Written by Jenefer Thoroughgood
Whether you’re a practised homeworker or still thinking about setting up an online bubble-tea shop from your front room, here are some secrets to help you succeed…
1) Commute to work
Zero commute time might seem like a benefit to homeworking but that journey has the advantage of getting you into ‘work-mode’, something that can be a struggle when your home is your office.
Start your day by leaving the house and walking a mile. Turn around, walk back, and let yourself in to your ‘office’. You’ll immediately be more efficient. At the end of the day, ‘commute’ home, which will help you switch-off from work.
2) Get a door
Even if yours is a ‘kitchen table firm’, create a dedicated office space, with a door that you open after your commute and close behind you at the end of the day. This physical barrier to your laptop acts as a psychological barrier to your ‘business brain’ and makes it easier to bring your focus to your family / friends / television.
If you are cohabiting with attention-demanding others, that door indicates the start of a professional space to be treated with respect. This is important if they – and you – are to believe that despite being a homeworker you are doing a ‘proper’ job.
Tricia Dixon, Director of consultancy firm JB Medical says: “just because you’re working from home, your work and your workspace are as valid as those of people working in a more traditional office. You have to really believe this.”
3) Love your alarm clock
As a homeworker, you’ll find it easy to work long hours without taking a break. (Stopping to put another load of washing on doesn’t count.)
We know this is bad for productivity so set an alarm clock to go-off every two hours in the room farthest from your desk. When that bell rings, get up, switch-off the alarm and take a break.
4) Break down your tasks
Ben Blomerley, Co-Founder of AskHerFriends feels that “working at home can be really undermining of your focus.
“You don’t have colleagues and bosses around to see whether you’re cruising Facebook or Netflix all day. And you’re often aiming for a large and indeterminate goal (‘I want to make this business succeed’) rather than a specific target (‘make 50 calls today’).”
In ensuring he focuses on what matters, Ben “breaks tasks down into really narrow and clear portions”, a strategy also employed by Karolina Sieler, Founder/Owner at FBIZZ Women Entrepreneurs Hub. The best way to do this, advises Karolina, is to “prepare your own job description and divide the tasks into administrative ones and the more creative ones.
“You then have to identify a way of monitoring them to make sure that you stay on the right track… I use tailor-made spreadsheets, as well as a combination of online tools such as Asana and Toggl.”
5) Dress for success
To avoid the twin homeworking pitfalls of wearing pyjamas all day and barely moving, Suzie Godfrey, Director of The Sweet Reason Company puts her gym kit on every morning: “Once it is on, I have to do some kind of exercise that day, even if it is only one short workout.”
Suzie squeezes exercise into her day whenever she can. “I run home from the school drop-off, for two reasons: for fitness, and also because it is quicker than walking, so I have more time to work. Even if it is only a win of seven minutes a day, in a week that is over half an hour. When you are running your own business, every minute counts.”
6) Follow the tax rules
Tax… yaaaaawwwwwwwn. Yes, I know, but Jon Beer, Chief Technology Officer of start-up software firm Zapnito stresses that the homeworking tax rules will save you money, yet many of us don’t follow them to our full advantage. In the UK, you could even claim for a share of your council tax. Visit gov.uk or your local equivalent for details.
7) Get geeky
Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer famously claimed that being present in the same place as your co-workers is critical to collaboration, and it is indeed easy to became less collaborative when homeworking.
One solution is to embrace online collaboration tools like GitHub, Slack and Trello, to share your ideas and work with colleagues and customers.
What’s more, as a homeworker you are your own IT support. Nobody is coming to help you install your printer, so take an IT class and get geeky!
Working at home can be the greatest thing that ever happened to your career or can make you feel trapped in an inescapable office. How do you make homeworking work for you? We’d love to hear your tips!
Love the alarm clock idea!
Great article. I have been consulting from my home office for the better part of 5 years. The key to successfully working from home is discipline. Establish a normal routine, for instance start work every day at 8:00 am, take lunch at noon if possible, stop work at 5:00 pm for a break. If additional hours are needed to complete a project, make sure to take small 15 min. breaks to give your brain a re-fresher – such as go for a short walk, get something good to drink, but never try and watch a show, it will only distract from the big picture and delay when you complete your projects. Once you are honest with your work and yourself, you will find the routine is easy to follow.
Excellent alarm clock idea!
excellent alarm clock idea!
Positive, realistic tips. Thank you.
Great, to the point article! Thanks MOO! I need all the motivation I can get to keep going.
Great article. I’ve been Working-at-home for 2 years now.It can be an awesome gig but it can also be damaging to your career if you don’t stay engaged and have discipline. Make sure you don’t fall into the ‘out of site, out of mind’ bucket. Be even more engaged and vocal in team meetings; especially if you are one of the few in your area to have a work-at-home arrangement.
Previous home had a separate room for office work but our new home does not.
The office space now is built into a large family room on one wall. Your door idea is what I need. Maybe a portable partition would work. Thanks for the info.
I’ve worked from home for over 5 yrs and an office has been part of every home we’ve ever owned. I use Slack with my team as well and its terrific. Investing in a solid office space with proper technology is a fantastic investment in your career. Discipline, motivation, enthusiasm and innovation all come from having the right structure in place. Like the foundation of a skyscraper working from home can bear tremendous results or go very wrong.
Always study what Marissa Meyer does closely, then do the opposite. It never fails.
