More and more people – and especially mums – are working from home. This applies to small business and self-employed people, as well as people from bigger companies who allow employees either to work from home full-time or a significant part of the working month.
The benefits are compelling: significantly lower commuting time and costs, reduced costs in office space and facilities for businesses and better work-life balance for employees. Here are five pointers to make working from home work for you – and your company.
1. Find a quiet place to work
Not everyone has a study in their home or a spare room that can double-up as one, but it is important to find a space that can be your office and where you can be relatively quiet. It’s easy to be distracted when working at home – if it’s not the baby next door, it’s the dog barking while lawns are mowed, or the grandparents looking after their toddler grandchildren in the backyard behind you, or the TV and computer games when your own kids come home.
Most people can find a small area of a house or an apartment to lay claim to. Whether you’re mostly desk bound or just use your computer for record keeping and emails, having a desk or table where you go to work helps you get into a professional frame of mind. Even if you can’t claim a room, find a corner of the bedroom, living room or kitchen. Make sure you set ground rules against anyone borrowing equipment so you know it’ll be there when you need it.
It may also require some upfront expense, but you will also save in the long run from wear-and-tear on your car, or transport costs and, depending on the type of work you do, clothing. One former senior sales executive, Bronwyn, who now runs an online retail business told us she used to have a different business outfit every day and “at least 15” shirts which she’s been able to whittle down to a summer and winter outfit and 6 shirts over the seven years she’s been working from home.
2. ‘Do not disturb’
This can be one of the most challenging aspects of working from home, as some people assume you’re free to do whatever you want at any time. Let your family and friends know that you’re working so they should respect your work time. If you have others at home during the day, this might mean having a household sign to let them know you don’t want to be disturbed.
“If a friend calls me during the day – unless I am on a break – I just don’t answer the call,” says Suzanne who is a partner in a law firm who works from home nine days in a fortnight. “I’ll call them back when I’ve finished work for the day, but not beforehand.”
3. Set a schedule and stick to it
Start your day the same as if you were going into the office and follow your normal morning routine. This includes dressing appropriately for the day, rather than lounging around in pyjamas, and not allowing distractions to delay your schedule or important tasks.
If you’re working with others, having an instant messaging system in place can help make you feel directly connected to your office-based team.
4. Make a to-do-list
Create a list of what you want to achieve each and cross them off as you complete them.
Having a technology-based communications system, such as an online calendar and shared documents, keeps an open line of communication for home-based and office-based employees to enable you to work together and prioritise tasks.
5. Take scheduled breaks
Everyone needs to take a short break to stay productive. Designate a certain time for personal calls and emails, having lunch or coffee, doing everyday errands, exercising and other non-office-related activities.
Bronwyn says she found this the hardest to handle until she realised she was working upwards of 16-hours a day without any 'down' time. "I was working as long as I used to do, or even longer, when I was being paid big, big money. It's one thing to work long hours to build a business - it's another thing to drive yourself into the ground.
"I have now learned to schedule in a time for exercise, having a coffee morning with friends, and doing the 'weekend grocery shop' during the week.
If you work with others virtually, let your colleagues know when you’re stepping away – even when you work at home, you’re part of a team.