How to work productively from home

When you think about the elements of a dream job, what comes to mind? For me, it’s not having to scrape ice off the car before a winter’s morning commute. No sitting in 8 am motorway traffic jams. And having flexibility; whether that’s to pop out to your child’s nativity play or to do your supermarket shop when it’s quiet. Sounds idyllic.

Does this job exist?

Yes, it does, if you’re working from home. Roll out of bed and be at your desk half an hour later – clothes optional.  

Remote working, which is more often than not working from home, is growing, and the tech sector is up there at number two in the industries adopting it. The BBC reported a 74% jump in those working from their homes over a ten-year period. And those figures are heading up. What’s more, with the current Coronavirus crisis, it might be a situation more are forced to try whether they like it or not.

But a note of caution, that perfect job comes with some downsides. Home working is not all about sitting in the garden with your laptop or skyping in your boxers.

Where it goes wrong

When there is no clear demarcation between work and home time, you can find the work element expands somewhat. Sitting at your computer at 9 pm starts to feel normal. Or it can work the other way – with the latest box set just crying out for a TV binge-fest, you have to be disciplined to resist and focus on your work.

When you have no team around you to bounce ideas off, or simply just share a joke with, working at home can feel quite isolating. The pressure is all on you to get the job done, and you can even start to doubt your own judgement when there’s no-one around to share with. 

So can it work?

Yes, it can. But it helps if you are aware of the pitfalls and put structures in place to avoid them.

Here’s my top tips for taking advantage of all the benefits whilst negating the problems with home working.

Give yourself a structure

It’s a great feeling to have no fixed working hours. But to prevent one area of your life taking over completely, set some parameters to operate within, that work for you. This could include a totally separate office, if space allows, that you shut the door on at a certain time. It might be as simple as setting up home and work computer profiles, that, at the end of your day, you switch over. You can set an alarm that marks the end of work time. Or you could develop a routine to mark the end of your day – a coffee with the news on the radio, or a stroll around the block.

It doesn’t have to be nine to five

If you are a morning person, you might start work at 6 am and perform that ‘end of day’ routine at 1 pm. Likewise, if you prefer to surface later, you might enjoy a slow start and then hit the tracks running at 11 am. Find out what works for you. If you direct your work efforts when you, personally, are most productive, you’ll find you can focus more, and free up time for non-work activities more easily.

Take a break

It’s tempting to eat a sandwich at your desk or grab a quick drink on the go. But try to take a break away from your desk at least a couple of times a day. Some home workers even set up virtual coffee breaks with others, via Skype. A 15-minute group chat with similarly based people, talking about anything but business, could be a great way to revive flagging motivations.

Maximise your extra time

With no commuting, you are automatically gifted extra time when you work from home. If you are in London, the average commute time is one hour twenty. So use that time – to go to the gym, meditate, read, walk the dog – whatever you want. No guilty feelings about not ‘working’, just relax and be grateful for the additional time you have.

Find ways to connect

Yes, we know it’s easier to send an email, but sometimes, finding a way to personally connect helps to combat that isolation. Pick up the phone to discuss an issue, jump onto a Skype call so that you can see the other person. It’s so easy to misread electronic communications. A face to face chat can work wonders in strengthening relationships and overcoming challenges.

Working from home can be a life-changing, liberating experience if you are honest with yourself about the potential pitfalls. Find a way to make it work for you, and you’ll never look back.  

What’s your experience of home working or managing remote workers? Have you overcome challenges to make it a success? Do join in the discussion by commenting below.

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