

Advantages

  • No need to commute between home and work
  • No bosses/workmates around
  • You control your own time assignment
  • You may stop working at almost any time, and resume working as you wish
  • The outsourcer is happy with you, because he/she saves a lot of money in office space which is provided by you

Disadvantages

  • Boring if you need to see people around
  • Unthinkable if you cannot manage your time and efforts by yourself
  • All on your own if you need help right now

How to set up a home office

Although it is best to have a separate room with a door that can be closed, a home office is not necessarily a room of its own. It can be part of another room in the house - some use the breakfast nook, some have installed a desk in the corner of the bedroom and still some work out of their basement. However, it is important to make sure that whichever corner of the house you pick, it will be a place where you can concentrate and not be bothered too much by life running its course nearby.

Since most of us will be spending most of the day in our home offices, it is preferable for the place to be a calm and clean environment. Ideally, a home office should not be used by kids to do their homework or used by other family members to browse the internet. It is very important that the items used in the home office are never misplaced and that our computer is not being fiddled with in our absence. Lighting is also very important - the more natural sunlight can be allowed into the home office, the better, as this will keep spirits high and aid concentration. Of course, a good lamp that will illuminate the work area (that is, screen and keyboard) is crucial.

Spending countless hours sitting in front of a computer can be very hard on both body and brain, which in turn can slow you down and disturb your concentration, as well as put you in a bad mood. Ergonomics is key in the home office. An ergonomic chair may not be a small investment, but your back will thank you for it many times over. It is also important to keep your computer screen at the correct height and at the correct inclination - you should be looking straight ahead of you, not down, up or sideways, to avoid neck strain. You may want to invest in a shelf to put your screen on to correct a faulty position. The same goes for the keyboard and mouse - they need to be positioned so that your arms and hands rest on the edge of the desk and so you don't have to reach for your tools in an unnatural manner. A keyboard shelf mounted under the desk surface can fix this problem in case the desk is too high. It is also preferable to keep out any noise - make sure there is no TV in the room. You can listen to music, but make sure it is not too loud and that it is the type of music that will help you concentrate and put you in a good mood rather than the type that will make you want to sing along and jump up and down on your seat.

It is a good idea to have a telephone on your desk if you regularly speak to clients over the phone. However, if family and friends have the nasty habit of calling you because they think that your being home equals being free, then it may be a good idea to put the telephone elsewhere or at least to have call display so you can pick the calls you want to answer and direct other calls to the answering machine. One trick that can help in filtering calls is to have a different telephone number for business which has a different ring (this service usually costs only a few dollars per month). This way, you don't even need to look at the call display, you can tell if the call is important without taking your eyes off the screen. The added bonus is that if you are a registered business, you can answer the telephone like a receptionist instead of just saying hello, which will make a good impression on prospective clients you speak to for the first time.

I think it's essential for a translator as much for any other professionals to keep your work space organized and tidy. So it's really good to keep your books and dictionaries always in the same place, so that when you need them you don't loose time. After this, even if sometimes the amount of work can be so pressing, you should never allow yourself to eat full meals in the room where you work, especially if it is the bedroom. It is when you start mixing the use of different rooms, so kitchen and bedroom, study room and and living room, etc that you make less effective the functionality of every of them. Obviously so, when you work you should not allow anyone to come into your room, even if it can seem unpolite or antisocial, you have to be clear with people saying that you are not available while working. This is the case also when you are young and you live with other young people, who are usually more likely to interrupt you with their news and their being social, that sometimes can be disturbing and annoying. So there are two solutions for this case:1)you move out 2)you close yourself in the room, and you make it as soundproof as you can. We all know how important is to focus for a good amount of time when we are working, so it is good to isolate yourself.In order to do so one thing that I find perfectly functional is to use some relaxing music . The music I'd like to suggest is obviously not the rap, or the kind of music with words, that could easily distract you.I suggest instead a brainwake kind of music that helps to keep the focus and boost your ability to work over the time. You can find some of them on youtube if you put brainwave meditaion music,or high focus etc.

Finally, having a bowl of fruit to keep that translating brain functioning, having a pad, or even better, a whiteboard to jot down ideas or fiddle when you take a break and having something pleasant, like a picture of your family, on your desk to have some endorphin-generating item to keep you motivated, are all great ideas.

Software to make the home office experience better

Other than the software you use to carry out work, there are many computer programs that you can use to make your workday more efficient.

It is important to take a break every hour for five minutes, and we often tend to forget this, especially with an urgent deadline. It is a good idea to have software that will remind us to take a break. This can be software specifically for this purpose, or a virtual alarm clock or some such program that can be programmed to give us a nudge when we need it. You can set up tasks in Microsoft Outlook that will display an alert at a specific time.

People who work out of a home office usually base their work on e-mail. Our most important tool is an e-mail client. We tend to receive a fairly large amount of e-mail in a day and things need to be sorted out. We don't have time to sort e-mail and that is why it is always nice to have software that will do this for us. There are advanced e-mail clients available for this purpose, but there are also add-ons that you can use in conjunction with Microsoft Outlook that will help managing e-mail. The point is to make sure all messages go into the correct folder, that you don't have to chew through junk mail before seeing your work mail and that you can find work mail rapidly and easily even if you are storing 6,000 e-mails in your e-mail client.

