Plan for Problems When Working At Home


Nearly every weekday, I wake up, roll out of bed, power on my computer, get coffee, turn on Pandora, and get to work. Today, I woke up and rolled out of bed into darkness. The power was out. No power means I can’t turn on my computer and therefore I can’t work (I can’t have coffee either). Sometimes I’ve woken and had power, but no Internet. The other issue I have this morning is a trackball mouse that likes to double click and won’t highlight. It started working on the call with the tech lady, but the minute the call ended, it misbehaved. Murphy is alive and well, even in a home office.

Working at home is a great thing, but it’s not without it’s hassles. Depending on the work you do, a power outage may cause significant stress in your work-at-home life. The best way to deal with the unexpected when working at home is treat it like you would any other problem that can happen in your life: You plan for it. You probably have a first aid kit and some canned food stored somewhere in case of a natural disaster. You can also plan for times when the power or Internet or other issues occur that can prevent you from working. Here are some tips to weather work-at-home storms.

Protect Your Equipment and Work

A power outage means there could be power surge, which can damage your computer and other electronic devices that are plugged into a wall. For that reason, you should have all your important devices (computer, laptop, phone charger, printer, etc) plugged into a super-duper surge protector. While you’re home insurance may cover damage from a surge (I’ve had this happen), it’s a hassle to get your data off a computer that doesn’t want to turn on.

You should also back up your data on a regular basis. I back up to an external drive, so that if something goes wrong, I can hook it up to another computer and get my work. You can back up to online sources as well, in which case you need Internet access to get to it. You might want to consider multiple back up sources…just in case.

Know Your Options

The first thing I thought when the power went out was, I can’t work, so I’m going back to bed. The second was, I wonder if the local coffee joint and library have power. Those two spots are my immediate go-to places if my power or Internet is out. If those two places are having problems, I drive to the next town over where there are tons of java joints, cafes and shops with free wi-fi. My only issue today was that my laptop doesn’t hold a charge, so I’d need a place with easy access to a plug (the library). The point is, I know that if I can’t work at home, I can work somewhere else. You should have an idea of all the free wi-fi places you can work if you can’t do it at home.

Have Backups

This is different from backing up your data. My mouse is going on the fritz. I could buy one, but that’s not on my schedule today. Fortunately, I happen to have an old mouse that had come with the computer originally (I bought a separate mouse because I like trackball mice). While I don’t like standard mice, it will do the job until I can fix or replace my trackball. Having an old desktop or laptop can serve as a back up to your main work computer. This is especially true if most of what you use your computer for (i.e. email, docs etc) is web-based.

Take the Day Off

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I’ve been snowed in without power or Internet, so I couldn’t work. Even if I could get out of my driveway, the weather closed most places so there was no where to go to work. Instead of stressing about it, I enjoyed it. Or you can work on things that don’t require a computer. For example, if you still have mobile service, you can check email on your smartphone. With at pen and paper you can write, plan, calculate, etc.

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