The most common response that I get when I mention that I work from home is, “Oh god, I could never do that.”
I can understand peoples’ reservations: there are always other things you could be doing, and the temptation to succumb to distraction will always be greater when you don’t have your coworkers sat next to you.
I’ve been successfully making an office in my bedroom/living room/kitchen/coffee shop for the past four years now, although these days I spend two days a week at RP+ HQ too – so I’ve got a pretty good handle on the pros and cons of each. I do believe that personality plays a part in how easy it is to work from home (and I definitely prefer a quiet environment most of the time, which helps), but there are still things you can do to ease the transition if you’ve recently started working from home. Here are a few of the less obvious ones.
Distractions are inevitable wherever you’re working, but the nature of them changes depending on your environment. In the office, it’s people asking me questions, or needing help with something, or an overheard conversation to join in. At home, it’s signing for a parcel, realising the plants need watering, or the laundry needs hanging up.
This is one area where I often prefer working from home: you can use these distractions to your advantage. If you notice that the laundry needs doing, then save that job until you’re stuck on a problem. Chances are, you’re only thinking about the laundry because you’re stuck on a problem. Go and do that laundry, safe in the knowledge that doing a fairly mindless and repetitive task for 15 minutes may well just give your brain the space it needs to figure out a solution.
This is another common misconception about being able to work in the same place as your bed: you can just stay in your pyjamas all day.
If you’re new to this working-from-home lark, or you only do it occasionally, you’ve probably made this rookie error. But starting work in your PJs every day, and you might just find yourself losing the will to live pretty quickly.
As I’m a morning person, I like to get all my work done as early in the day as possible. In the past, this meant rolling out of bed into my office chair, and anything that got in the way (real clothes, breakfast, human contact) was a waste of time. These days, I’m always sat at my desk, dressed, with some breakfast next to me at 7:30, and I feel a lot better for it. Chances are, if you prefer to start work later in the day, this one won’t be so difficult for you.
If you work as part of a team, and the rest of the team keep pretty regular hours, then this one is as much about consideration for others as it is about your own sanity. But believe me, the latter is pretty important too.
It doesn’t really matter when you work best. Mine is mid-morning time, for others it might be mid-afternoon or late evening. Regardless of this, you need to work out a routine which accommodates your preferences. And then you need to stick to it.
It can be liberating, especially if you’ve always worked in an office, to know that, in theory, you could work whatever hours you want while you’re at home. But in reality, sticking to some sort of schedule and forcing yourself to start at around the same time, and finish – in the middle of something if necessary – about eight hours later is important.
One of the huge advantages about working from home is that you can set up your environment however you like. You can listen to your music at whatever volume you want, or have the telly on in the background if that works for you. But it goes further than this.
Lighting can be really important, and for me in the Winter it’s vital. Getting up when it’s dark sucks. To combat this, I have an array of daylight lamps which light my office area somewhere close to the brightness of a fine Summer’s day. This can be a little startling first thing in the morning, but it definitely works.
It might be the case that a regular desk setup isn’t for you – perhaps you’re genuinely more productive when you’re working from the sofa – in which case, figure out how to make this work for you. I hear standing desks are great.
If you live with a partner, spouse, or housemate, it can be easy to automatically take on more of the housework if you’re the only person who is home on a more regular basis than anyone else. It might make sense, but it’s not fair – you’re still working, after all – and it can cause resentment as well as adding to The Laundry Problem. Make sure your cohabiting companion(s) don’t assume that you’re ok with taking on more than your fair share, and ask others to do specific tasks if you feel that they’re generally left to you just because you’re at home all day.
This one isn’t exclusive to folks working from home, but I find it’s more important when I’m not in the office. Always finish your work day with a task or problem still to complete – never tie everything up before you finish. Then, make a quick note of it. That way, you’ve got something to get stuck into when you start the next morning, which can be especially helpful if you need the extra kick to get started when you’re working from home.
Get more great stuff delivered fresh to your inbox.