I worked from home for more than 34 years and still do (as a volunteer advocate writer). I had a very successful marketing communications agency, and although I traveled about 35% of the time, when I was home, I was at the doorstop when my kids got off the bus. Loved my work so much. I specialized in the emerging computer industry when a desktop computer was mostly a dream in a tech’s head (except the little Apple II). My clients made computers and peripheral equipment, so I had all the goodies (free) right from the get-go. But soon I was surely born an Apple girl and began buying Apple products and never looked back. I loved my work so much. Sadly I became disabled way too young. But I’m still a published writer and love that too. I put a number of women in business over the years by volunteering my time to help them get set up. Some were even near competitors, but it was a man’s world and we broke the mold. Have fun!
I’ve been working from home for over 5 years, & until I recently moved house my office space was also where we chilled out at the end of the day (TV, couch etc). To be honest, that wasn’t an issue for me. Now in our new house I have my own office space – separate from the entertaining chill out space, & there’s no noticeable difference.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, if it works for you & isn’t what everyone else recommends – then you don’t have to change – you’re not doing it wrong.
I also have ‘at home’ clothes that I wouldn’t wear if I left the boundary of my property, this also works fine for me – I get changed into more acceptable attire if I have a meeting in town.
Exercise is important, definitely do something every day, in the middle & at the end (if you can).
I agree it can be a little insular, but then I’m no extrovert so it actually plays in my favour.
When I did work in an office I’d be exhausted at the end of the day, simply because I was having to deal with humans all day.
Socially, outside of work I wasn’t that interested in engaging with said humans, but now that I don’t have that forced interaction all day, I actually do enjoy socialising much more & am more engaged/engaging when I do so.
I do take lots of small breaks, play with the cats, hang out the washing etc – and yes, to me those are breaks.
Every minute of my day doesn’t count just because I’m self employed & work from home. Sure, I need to pay the mortgage & bills etc, but the making of that money isn’t why I wanted to be self employed & work from home in the first place.
It’s ok not to want to make more & more money or ‘grow’ your business.
In my opinion the benefits of working from home & being self employed far out-way working for someone else in an open plan office, regardless of what you’re getting paid.
I’ve worked from home for 25 years and am always learning new ways to be more productive. Some of the things that have been most helpful for me:
- Planning my day, tasks and time blocks, the night before.
- Set work hours, even though those can change from day-to-day, I’m more productive when I have firm stopping time.
- Moving bedroom to same level of house as kitchen instead of office, so I get up and make coffee, and do other normal pre-work things, instead of stumbling from bed to my desk
- Focus app
- Making exercise a priority
I have been working from home for over 27 years, I always begin each day with a run, or boot camp class, gets me going! I do my best to not work weekends but sometimes selling gigs on weekends happens, so give myself a week day to play. I love getting hugs from my son when returning from school every day! Love working for myself!!!
Great article that touched on every challenge I have been facing these last few years running my small business from a very tight space. I really like the idea of taking a walk to open the work day and another to mark its close (my current bad habit: I get up, brew the coffee, park myself at the PC, begin typing…). Since my ‘business’ occupies a small corner of my living room, I have fallen into the trap of working continuously with little to no breaks until I reach exhaustion, frustration or both. I feel a sense of guilt when I stop my work to watch the nightly news or a special TV program of which I might find some interest, all the while knowing that the work that sits within view remains unfinished, as though it is beckoning me to get back to work. My BIGGEST hurdle seems to be convincing friend – and family – that I have a REAL job with REAL work which demands REAL responsibility.
must add also:
pomodora timer (I use Kanbanflow for my tasklist which has a timer)
MOVE YOUR DESK (wherever the windows are…..this is rarely in the “office” I put mine right in the living room–in front of huge floor to ceiling windows–then surrounded it with tons of plants…
MOST IMPORTANT: ergonomic-correct work space: sit to stand desk/ herman miller chair
My variation on #5 is Dress the Part. After a morning walk or exercise, I dress for work, put on makeup, do my hair. I feel professional on the phone and online, and if an opportunity or meeting is scheduled or comes up, I’m ready to go. This was suggested to me by a fellow homeworker, and it’s really made a difference to me.
Good tips! Many of the items covered are not a problem for me however I do need to work on the “commute”. Even just thinking of it as a commute is helpful, I know that when I was an office worker the commute was actually very helpful to me so I think that the idea of a commute at each end of the day may help me to be more disciplined about a daily walk or two.
I agree with Jason that doing the laundry is actually a break, especially when the weather is good enough to hang the clothes on the clothes line in the garden.
As to office clothing well I live in an isolated place, it’s often muddy and the road past my house doesn’t get much traffic so I can wear any old thing. We put on our “town clothes” whenever we go to meet clients or do the grocery shopping.
I do agree with the tips on dividing your work into admin and creative, I find that it helps if I have a regular admin session to keep invoices flowing smoothly and keep on top of finances.
I would add to the list- you don’t have to do it all yourself! So get yourself a VA to help manage your diary and admin tasks, get a bookkeeper to keep your accounts tidy and take the stress out of reconciling and get some tech support and invest if working with all the right tech tools – all of these will boost your productivity and you’ll feel like you have a team to support you to get things done.
Having come from the corporate world, it was frowned upon 10-15 years ago to work from home. Many of my colleagues at the time thought it was a way to relax and not do much (my suspicion is that’s what they did), although I was always way more productive without the commute and interruptions!
It takes dedication and commitment to work from home, some people I know just can’t get the hang of it, they are distracted by TV, social media and any other excuse. The tools and processes you outline are good, but the real change is mindset, you must be prepared to work hard and manage your time in order to succeed.
I now run my own business and many of the people who work for/with me are home based, and I trust them completely to get on with it, as they deliver the results…
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