Working from home can seem like a dream come true, you choose your own hours, you don’t have to travel, you can be in comfortable surroundings. But sometimes the reality can be very different to how you imagine; distraction, isolation and either not doing enough work, or not knowing when to stop can all be components that turn the dream into a nightmare. Keeping your focus when working from home can be a challenge, but with a few simple steps it’s easy to stay on track.
Here are our ideas for how to make working from home a productive, stress free experience where you really do gain the work life balance you want.
- Create a conducive work space. If you don’t have the luxury of a separate office in your home then do at least work from a desk or a table, rather than the sofa. It’s important that you have a space where you can sit up straight, set out everything that you need in an uncluttered environment. Make it a pleasant environment to work in, clutter free, with perhaps a couple of pictures or personal items to make it an enjoyable space to work. If you’re working from the table that your family will be eating around later that day, you also need some storage to be able to pack away at the end of the day neatly.
- Make others around you aware that you are working from home. It’s all very well having good intentions about working from home, but if others around you don’t realise that’s what you’re doing what should be a day at work can soon end up as just a day at home. If you share your home with others it’s crucial they understand and are supportive of you working from home. When you select your workspace you need to consider if the space you want to work at is a shared space which other people may want to use, if it is, you will need to get buy in, not only to use the space, but also that others around will respect the fact that you are working and not disturb you. It’s not just the people you share your home with too, you may need to consider other neighbours and friends nearby who could see that you are at home and want to call in for a chat. DON’T feel bad about explaining to them that although you are at home you are working but DO arrange a time to meet them for coffee so that you can take a break as well as fit in some social time.
- Stick to a schedule. Although this is something everyone should do, when you work from home it’s more important than ever. If you don’t have a clear plan for your day it’s all too easy to find yourself putting on a load of washing, doing some dusting or tackling a DIY project that you’ve been putting off for months, not to mention being distracted by the TV, the dog etc. Have a clear plan for what you want to achieve that day and properly plan the day. Click here to get more ideas for writing effective daily plans.
- Take regular breaks and don’t overdo it. When you create your schedule it is important that you build breaks in to it. One of the nice things about working from home is that you can use your lunch break to watch the TV show that you recorded last night or to take the dog for a walk, so long as you keep disciplined on time. Taking regular breaks actually helps you to become more productive, so don’t fall in to the other trap of working too hard as you will be less effective. It’s also important to know when to stop at the end of the day. In fact, whilst it’s a popular opinion that working from home is an easy option, the reality is often that you end up working harder, not knowing when to stop and never really getting away from work. If you have a separate room in the house to use as an office that you can close the door on at the end of the day that’s ideal, but wherever you work, when you put together your schedule for the day decide when you are finishing and stick to it. When you do finish if you’re not in a separate room, pack your things away out of sight so that whilst you are using your home as a relaxing home space you are not being nagged at by reminders of the working day.
- Try to fit exercise in to the working day. Exercise isn’t just about losing weight, studies have proven that regular exercise does improve work performance through a whole range of benefits which include elevating mood, improved concentration, sharper memory, enhanced creativity and lower stress. Half an hour a day of exercise can give your performance a significant edge, and one of the benefits of working from home is that it’s very easy to fit in. You could do anything from some stretches, a lunchtime jog, or even a brisk walk to help boost your mental energy for a challenging task ahead.
- Build in regular people time. The downside to working from home is that it can feel quite isolating at times. Social media is both a blessing and a curse; it can be great to have that contact with people, but at the same time a quick chat on social media can quickly turn into an unproductive hour. Better to arrange to have a phone chat or meet up with friends for a coffee at regular intervals to have real people contact. Perhaps research if there are local small business networking events that you could go along to and meet people at and perhaps do some business. Alternatively it can be good to meet up with someone else you know who is also working from home so you can talk about what is working well for you and if you are finding any challenges with working from home.
- Get dressed. Another myth about working from home is that you can spend the whole day working in your pyjamas. I suppose in theory you could do this, but I would absolutely not recommend it. The clothes you wear have an impact on your attitude and if you are sat there in your pyjamas you will definitely not be in the right frame of mind to achieve much. You need to be dressed for work. Although, you don’t need be dressed in a suit, make sure you are at least presentable to walk down the road and meet someone for a coffee.
- Keep your To Do List visible. Whether you write your to do list on paper or keep it electronically, make sure you can see it all the time. Seeing what you still need to do before the end of the day spurs you on and it’s also motivating to see what you have crossed off the list too.
- Have water and healthy snacks close by. One of the distractions of working from home can be the kitchen. Whilst you do obviously need to eat and drink regularly throughout the day repeatedly getting up to the fridge can be a distraction. At the beginning of the day get a large bottle or jug of water so that you can keep topping up throughout the day and a fruit bowl to help yourself from. This saves you having to get up unnecessarily, also, if healthy food is in sight you are more likely to help yourself to this rather than be tempted by the biscuit barrel, which although you may get an initial burst of energy from, will certainly make you feel sluggish later on. One of the other benefits of working from home is you can make your own lunch, which not only gives you a more varied range of options but is also cheaper.
- Focus on what you want to achieve. If you’re just starting out working from home, perhaps having come from a larger company environment, one thing you can miss is the buzz of the office and the motivational effect of this shouldn’t be overlooked. When you work from home, there won’t be other people around you to motivate you, you will need to do it yourself. The good news is, when you run your own business and work from home there is a lot to feel positive and motivated about, but you will need to make sure that you regularly remind yourself of this. At the start of the day, and at regular intervals throughout the day think about your long term business goals and why you want to achieve them. Understand how what you’re doing that day fits in to the bigger picture and know that the end of the day you will be a little bit closer to achieving that dream. Don’t just think about the buinsess goals themselves, but what they mean to you and your life, perhaps more time with your family or that house with the extra bedroom. Thinking about these things and knowing why you’re working, gives you so much more focus and determination.
- Review at the end of the day. At the end of the day, look back at your to do list, see what you have crossed off and evaluate what you have done. Congratulate yourself, you have worked hard, be pleased with what you have achieved and be pleased that you enjoy your working lifestyle.
Do you have any other tips to share with others about working from home? Perhaps you are finding particular challenges, please comment and I will reply. Feel free to share this with anyone else who would find it useful.