Many office workers have been settling into working from home, but from what I hear when talking to my network, it has been a difficult adjustment for some.
Until a few years ago my business partner and I worked exclusively from home, and in recent times have still scheduled a couple of different days a month to work at home, so it has not been such a shock to our systems.
Nevertheless, there are real benefits to be had with the right approach, and based on our experience over the years, here are some hints make the most of it:
- Work out your own routine and stick to it as much as you can (recognising the competing demands of spouse and children often working in the same space).
- It’s important to learn as you go. One of the benefits of working from home is flexibility, but while the discipline of a set routine is critical it can be adjusted. Assess it from time to time and change if it helps. It has to be what’s best for you and the family and what gets the job done.
- Don’t get distracted. Easier said than done for those with a family of young children, although your routine should take their needs into account so that they have a set routine also. It might take a few weeks and good luck with that if you have little ones.
- Leave your workspace when you’re not working. Close the door (or put away the ironing board if that’s what you’re using as a desk). Have a clear delineation between work time and family time. Don’t let the computer ping you when you’re relaxing.
- If you don’t have a home office already, decide on where your workspace will be. Preferably in a separate room, such as the guest bedroom if you have one. If there are more than one of you working from home, ideally you should each have your own workspace that you can get away from at the end of the working day. Avoid working in the centre of home life, such as on the kitchen bench.
- If you’ve decided to work early in the morning and in the evening to spend time with the children during the day, think about the best time to contact colleagues. For example, sending emails. They may have more impact if they are scheduled to arrive at 10.00 in the morning, rather than sitting in someone’s inbox with a load of other mail to greet them when they start work. (Of course, sending it at 6.00am does let them know you were up and working then, if you are in a workplace where that type of activity is monitored.)
- You should find you’re saving time in your working day. For instance, there’s no commute. Use this time for other activities – the washing, the on-line grocery shop or whatever. You’ll probably also find you’ll save other time because the routine distractions of office life will disappear.
- Use work breaks for thinking. We find that getting away from the desk from time to time throughout the day can be really productive and relaxing. It can also be an opportunity to touch base with other family members. (The guilty pleasure that my teenage children and I indulge in every midday is to stop schoolwork, office work and uni work and watch an Episode of The Flash).
- You may find you get more thinking time working from home. It is an opportunity to mull over work when we’re doing routine domestic stuff, do the washing up, or even a few minutes gardening, Tasks like these leave the brain in neutral leaving you free to think through what you are working on.
- Dress for business. We’ve found getting into work clothes, or at least dressing up a little, gets us into the mood for business (and even the nicest dressing gown doesn’t look terrific in a video link).
- Use the phone. Talking to colleagues is good to break the isolation and is often a better and more effective way of communicating and getting information than emails or texts.
- Of course, it’s important to remember that this is still a workday – and not an opportunity to undertake home renovation projects on your employer’s time. You are there to work, not repaint the lounge.
Perhaps most importantly, share the domestic duties! This is very important for women working from home and sharing the space with their with spouse and children. It shouldn’t be your job to get lunch, tea, coffee and dinner for the family or handling most of the household chores. Get all the family to contribute. As we’re told endlessly, we’re all in it together.