A few months back we carried out some research with our client Viking, Ireland’s leading office supplier, which found a sharp rise in the number of people working from home.
This is hardly earth-shattering news. We live in an age where the concept of ‘the office’ has changed beyond all recognition. People are more mobile and yet more connected than they ever have been, while the technology now exists to carry out just about any work task, anywhere.
It stands to reason, then, that both employees and employers have a much more flexible attitude when it comes to working from home; there are huge benefits on both sides (as well as a few pitfalls). And as the working world continues to evolve, it’s likely that more and more people will set up a home office in the coming years.
An article in the Daily Telegraph the other day set out a few pointers on how to work and live under one roof, with the emphasis on the nuts and bolts of a domestic work station – wi-fi, printing, storage space – but if you are one of the many people working, or about to start working, from home chances are you’ll have some broader questions like… how do I make this work?
Don’t worry. Everyone finds their own way, and once you get started you will most likely settle into a physical and mental pattern that suits you and your work. But to give you a hand, here are five tips on achieving an excellent work-life balance at home.
Make sure your office feels like an office
When you flick on the computer in the morning, your mind should be squarely in work mode. This is only possible if your surroundings are geared towards work – an office of your own (not just a corner of the living room); a desk and chair (not at the kitchen table); and a sense that this is your place of work. If your office doubles up as the laundry room or gym you may find it hard to get that sense, so fight hard to establish your own dedicated work space – and keep it that way. (Viking has some great ideas and offers on ‘home office bundles’.)
Establish a routine that works for you
This is by far the most important aspect of working from home. You’re on your own, there are no rules and it’s up to you to get the job done. An ordered, established routine is your best bet. Start at a certain time. Get your to-do list down on paper. Check your email. Make your calls. Make a coffee. Make it happen. Work your way through the day systematically and methodically, and your routine will start to feel not just comfortable but constructive. Once you get in the groove, your productivity will grow and grow.
Get away from it all (occasionally)
Working from home is not the walk in the park that many people think. There are good days and bad; days when it can be difficult to find inspiration, especially when you’re surrounded by the same four walls from morning to night. If you’re struggling to come up with an idea or a creative solution, don’t be afraid to get away from your desk – go outside, stretch your legs, try a change of air – every now and then.
Don’t eat at your desk!
A relatively small point, but another important way of ensuring that your office is your office; it’s where your mind is on your work and nothing else. Once you start having lunch in front of your computer, it’s only a matter of time before you’re bingeing on episodes of ‘Peep Show’ and watching your precious routine fly out the window. Eat in the kitchen; work in the office.
When you’re done, you’re done
Working from home blurs the lines between office hours and home life in a way that office-only workers may struggle to understand. Without a management-imposed finishing time, and also mindful of certain perceptions that working from home is a comfy arrangement, many people feel pressure to work on and on and on into the evening. One word of advice: don’t. When you finish for the day, you’re finished for the day – switch off and unless it’s urgent, don’t be tempted to re-connect until your routine starts again the following morning.
Working from a home office can give you the best of both worlds. You remain in the workforce, anchored to a company, but you also enjoy the benefits of remaining in your own environment. There will be good days and bad ones but a disciplined, professional approach will generally make it work.