Throughout my 23 year career, I have spent 18 of these working from my home for large corporate businesses. Back in the day, it was affectionately named “teleworking” (god knows why, as from my perspective there was absolutely no TV involved). These days I hear it called “flexiworking”, or just plain old “working from home” a lot more…thank goodness for that.
Anyway, since starting out on my freelance journey (I’m now 12 months in to this roller coaster), I’ve frequently heard some of my peers and other freelancers really struggling with the concept of working from home. Issues around motivation, loneliness and working practices are major concerns of those new to it and being experienced by many. As a person who enjoys helping people, reading and hearing these concerns have mainly inspired me to write this blog.
So, here are my 8 tips to survive working from home, and actually ENJOY it too!
1. Treat the work day as a Work Day.
Sounds silly – but try to do this! For example, get up at the same time as you would normally if you had to travel to an office (ok, not if that might involve a 3 hour drive). Establish your day with a working mind set – eat coffee and breakfast, remove small people from the house, and then head straight to the desk and get your head down. Getting started first thing for me is the best time to focus, write the to-do list for the day and get into it. If I faff around doing something else first (like tidying up/washing/admin) then it feels as if the start of my day hasn’t been productive which sets a negative tone for the day. Now faffing is something I can be pretty good at – so staying focussed and getting on with your todo list is definitely a winner for me.
2. Make your office a Really Nice Place To Be.
This could mean any or all of the following – a comfortable office chair, a decent desk, a room with a view, all your equipment around you, a plant/photo/flowers on the desk – whatever ticks your boxes for a pleasant and happy environment. My desk is currently in the downstairs dining room with bifold doors looking out onto the garden as our official “office” is a box room that’s so small it brings me out in a cold sweat! Do NOT try to work in a windowless room if you like fresh air and sunshine! I also regularly buy flowers for the desk and have a scent diffuser too.
3. Network and speak to people!
Ring a colleague, set up a video call, have a “virtual” meeting with someone to ensure you have a friendly conversation in your day, or even just ring a girlfriend for a chat. I find this crucially important to stop loneliness or that empty feeling of not having spoken to anyone all day creeping in. It can last 10 minutes or an hour! I regularly diarise chats with my closest Digital Mums peer to chat about my workload and brainstorm ideas, and also with friends just to catch up.
4. Don’t get distracted by domestic chores!
Yes it’s absolutely ok to throw washing in and out of the machine, and get the slow cooker on in the morning (now that’s another great tip), but don’t get tied up in dusty shelves or messy playrooms. Shut the door on all that and do it when you’ve finished work post 6pm. I have learnt to my detriment that losing daytime working hours to domestic chores means that I’ve spent many a late hour at my laptop, which I would advise against unless that’s your preferred time of day to work!
5. Set yourself Daily Objectives.
Yep this sounds hideously corporate, but believe me it works. Decide what 3 things you MUST do in your day and focus on those first, then have some extra things listed that it would be nice to tick off. Stick them on a post-it on your desk next to your laptop! Concentrate and don’t get distracted and you might find yourself ticking off quite a few which is a superb feeling. Start complex and difficult tasks first thing to get them over with and accomplished. I would only ever forecast my figures and write complex business plans in the mornings in my past career, as this was when my mind was the sharpest and most focussed.
6. Work from a café with good wifi or a networking hub.
Get out of your home and head somewhere else if its all getting too quiet for you at home. Being in the middle of a busy environment with a nice cappuccino in hand can make you feel like you’re in that office environment, and you could even have a coffee with another local freelancer too? Build that local network and have people you can reach out to when you’ve got time to have a catch up or get support with something. The old phrase “two heads are better than one” has a lot of truth in it in my opinion. I’ve just agreed to co-work at a fellow mums house when we can arrange it as she has also started freelancing and would like the company. We get to work/chat, and I get to enjoy cat cuddles in the absence of being able to have my own (husband is seriously allergic). This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “friends with benefits” for me!
7. End your working day!
Again, in my early working from home days I worked all day, and then through the evening as I didn’t officially “leave the office” and have that work separation from my laptop. I’ve now learnt to down tools and leave tasks for the next day in order to have a sensible work life balance. (OK so at the moment it’s all a bit crazy for me as having a 3yo means I actually need to work from home in the evenings, but that’s a whole new story! You get the gist)
8. Finally – practice some self-care!
One of the huge benefits of working from home is that you don’t have commute time. So why not practice some self-care? Go for a run/walk at lunchtime, or get a massage or facial. Or just sit and read a book for 30 minutes at lunchtime? You won’t regret doing it…it gives you something to look forward to and breaks up your day with something really positive that’s just for you. And let’s face it – we all deserve a bit of that don’t we?