Working from home can be a great way to fit your commitments to your employer around your home life, but it can also bring challenges. From the distractions of social media to becoming a hermit with no communication back to the office, there are pitfalls aplenty when you abandon your office for the comforts of home. So how do you stay at the top of your game in these circumstances? Here are our tips to get the most out of your time out of the office.
In most jobs from time to time it may become more practical to work from home than from the office. Whether this is a one-off occasion or part of a long-term plan, it is important to approach it in as professional a manner as you would coming into any workplace; particularly if you have never worked from home before.
Know your weaknesses
Are you the kind of person who functions best when left to your own devices or do you need to keep in touch with your colleagues on a regular basis to stay motived? Are you likely to get distracted easily or do you work better with the radio in the background? Will you need snacks, some water or regular coffees/teas? Will you get distracted by looking out of the window every ten minutes?
Although working from home gives you a break from the need to "dress to impress" in the office, be careful not to fall into the trap of straying too far from your usual routine.
The idea of working in your PJs may appeal, but you should try to maintain your workplace mentality as much as possible in order to stay productive and the way you dress will be a key part of this. Follow your usual routine in the mornings and stick to smart casual dress, even if your home office is a corner of your bedroom.
Create your workspace
Some people can work from a laptop on their living room table sitting on the floor, but most people will benefit more from a separate work space to ensure concentration and a high quality of work. Set up everything you might need in a quiet space away from the TV, pets and children if possible where you can focus on work.
A home office is the best solution, but anywhere with a desk or table, a phone and stationery will be just as good. If you can, a secondary telephone line would be a good idea to stop you getting caught by telemarketers calling your home line.
Stick to deadlines
Manage your workload as if you were in the office. The advantage is that there are likely to be less distractions than in the office, so make the most of this time to concentrate on getting tasks done thoroughly and within reasonable timeframes. If you set yourself a schedule it will help you focus but make sure you take breaks regularly in order to keep motivated.
However, if you find yourself working to 9pm or later on a regular basis to cover work that didn’t get done during normal hours, you should look at your workload, schedule or concentration levels so you can fit work and home life comfortably into your waking day.
Beware the PM slump
Lunch can be the time when many people working from home come unstuck; it is all too easy to take a break and watch TV, update your Facebook or get out for a breath of fresh air and get back a little later than you planned…or a lot later. It is easy to convince yourself that you will make the time up, it would be better to take an hour at the most and get back on track in the afternoon.
Equally, make sure that you don’t have too heavy a lunch that will leave you feeling lethargic for the rest of the afternoon. If you feel sluggish after lunch at work, you will be even less motivated to keep working knowing your bed is upstairs!
Stay in touch
If you’re managing people from a remote location, make sure that you let them know you’re still keeping an eye on things. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time working from home, as you will want both your employees and your bosses to know that working remotely isn’t having an impact on your efficacy as a manager.
Think about the best way to contact your team, your boss or third parties – there are lots of communication options open to you such as email, Trello, Whatsapp, telephone, Skype, text messaging, so make sure you’re using them to their best advantage.
Things to be wary of
Needless to say, if you’re going to work from home regularly then you will need to have excellent self-discipline. There is no such thing as one game of Candy Crush and we all know how it is easy to get lost in searching Wikipedia. Be strict with yourself and don’t get into any bad habits. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll just check Facebook for five minutes, because it will turn into half an hour before you know it.