Working at home isn’t easy. Let’s get that straight. It’s why so many people are asking the question: how to work from home effectively?
I’ve done it for years now, and, like so many, I thought it’d be the best thing ever. And it is — but it takes a while to discover how amazing it is.
Those initial days and weeks are tough.
You realise how many distractions are present in your home and how easy it is to lose focus.
You discover how ill-equipped your home and toolsets are for working remotely.
The good news? Once you get over those initial challenges, working from home is capable of making you more productive (and happy) than you’ve ever been. I promise.
Last year, just 30% of the workforce had experienced home working. Now, it’s likely to be more popular than ever — for many reasons.
Here’s what I’ve learned about working from home and some solutions if you’re experiencing similar challenges.
It can be lonely
I’m a fan of my own company. No, honestly — I actually enjoy spending time with myself.
However, after working from home for a while, I quickly discovered that it can be pretty lonely at times.
After a while, you crave human contact — even if you’re actually living with someone else. This will particularly be the case if you’ve come from a typical working environment — even if you can’t stand the people you worked with.
It’s vitally important for your mental health that you maintain human contact, be it via onsite meetings or Skype calls.
Remind yourself that the outside world exists.
Build into your service provision some form of human contact. Whether it’s insisting on having onsite catch-ups with clients or even creating a service which means you have to leave the house and interact with other humans, it’ll make a massive difference to your mental health while working from home.
Don’t become a hermit. I speak from experience.
You need a separate workspace
Working in the kitchen felt exciting for me, at first. And, sometimes, it still does. But it’s also the kitchen, and that means, when you’ve finished working, you’re still in the kitchen.
This is why it’s vital that you find, create or convert some form of dedicated workspace when working from home — even if it is temporary and needs to be dismantled while finished.
I appreciate not everyone is blessed with acres of space in their converted garage or even a spare bedroom. But finding a space in which to work is easier than you might think and will help you separate your work life from your personal life.
Designate an area of your house for working. If you have a spare bedroom — perfect; use it. That’s what I do mainly.
Equally, the end of the kitchen table might be your ideal spot. Wherever it is, do the following:
1. Close the door when finished (if possible).
2. Tidy away your work bits when finished (if the above isn’t possible).
3. Mix it up. Move from your spare bedroom to the breakfast table or have a chilled out work session on the couch for an hour. Variety will make you far more productive.
Exercise is vital
I hate running. No, really — I can’t stand it. But the more I run, the better I feel and it has had a profound impact on the way I work.
I exercise every day, whether it be a 5K run, dog walk or HIIT session in front of YouTube. It revitalises my brain and ensures I release myself from work mode for a period of time.
Get (or stay) active while working from home. Even a fifteen-minute brisk walk around your block will make you feel better.
Getting out of the 9–5 is hard
I speak from experience here, and I’ve swayed back and forth between working every hour god sends from home and sticking relatively closely to a standard 9–5.
For me, starting at 6:30am and finishing at 5pm works. But that’s because it enables me to fit in exercise, lunch and the inevitable interruptions that arise (more on that later).
More importantly, it enables me to work when I feel most creative. And that’s when it kinda ‘clicks’; you realise after a while that working a 9–5 isn’t always conducive to your best work. We’re forced to work that way by tradition, but that doesn’t mean it’s best for us.
Wow… how long have we all been lured into the 9–5?
Stay in the 9–5 if it feels more comfortable and productive for you. If it doesn’t, and that’s part of the reason you’re now working from home, work during the times you feel most productive.
You become a bit of a grump
I’m a right grump sometimes while working from home. I lose myself so much in work or get so needlessly frustrated with tough pieces of work that I lose perspective.
As the years have passed, I’ve got better at removing those grumpy instances from my working day.
I’ve learned that it’s ok to be grumpy, but you will need to have a word with yourself occasionally.
Recognise when you’re being grumpy for no discernible reason, and have a quiet word with yourself. Remind yourself that you’re lucky to be working from home and that it took hard work to get where you are — on your part. Enjoy the challenges you face, rather than become irritated by them.
That ‘Friday feeling’ goes
This has been one of the most annoying elements of working from home for me.
I used to love that Friday feeling. Driving home after a long week knowing that a cold beer was waiting for me in the fridge was absolutely bliss.
When you switch to home working, that cut-off point is much harder to spot. You’re already at home, after all, which means there’s no tangible transition into the glorious weekend.
Or is there?
Work Monday to Friday whenever possible. This might go against lots of what I’ve suggested already, but I’m talking more about the days than the hours you work.
For the last couple of years, for instance, I worked regularly at weekends. Now, I don’t, and, as a result, I get more done and the Friday feeling has returned.
But… what about distractions?
You’ll notice I’ve not touched on distractions today. I’ll get to that in a future blog, but the reason for the absence of advice on that front above is because if you follow my tips, distractions won’t be an issue. They’ll still arrive, but you’ll be far more tooled-up to deal with them.
Enjoy working from home. It’s the best work-life balance switch I ever made.