For anyone that hasn’t worked from home, the stereotypical day goes something like this: get up at 09.00, don’t get dressed, remain in pajamas. Watch TV. Log on, if you must. Check emails, respond to urgent ones. Plan what you’re doing for dinner. Start cooking; it’ll save so much time. Paint nails if you’re a woman. Scratch your bottom if you’re a man. Place bets on the latest football match and encourage your friends to do the same on social media. Go out for lunch, take a couple of hours. Come home. Tired? Have a nap in bed. Answer work phone calls from your bed. Polish the cutlery. Do some filing. End of work day 17.00, work done: zero.
Obviously, this is a MASSIVE stereotype (in fact it’s a series of stereotypes – which, incidentally, I don’t believe in). I work productively from home and have done so for some time. I have learnt a lot and have ten important tips for those of you who have a decent work ethic and want to work effectively from home.
1. It’s good to talk
Out of sight out of mind is true with it comes to working from home. If you work within a team, they simply won’t remember that you exist until you return to the office. It’s not personal, just how it is. It’s hugely beneficial for them, and for you, to arrange catch up phone calls and send emails to people you’re working with. Even if it’s just to say, ‘I’m here and I’m working’.
2. A lark or an owl
Are you a morning, afternoon or evening person? Map out your most productive hours. I’m a morning person. By the late afternoon I’m spent. If you don’t know when you’re working most effectively (how can you not know?!) then take a look online at quizzes, like this. During your productive periods, challenge your mind with problems that need addressing and creative thinking. Save mundane administration for when you’re less alert.
3. Head scratching
Schedule in some thinking time whilst you’re working at home. Take advantage of your environment, you are away from the office network of distractions. There is certain work that you’ll just do better from home, I promise you. For example I like to collate amends, do copywriting and strategy thinking at home. The office is for meeting, face time and information download.
4. Hello two hours, I thought I’d lost you
You’ve already gained two hours by working from home if you normally commute to work – please use them. No travel means that you’ve woken up at 6.00 am; you can do your workout until 8.00 am and still start a good hour earlier.
5. Unchained melody
You CAN leave the house, un-chain your ankles from your desk. When I first started working from home, I was so preoccupied with my moral responsibility to work effectively from home, and stay at home, that I didn’t leave the house: the result? I became sloth-like. Make sure you schedule a lunch break and leave your home. Fresh air, ahh. But, make sure you’ve stocked your fridge up. The walk and fresh air is to clear your mind, not to nip to the shops, you wouldn’t at work and it’s no different at home.
6. Morning suit
Please get dressed. Always assume that you will be seen. I like to think that I’ve got a conference call on Skype scheduled, whether I have or not. Working from home takes dedication and focus, looking ‘ready’ is very much part of that. I come back to my earlier point, you’re not chained to your desk, walk around, swing your arms, read a white paper (or the executive summary). For me, I use my Yoga ball or jump on my Pilates mat. Changing up your activities will help to avoid mental block, and looking right will remind you, you’re at work.
7. Technology apology
If you’re working remotely make sure you’ve got all the technology you need with the right level of access to systems, even the shared ones. If you don’t test this in advance, it will be your downfall. Make sure you’ve got the right information or contact already primed if you need help. I remember a day I couldn’t remote in after IT did a major update. It was unproductive, it made me hot and it threw me off all day.
8. You’re my big distraction
No Doubt lyrics:
“Wrong or right!
Shipwrecked into you
Situation is foolish,
Put up a fight.
You’re my big distraction
I’m falling fast
Like an avalanche.”
No distractions please. No babies at work, a quiet dog might be ok. If you, like me work well with quiet background music, it can’t be called a distraction. The TV does not exist! Ban the remote – put it in the fridge if you’re weak. You’ll be tempted to do chores. Hanging out the washing in your lunch break is fine, as long as you’re not planning on doing a washing marathon. Just set yourself some rules and stick to them.
9. Zoning out
Here’s a picture of my work zone, it’s not big (it’s London!). The only time I use it is to work at. I tried lots of layouts but this is certainly the most effective, for me. I discovered that I liked facing into the room, I have good light, there’s a window behind me and I have everything I need. I’m also surrounded by books for inspiration. Choose your space wisely and keep it as your work space.
10. Company is overrated
I don’t find working from home lonely at all, but I quite like my own company and I have time in the office as well as working remotely. I remember one of my friends starting at my workplace (it’s where we became friends) and she said she felt like an alien. She’d been working remotely on a project with no face-to-face contact, (related to work – she wasn’t in a cave) for six months. She was like a fish out of water in the office. Try and make sure you have a link into the ‘real business world’, it will keep you sane, it will spark ideas and you’ll never feel lonely.
It’s been proven, (by places like Stanford) that working from home is actually more productive than working in the office and has other benefits too, increased job satisfaction and fewer people leave their job. But don’t forget you have a role to play too. I hope my tips help you work productively from home.