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Top Tips For Working From Home

12 Nov 2013
Lindsey Boxall

Top Tips for Working from Home

People set up a home business for many reasons - to have low overheads, escape the daily traffic jams, gain more flexibility, be the boss. Sounds great, but unfortunately it's not that simple.

Working from home can be tricky: often creating a feeling of isolation. It can also severely affect your motivation, making even the simplest task a major chore.

But it needn't be so. Here are a few recommendations for making the most of your working time at home.

Work space

Deciding on a place to set up your office at home is often the biggest challenge for those working from home. Do you choose the spare room or the living room? Dining room or lounge? Each has their advantages, so how do you decide? The key is to pick a place, establish it as your "work space" and stick to it. Your workspace should be separate from communal areas. Ask your family to respect it as your space and that they should treat it as if it was an external workplace.

Similarly, by treating it as a work place you shouldn't be frightened of closing the door at the end of the day, walking away and switching off. Some people find this particularly hard - at home there's always the nagging temptation to do a little bit more before you go to bed. But remember, this is your office. Don't be afraid to walk away and forget about it until the morning. 

Get organised

Having your work and home life in such close proximity can mean that they overspill into each other. To avoid any confusion, the trick is to get organised both at home and in the office. Invest in filing and organisation systems for your office to help reduce time spent on admin, or simply to reduce time looking for lost bits of paper. Apart from the organisational benefits, this will also make your chosen space feel more like an office making you less likely to drift into doing non-work-related tasks during your work hours.

Working hours

Nine to five is all very well if it suits you - but you're working for yourself, so remember, you can choose the hours that are best for you. Think about your schedule - there's no point vowing to work from 8am if you have to interrupt work with the school run. Similarly, think about your productivity. If you are more alert at night there is no point in starting work at 6am. In addition to thinking about yourself, you'll also need to take into consideration when your clients need you. If their working hours are nine to five, you'll have to spend some, if not the majority, of your time working within their timeframe.

Ultimately you need to strike a balance of putting in the hours and making the most of the flexibility available to you.

Time out

Working from home is about exactly that - working. But you have to remember that in an external office environment you are entitled to time off and this doesn't change just because you're now the boss. Sure signs that you need a break include poor concentration, a lack of enthusiasm and a constant nagging from your family that they need some quality time with you! For full time employees, the minimum legal holiday entitlement is four weeks, but for self employed professionals this plummets to zero days entitlement.

Those living and working from home, especially those working on their own, need to plan time away as only having contact by email and phone can be a lonely experience. Ensure you break up the week with meetings or time spent at your clients' sites, lunches, conferences etc. Not only is it good networking sense - but it'll also keep you sane. Remember also that annual leave, be it for a few days or a full fortnight, is a great incentive and something to work towards. Not only that but it'll also rejuvenate you and aid productivity when you get back.

Have a daily routine

Do you remember drawing up and colour coding your school timetable? Do you remember sticking to it? Of course you do! Well it's time to do the same for your business. Make a schedule of things that need to be done every day from calling clients, to doing your finances to having a cup of tea at 10.30. Your timetable will make sure you don't overlook or entirely forget about any of your tasks. It will also minimise disruptions and indicate how much overtime you have to put in if you do stray from your schedule. Of course no two days are the same and you will have to show some flexibility, but having a constant reminder of what you're supposed to be doing will keep you in check most of the time.

Planning and lists

When you first start working from home it can be very difficult to stay motivated and focussed. The trick is to set yourself a task and break it down into manageable chunks. Also, don't be afraid to set yourself deadlines, whether they're hourly, daily or weekly. Always aim to meet the deadlines and be hard on yourself if you don't meet them - you're the employee on the one hand, but you're also the boss so don't put up with slackers! Also list your achievements - so for every task still to do, there's one you've already done well. This will keep you motivated and act as a reward for all your hard work.

If you get de-motivated have a "procrastination list" and keep adding to it. The idea is to identify times when you are most likely to be productive - those are the times that you should tackle significant tasks.

Working with family members

If you are working from home with your partner or other relative it can be difficult to draw the line between loving family member and professional work colleague. This can easily lead to confusion of what's expected of individuals in your workplace.  Are you working as a team? In "departments"? Or, will you work independently on your own tasks? Establish boundaries while you're working. For example, don't discuss non-work related topics unless you're on an official break - so no discussions on what you'll be having for dinner that evening or who's doing the washing up - but rather stick to a more professional approach. Similarly, don't discuss work after you have clocked off. Learn to treat your family members as you would any colleague and things will be a lot simpler both in the workplace and at home.

Recruitment

Working from home is the same as any other business, in that you may grow to a size, which requires you to recruit another employee. Advertising and sourcing suitable candidates can be a tiresome and expensive process; especially when you have sole responsibility for a business to uphold. Recruitment agencies may seem expensive, but in the long run they are often as cost effective and productive as going it alone. Cost is important to any business, but it is also vital to remember that getting the right employees is vital to the success of your company. The consultants at Eden Scott are experts in their fields and they are in a position to find the best candidates to add value to your business. 

Working from home (flexible working)

Some employers offer employees the opportunity to work from home, allowing them time away from the office. In this situation it is imperative to remember that you are being paid by someone else to work from home, and that you should observe company policies at all times. As with working for yourself you need to get the balance right, but be aware that you need to perform to the best of your ability as your job security is not in your hands. 

All work and no play

Last but not least, try and remember why you went into business, remember your goals and most importantly have fun. Allow time for doing the things you enjoy and spend as little time doing the things you don't enjoy. All work and no play makes for a very boring day.

Author

Lindsey Boxall
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