With the various file formats we handle, it can become problematic to find the correct files when we need them. Three things come in handy: a backup software to make sure we are not losing any of our important files, a desktop search program that will allow us to find files based on different criteria which cannot necessarily be used in the operating system's search function, and a file manager or version manager. Backup software is self-explanatory - just make sure you are backing up files on the most efficient media, which is most likely an external hard drive. Desktop search programs are also pretty straightforward - make sure you use one that indexes files on your hard drive in real time or at regular intervals. File managers or version managers are a bit more tricky. These are mostly used so that you can keep track of a file's version history. While this may not seem important, many of us have had the nasty experience of not being sure which file was the most recent and either ended up sending the wrong file or took a long time figuring out the correct file.


Other items to use in the home office

  • A snack or a bowl of fruit nearby - calories can help keep our concentration
  • Flowers, plants - always nice to have a living thing nearby
  • Black or white board - being able to jot down ideas and have them displayed on the wall can help because those ideas don't clutter your head anymore and this helps in keeping your concentration
  • A stress ball or other item to help channel your nervousness or anger when you've been looking for a term for hours and still can't find it
  • Items you use for comfort - if you're in pain or are sick, have your medication handy, keep a sweater to warm up, some candy, fragrant candles or oil in a burner (peppermint helps to focus and keeps you motivated)

Keeping your space organized

It is essential for a translator, as much for any other professional, to keep your work space organized and tidy. Keep your books and dictionaries always in the same place, so that when you need them you don't lose time searching.

Never allow yourself to eat in the room where you work, especially if it is the bedroom. Once you start mixing the use of different rooms (kitchen and bedroom, study room and and living room, etc.) you run the risk of reducing the functionality of each of them.

Do not allow unannounced visits or disturbances in your workspace while you are working; even if it can seem unpolite or antisocial, you have to be clear with people at to when you are available and when you are focused on work.

Discussion related to this article

Please note that ProZ.com forum rules apply to this area.


Using a home office

Lorenzo Carbone
Local time: 16:53
English to Italian
+ ...
Keeping your space organizedJan 13, 2011

I think it's essential for a translator as much for any other professionals to keep your work space organized and tidy.
So it's really good to keep your books and dictionaries always in the same place, so that when you need them you don't loose time.
After this, even if sometimes the amount of work can be so pressing, you should never allow yourself to eat in the room where you work, especially if it is the bedroom.
It is when you start mixing the use of different rooms, so kitchen and bedroom, study room and and living room, etc that you make less effective the functionality of every of them.
Obviously so, when you work you should not allow anyone to come into your room, even if it can seem unpolite or antisocial, you have to be clear with people saying that you are not available while working.
This is the case also when you are young and you live with other young people, who are usually more likely to interrupt you with their news and their being social, that sometimes can be disturbing and annoying.
So there are two solutions for this case:1)you move out 2)you close yourself in the room, and you make it as soundproof as you can.
We all know how important is to focus for a good amount of time when we are working, so it is good to isolate yourself.In order to do one thing that I find perfecttly functional is to use some relaxing music .
The music I'd like to suggest is obviously not the rap, or the kind of music with words, that could easily distract you.I suggest instead a brainwake kind of music that helps to keep the focus and boost your ability to work over the time.
You can find some of them on youtube if you put brainwave meditaion music,or high focus etc.


 

Jared Tabor
Local time: 12:53
SITE STAFF
Thanks; added some of this to the articleJan 13, 2011

Thanks Lorenzo! I took some of what you wrote and used it to add to the article above; feel free to edit or add to this accordingly.

Jared


 

Nicole Schnell Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:53
English to German
+ ...
Ouch. The intro sounds quite amateurish.Jan 13, 2011

An office is an office, no matter where it is located. This is where you run your business. If you run a business, you might want to consider declaring this space that has been stolen from your house or apartment tax-deductible. Believe me, CPAs and/or auditors will make sure that this space is used for its purpose solely.

I have no idea why little children, coffee, extra shelves and bowls of fruit are even mentioned.

It ridicules our profession and depicts highly professional academics as kitchen-table workers.

Sorry, I don't mean to be rude but the entire thing sounds like one of those ads "Housewives can make $$$$ working from home and make money online".


 

Jared Tabor
Local time: 12:53
SITE STAFF
Would you care to edit/add to the article?Jan 13, 2011

Hi Nicole,

Good feedback. Feel free to edit the article accordingly, that's how it works!

Jared


 

Nicole Schnell Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:53
English to German
+ ...
I will be happy to do so.Jan 13, 2011

Jared wrote:

Hi Nicole,

Good feedback. Feel free to edit the article accordingly, that's how it works!

Jared



Thanks, Jared! Nothing will be deleted, but the weight will be shifted a bit.

