WORKING FROM HOME? 10 SURVIVAL TIPS
BY JO MCCARTHY - INTERIORS EDITOR
Running your own business from home or working remotely for someone else is becoming increasingly normal. No more dreaded commute and tedious office politics!
No need to scrawl your name across that half-eaten KitKat to save it from your greedy colleagues!
However, as with all things in this imperfect life, there can be down-sides. I am discovering them as I started working full-time from home just under a month ago. We are going to tackle the challenges head-on and I'll share 10 tips for successful home working so we don't all tear our hair out.
1. GET UP AND DRESS UP
This sounds obvious, but you if you are able to, you really need to get up out of bed. You might be able to reach your phone, tablet and laptop with one easy stretch from your divan but there needs to be some boundaries. Don't flip open your iPad as you first wake up and start bashing away on your emails. Don't think that you can conduct all your meetings without the camera switched on. We know all the tricks and your boss will too.
Establish a routine, perhaps getting out of bed at the same time each morning and saving your lie-ins for the weekends (if the kids will let you). It might be ambitious to start each day with a Pilates session, a conversation with all your plants and a green juice, but do your best to have healthy habits that will set the mood for working from home. Find what works for you and your family and stick to it.
We all know that the working-girl outfits are long gone, but what should we wear whilst working at home? Whilst it's tempting to treat yourself to nice, non-Disney onesie that can double up as work attire (or worse still, do what I've done this week and put a fancy cardigan over my worn-out Primark nightwear) it's not a bad idea to have a go-to selection of classics to make dressing for the day easy and make you feel mentally prepared for work. Buy some nice slippers and a nice necklace and off you go.
2. SAY NO TO THE MUNCHIES
Just so you know, I am a hypocrite. As I'm writing this article, I am also slurping my way through my 4th coffee of the day and devouring a bag of root vegetable crisps in the hope that the two hours from now until dinner time will pass by without a H-anger incident.
This is what happens when you work from home, isn't it? The fridge and you seem to nod knowingly at each other and all the full-fat, high-calorie snacks you said you wouldn't buy because you work from home have somehow ended up nestled in there.
My husband has the same kind of self-control as a supermodel and can breeze through the kitchen without so much as a sniff at a herbal tea. Not me, oh no!
The key to surviving this minefield is preparation. Working from home will only go well if you have a selection of tasty but healthy food in the house. Remember that you aren't running for the bus when you work from home; you are possibly struggling to reach your 10,000 steps (whose idea was that anyway?). I am planning to have carrot sticks, homemade hummus, chopped up apple and gallons of water...tomorrow.
3. TALK TO OTHER HUMANS
When working from home, it's not enough to joke with your dog or shout back at Jeremy Kyle. Interacting with other people during the course of your day is imperative to your survival whilst working from home. Your colleagues may notice if your out-of-office is turned on every morning, but find a good time to attend a class, walk the dog, linger when collecting the kids from school, even chatting with the postman counts.
Take time to know what's happening outside of your zone: are your friends ok? Have you called your mum lately? Do you know what the office news is, even if you aren't there? If you find that by lunchtime your throat is sticky from not speaking to anyone else, make it your goal to interact more. I promise it will do you good!
4. SET SOME GOALS
I have started slowly with this one. I'm not Beyoncé. Goals can range from easy (going for a brisk walk each morning) to big (monthly targets for your business). Working from home means you might not have the same contact or supervision from a boss or manager so make sure you are as motivated as you would be if you were sat in front of them in the office.
If you are self-employed, like I am, set daily, weekly and monthly aims for your business. Have them written up on a board so you can stay on track. For day-to-day tasks, I am getting addicted to the Tomato Timer.
Do you use it? It's good for those mad moments when you think a 5-minute stretch would be beneficial.
5. STEP AWAY FROM THE HOUSEWORK
I'm no Martha Stewart but this has proven to be a tricky one for me since I started working from home. When you are out and about all day, squeezing the washing and ironing in becomes a juggling act but somehow it all gets done.
When you work from home, doing a bit of light cleaning, a few rounds of laundry, replacing all the light bulbs and mowing the lawn twice a week is more than making good use of your circumstances, its actually a distraction and procrastination. It also seems to take longer when you have more time to do it in.
What's the expression? Give the job to a busy person. Don't let the boundaries between work and running a home get too blurry.
6. MAKE YOUR HOME A NICE PLACE TO BE
As an Interiors Editor, I have to spend a bit of time discussing this subject, because working in a stimulating and comfortable work environment is the key to enjoying working from home.
Sadly, this is one of the most overlooked factors by home-workers, but can be achieved on the tightest of budgets.
First, the boring bits: working from home will only be a feasible option if your technology works, your cables are shoved out of the way, your desk or workbench is ergonomic...the list goes on. All the stuff that's taken care of by HR and the IT departments now needs to be sorted by you.
Moving on, let's talk about soft furnishings. If you share your space with kids, try to ensure your work zone doesn't double up as a dumping ground for shrivelled bits of homework or the leftovers from yesterday's packed lunch. Having a good corkboard where your kid's artwork can be displayed is a good idea – check out my post here for other imaginative ways to preserve your children's work.
Other ways to make your home a nice place to be include greening up your space, making sure your work environment is clean and tidy and have a few well-chosen things in there to make you want to sit (or stand) and work.
I am stocking these amazing cushions in my online shop Firain and they go such a long way to brightening up my workspace. Get a comfy chair - no more slouching!
Fragrance also plays a part; make your home smell fresh and welcoming even if you aren't feeling that way yourself - I am in love with these Join candles and you can find them on Firain. Paying attention to these details will prevent you from dreading the workzone.
7. PLAN YOUR BREAKS
A danger when working from home is that you might trick yourself into thinking you can now make all those lunch dates, playdates, after-school activities and coffee mornings that you couldn't attend when you went out of the home for work. In reality, you may find that you work more than ever before, especially if you are trying to get a new business off the ground or trying to prove to your boss that flexible working really does work.
Tip number 7 is to plan your breaks: tell your friends that you have a coffee break at 10am and another at 3pm and they are more than welcome to pop in for half an hour. Schedule your online deliveries over lunch so you aren't constantly answering the doorbell. Have a set time for lunch and don't let it overrun too often if you pop out. It sounds restrictive to work like this but there is nothing worse than the day disappearing because you've faffed around. I am the Queen of Faff, I know...
8. EXPLAIN YOUR ROUTINE TO YOUR FAMILY
No doubt you are trying to instill a strong work ethic in your children, so explain to them that although you are at home more than before, you are still working and should only be disturbed if really necessary. In time, they will learn to respect the boundaries that you need.
If you share the home with another adult, they might need to be reminded that you are busy during the day and therefore aren't always available to do the chores they would rather not do. You get the idea...!
9. GET OUTSIDE EVERY DAY
It helps if you have a dog or have to go on the school run. Even if you really don't want to because it's raining or freezing, get your home-working booty outside and breathe in some fresh air. Taking time to break away from technology and really observe what's going on outside your home will help you to recharge and be motivated to continue with your job.
After reading the Patternity book, I've made a conscious effort to use all my senses when I am outside and this helps when you are staring at a screen all day!
10. DON'T MOAN ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME
You may be reading this thinking that the next thing you're going to do is call your boss and ask for your old desk back. That's ok; home-working for many people is the last thing they'd enjoy and it really is only until you try it that you will know. If you are committed to working from home, count your blessings and don't moan about what you are missing.
You are part of a growing number of home workers and have the chance to contribute positively to this demographic. Enjoy it! Embrace it! Let us know if you have any tips we have missed.