Working from home instead of, or as well as, from the office can be life changing. It’s something that many people view as something akin to the holy grail of work life, helping to achieve a better balance between working and your own time.
However, it can create a whole new set of problems and leave you less productive than you were in the office, if you aren’t careful.
If you work from home and feel you need to make some changes to increase the amount of work you’re actually getting done, or are thinking of making the jump from the office to the home-office, then take a look at these 12 tips to get the most out of working from home.
Put the time you save from commuting to use
It’s all too easy to view the time you no longer spend commuting as extra time you can spend in bed. While this can sometimes be useful and leave you feeling more energised and prepared to face the day, you should also consider using some of it productively.
If you have knocked an hour each way off your journey to and from work, perhaps consider staying in bed for an extra hour and using the other hour in two half hour chunks; one to answer emails in the morning, and the other at the end of the day to plan and schedule the next day. By doing something like this, you’re ensuring that your work life remains structured and you’re able to work from home successfully.
Ensure you have a dedicated office
When you’re working from home, it’s imperative that you are successful in separating your work-life from your home-life. If you don’t, then your productivity will probably suffer.
To do this efficiently, you need to make sure you have a dedicated workspace at home. By having an office at home, you’ll ensure that you still ‘go to work’ so to speak, even though you aren’t leaving the house.
By ensuring that you have an area that is fully equipped with all of the computers, files and stationary etc. that you need to do your job, you give yourself the best chance of creating a work environment at home.
In addition to this, it will enable you to shut out any distractions, such as children and the TV, and allows your family to know that when you’re in your office, you’re at work and don’t want to be disturbed– something that isn’t so easy to achieve if you work in front of the TV or from the dining room table.
Keep an eye on what you save
This is particularly important if you’re running your own business from home, as oppose to working for someone else from home. That said, even if you work for a company, not yourself, by being aware of how much money working from home is saving you, you ensure you keep the motivation necessary to remain as productive as possible and remain able to work from home.
Perhaps keep a spreadsheet detailing how much less you’re spending on fuel and/or commuting, lunches and coffees, work clothes and dry cleaning your work clothes, and any other monies you save by not needing to travel to the office as regularly.
Keep in touch with your colleagues
One of the main issues that many people face, when working from home, is a disconnection from the rest of their team and colleagues. This is particularly difficult for those who have close friends at work — as 36% of us do — as it removes the psychological benefits that human interaction brings with it.
If you can, maybe try to work from home for three or four days a week, and go in to the office for the remaining one or two days. This way, you get most of the benefits of working from home, whilst still ensuring that you’re not isolated from your friends at work and any projects you’re involved in as part of a team.
Don’t become a babysitter
This might sound obvious. And really, it is. That doesn’t stop it being an issue for a lot of people, though.
When you work from home, it can be difficult to disconnect from your home-life. If you end up getting roped into doing the housework, looking after your children, or any of myriad other non-work-related tasks, then it decreases your productivity and defeats the object of working from home in the first place.
Make, and stick to, a routine
By making and sticking to a work routine when working from home, as you would at work in the office, you will be more prepared and able to stick to a structured pattern of working, and as a result, you’ll be more motivated, productive and get more done.
Having a proper, structured routine will also help your clients and colleagues to know when they can get hold of you, and equally importantly, when they should leave you alone because you’re not working; helping your mission to be working from home successfully, and helping you achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Make sure you take a lunch break
This is important whether you’re working from home or from the office. If you don’t take some time for yourself during your allotted break times, you risk burning out, becoming disenfranchised and suffering an alarming dip in productivity.
The time you take at lunch gives you the chance to get out of the house, refresh yourself, get a change of scenery and recharge the batteries, allowing you to be fully prepared and energised to face a rigorous and productive afternoon of work.
Leave the house as often as possible
One of the major issues in the road to working from home successfully, is that of being drawn into a sedentary lifestyle. Despite the fact that you’re saving commuting time and saving money, in not getting up and out of the house for work, you can lose the motivation to actually be active.
With the fridge within easy reach, and no reason to leave the house, many people that work from home find it all too easy to gain weight and lose fitness.
By leaving the house, perhaps for meetings, or perhaps to work from the office for one or two days, you will find you have more energy and motivation and be both more productive and healthier as a result.
Limit the number of times you check emails (but stay in ‘the loop’)
When you work from home it can often leave you feeling isolated, which, in turn, can lead to you spending more time checking and replying to emails than you might if you were in the office, in an attempt to feel more connected to your colleagues.
This can be counter-productive, as it takes you away from time spent actually doing work.
Try to find a healthy balance and have set times at which you check and reply to your emails. This way, you’ll still be ‘in the loop’, but you’ll also get the tasks you need to complete, finished.
Make sure friends and family know you’re working
When you work from home successfully, you do so because you stay focused and manage to avoid distractions.
If you don’t clearly impress upon friends and family that, despite being at home, you’re still working, then you can find yourself on the receiving end of a constant stream of requests to babysit, look after pets and do errands and favours.
Although it might be nice to be helpful, it is only going to hamper your productivity if you accede to all the requests you get.
By making sure that your friends and family know not to pester you while you’re at work, you ensure that you have the minimum distractions and can achieve the optimum level of productivity.
Don’t waste time worrying what to wear
There are many people who will advocate dressing for work, when you work from home. Granted, for some people, this is necessary as it helps them to get motivated as they feel like they have actually ‘gone to work’.
However, this isn’t going to be necessary for everyone. Ok, if you have an important skype call, or meeting to go to, then it’s worth getting out of your pyjamas and dressing smartly, but for some people, motivation and being dressed aren’t intrinsically linked.
If you’re one of these people, and your productivity doesn’t dip if you’re wearing a dressing gown, or shorts and a vest, then don’t waste time worrying over the perceived need to dress smartly.
If you do need to dress smartly to motivate yourself, obviously, you should. But if not, don’t let it get to you and just crack on with your work.
Make use of ‘the cloud’
If you’re trying to work from home successfully, then this is imperative. Whether it’s a work network that you’re remotely attached to, or you’re using Dropbox (or something similar) it will make working from home that much easier.
Sharing work, keeping up to date with the progress of colleagues, and informing them of yours’ it all becomes that much easier when you use cloud software.
The key to working from home successfully
When you’re working from home, whatever methods work for you, the main thing to remember is that the most important factor is you. No amount of tactics or schedules will help if you aren’t motivated at home, and some people just aren’t.
If you find this is the case with you, consider going back to your company’s office. Or, if you’re a small business owner and working from home isn’t working for you, then there are office space providers who will be able to help, working with them can help you choose whether to work from a co-working space, or even if it’s time to move out of the home office altogether and into an office space that allows you to take on staff and grow your business.
If this is the case for you, then have a chat with one of the business centre managers at Business First, they will be able to help you to make the right choice for your business.