According to award winning PR company, PowWowNow.com 53% of workers say they work more effectively away from the office, and with a huge increase in people working from home, surely it must be a good idea? It does sound tempting, I agree; no crowded sweaty commute, tea how and when you want, no office politics. Fancy a long lunch? — no problem, just work a bit later — right? Or wrong? Working from home can be lonely, it can be really hard to get yourself motivated and once you do get going, sometimes it is hard to stop. So how can you survive working at home?
It doesn’t have to be your best suit, but staying in your PJ’s all day is not conducive to a good day’s work. Getting dressed into something vaguely work-ish can help boost your productivity.
Have a routine
It’s very easy to ‘let things slip’ when there is no boss to answer to or no colleagues to compete against. The 10 minute tea break can so easily turn into 20 or more being taken up by other things such as the supermarket order or sorting out that dodgy lightbulb. These things can, and should, wait. Set a time by which you plan to be sitting at your desk and give yourself timed breaks throughout the day. You could even make a timetable like you had at school — my old head teacher did this when he retired as he was used to the structure. Even if your day includes 2 hours mid morning to go to pilates, it’s still a routine and you can tot up your working hours at the end of your week. Using an app like My Hours can help juggle your time between different clients or between yourself and your client. I added a client called ‘home’ for the washing, collecting kids etc. to make sure I balance my day.
Have an ‘office space’ at home
Particularly important if you have lots of papers and files, having a space you use only for work is vital. You really don’t want to risk having play-doh or soup spilt all over your work or things being moved out of place so you can’t locate them. Also, being able to ‘walk away’ from your work is a good way to help ‘switch off’ from it when everyone is home. If you simply don’t have the space, be organised, keep things in files which you can easily hide away when you’re not using them.
Organise your lunch in advance
Organising your lunch in the morning will really help keep your lunch breaks on track. Preparing and clearing away food can be part of the lunch routine (I find it a way to relax), but it’s still good to have an idea what you’re going to eat. If your main problem is snacking and eating unhealthy, ‘fast’ lunches, prepare your meal in the morning. Treat your lunch as if you are leaving the house for the day: make your sandwiches, get your snacks all together in a Tupperware and resolve to eat ONLY those things. Don’t allow yourself to open certain cupboards or if you are particularly weak-willed, ask your partner or housemate to lock away the chocolate! Don’t do what my kids always do on a school trip though and eat their lunch before 10.30am, try to wait until at least 12.30!
Get out the house
At least once a day, go for a walk, a cycle ride or a coffee away from the house. On your own or with someone else, it doesn’t really matter. You will be surprised how much a change of scene and some fresh air will clear your mind. Going for a ten minute walk before starting work can create a nice commute and helps remove the stresses of the morning.
Have some noise
Working in silence can be bliss and part of the reason some of us choose to work at home, but sometimes some very quiet instrumental music can help make you feel less ‘alone’. Spotify have some great playlists depending on your mood. Radio can be a great comfort too but best saved for breaks as it can be distracting — shouting at some buffoon on the radio is not always conducive to writing good copy.
Booking yourself into a pilates or gym class is a great way of ensuring you get out the house, provide a structure AND get some exercise but sometimes this just isn’t possible. Once a day, turn up the music really loud, and dance. No one can see you so feel free to go crazy! Not only does dancing get your heart rate going and can help your problem solving abilities, it also releases endorphins — they’re the happy hormones — and we all need those!
Go to work in a cafe
Working in cafe’s can be an absolute life saver when you’re working alone. There are many things to look out for when choosing where to work including simple things like the height of the tables! Dining tables are at a different height from work desks so beware you don’t end up ‘reaching’ for your keyboard. Sometimes we work better surrounded by a bit of hustle and bustle, even with our headphones in. Whilst it is not compulsory to ‘chat’ to anyone (in fact it is often frowned upon), a bit of interaction with the waiting staff or other workers can be a break from the computer screen. Can you get froth like that on your cappuccino at home? It’s worth paying for! Also, a coffee can go a really long way — up to 3 hours if you push it. It is so much cheaper than staying at home at this time of year too as you don’t pay extra for heating. Even spending an hour working elsewhere can help break up the day.
Join a freelancer group
There are lots of freelance groups out there, divided by area so have a search if you want to hook up with other freelancers.
So there you go, my tips for surviving what is becoming the new norm in working practice.
If you want to chat about working as a freelancer or setting up on your own, just send me an email to [email protected] and I’ll be sure to reply!