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Tips for Working at Home
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Some Thoughts on Proofreading
by Penina Wolicki, CET

During the process of researching a workshop I was giving on efficiency and productivity, I went online and searched for tips for people working at home. Two of those tips showed up on many of the sites that I hit; and while they don't surprise me overly much, I just don't understand them. The two most common tips are: 1) even if you work from home, get dressed as if you're going to the office; and 2) totally separate your paid work time and your other daily activities.

I've been working from home for a very long time, and I can tell you, if I got dressed as if I was going to the office every day, I may as well leave and go to the office. And if I totally separated my paid work and my other daily activities, what would be the benefit of working from home?
I am my most productive as a transcriber wearing pajamas. Pajamas are comfortable. They're loose. They're baggy. They breathe. If I'm going to be sitting in front of a computer, typing 100 words per minute for hours on end, I don't want to have to stop every few minutes to adjust my tight waistline, pull down a tight skirt that's hiking up, fiddle with my scratchy collar. If my clothes are all super comfortable, it's one less distraction for me.

And have you ever tried using a foot pedal in high heels? I saw someone try once. A prospective transcriber once came to my house to try out my equipment before applying for a job. She was wearing three-inch platform sandals. It took her about 2 minutes to ask if I minded if she took off her shoes. I myself have a large collection of fuzzy nonskid socks. They're my favorite footwear.

I don't leave the house in my pajamas. If I go out shopping, run errands, have a meeting, I dress appropriately. But in my opinion, loose, baggy, comfortable clothing is the appropriate dress for my job.

If I had to attend meetings with clients, I'm sure I'd dress to impress. If I was a court reporter sitting in a room full of people, I'm sure I could find some appropriately comfortable way to dress. But if no one sees me, and if it makes me more productive, my work clothes are what make me feel good. Sitting in front of the computer all day typing can cause all kinds of aches and pains, I don't need to add to them by cutting off the blood supply to parts of my body, just so I can "feel like I've gone to the office."

Now, about separating paid work time and other daily activities. Housework is a wonderful way to get up and stretch when you need to. If I put a load of laundry in at 7 a.m., work for an hour, then spend 5 minutes hanging the laundry, I feel like I've been multitasking, not wasting time. When I finish transcribing and I need a break before I proof my work, I can mix up a casserole for supper at 2 in the afternoon when everyone else is out of the house. It takes half the amount of time it would when the kids are home because I have no distractions. I also get to move around a bit and rest my eyes.

I often build errands into my daily schedule to help break up the day. I like to go shopping 10 minutes after the stores open. That way I get a good parking spot, beat the rush, don't have to wait in line at the register, and spend probably 15 minutes less at the store than I probably would otherwise. Those 15 minutes can be spent working later. I don't think going shopping with small kids in tow, at peak hours, when everyone else is at the store is particularly fulfilling. I'd rather spend quality time at home with my kids than take them shopping with me at 6 p.m. (These days, actually, I can ask my kids to go shopping for me at 6 p.m., but I find it easier to do it myself, because I don't have to call myself every 5 minutes to clarify what the shopping list means!)

It's true that there should be a beginning and end to your work day. My work day can begin at 4:30 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., but that doesn't mean I work more than 12 hours a day. It just means that I may decide that I'm on lunch break from 1:30 to 3 p.m. During those hours, my time is my own.

Maybe dressing for success makes some people feel like they have a real job. Maybe a structured environment and regular work schedule helps keep some people on track. I concede that may be true for some types of jobs and some types of people. But does it make them more productive overall? I'm not so sure. What I am sure of is that as a transcriber, my method works just fine for me.

Penina Wolicki is an AAERT Certified Electronic Court Transcriber.

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