Best,

Nicole icon_smile.gif


 

Jared Tabor
Local time: 12:53
SITE STAFF
Thanks!Jan 13, 2011

Excellent, thanks Nicole!

Jared


 

Lynn Webb Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:53
Member (2009)
German to English
A few other ideasJan 26, 2011

I'd like to suggest a few other things.

There are tables available that can be raised or lowered, allowing you to work standing up or sitting down. This can be handy to have. For instance, if you start to become drowsy in the afternoon, you can raise the table to force yourself to stand for a while.

Sometimes music of any kind can be disturbing. This is where some type of white noise comes in handy. If you have noisy neighbors or construction or noisy animals in the neighborhood, you may want to consider noise canceling headphones, a white noise device that blocks out other noise (even a fan might work), or possibly even a small fountain with trickling water (if you can handle that).

Air filtration: a plant should work well for this, but you might also want to consider an air filtration system/ionizer for odors, etc.

Cold feet? A foot rest heater, such as Toasty Toes, works well--especially in the winter.

[Edited at 2011-01-26 04:00 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-01-26 04:21 GMT]


 
Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Empty post

Lynn Webb Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:53
Member (2009)
German to English
Children/animals should be includedJan 26, 2011

Nicole Schnell wrote:

I have no idea why little children, coffee, extra shelves and bowls of fruit are even mentioned.

It ridicules our profession and depicts highly professional academics as kitchen-table workers.


I hope this doesn't get published twice, since it didn't seem to take the first time, but I think it is important to mention children and animals. Contrary to what some might think, you can be a professional and have children. This is another reason it is important to have a separate room in the house dedicated to work. A lock on the door is a good idea. A fire/waterproof safe is a good idea for particular items/documents that can't be placed in a safe deposit box elsewhere. Another thing that should be included is setting basic rules around the house to ensure that you aren't interrupted during work ours, although you won't be able to prevent some interruptions here and there. Young children and animals in particular won't understand the rules. Make sure to establish regular work hours and do not allow yourself to spend excessive "overtime" in the space. It is much easier when you work from home to overwork.


 

WML Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:53
German to English
children/animals should be includedJan 26, 2011

for me the whole point of being able to work at home is that I am there for the children when they come in from school, the guide dog puppy sleeps under my desk, I can choose to work any time of night or day when it suits me. I am a woman - i can multitask and provide an excellent translation while being there for people who need me at the same time!icon_smile.gif I thoroughly enjoy being a translator - my home office has other desks in it for the children to surf the web or do homework and for my husband to sit at doing what ever he fancies when I am working in the evening. I enjoy a bit of conversation while working - it would be the same in a big office! But I agree with Lynn on the ease with which you can overwork....icon_frown.gif

[Edited at 2011-01-26 10:24 GMT]


 

Miranda Joubioux Identity Verified
Local time: 16:53
French to English
A snack or a bowl of fruit nearby - calories can help keep our concentrationJan 26, 2011

Forgive me if this sounds rude to whoever wrote this, but I think that this is really not a good idea.
Translation is a sedentary job. The translator seldom moves.
Having snacks, whatever they might be at hand means that you don't stand up and go and get something.
I know many people who find that they put on weight since they started this kind of work.
It's not a good idea to keep food close to your desk.

As for calories helping us concentrate. I'm not so sure!

However there is one thing we should all have at hand and that's water!
When I get really engrossed in my work I forget to drink water and that's bad for my concentration and my body in general.
A bottle/large glass of water at hand is essential to remain efficient throughout the day.
The brain needs water not sugar to work properly!


 

Daniel Carr De Muzio
Brazil
Local time: 12:53
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A snack or a bowl of fruit nearby - calories can help keep our concentrationJan 26, 2011

I am happy the rigid Teutonic-Prussian or French work ethics apply only in Europe. I work in Bermuda shorts, with my dogs right out on the porch, and I always check into the kitchen for a snack or water. It should be noted that only water would water down our brain, and the get-up-and-go to play with the dogs or for a snack is good for your body, after long hours of sitting in front of a PC. Of course, I would rather work without my grandchildren around, but to forbid them from coming into the room to show a snail or a new butterfly seems very nasty.
My advice is to make yourself comfortable, even if this goes against established work ethics - that is the big advantage of not having bosses around!!! As long as you keep on your deadlines and tap away good work...

[Edited at 2011-01-26 19:55 GMT]


 

Sergei Tumanov Identity Verified
Local time: 17:53
English to Russian
+ ...
What if...Jan 26, 2011

...
It is when you start mixing the use of different rooms, so kitchen and bedroom, study room and and living room, etc that you make less effective the functionality of every of them. ...


you have only one room apartment?

Any recommendations?


 

Herbert Eppel Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:53
German to English
+ ...
Home work - we love it! Jan 27, 2011

See http://hetranslations.blogspot.com/2009/07/home-work-we-love-it.html

 

Isabelle Colas Sportouch
Local time: 16:53
English to French
Ouch! This article crashes my Firefox evry time I open it!!!! Feb 1, 2011

I'm using Firefox 3.6.13

 

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