Working from home sounds liberating. You can do whatever you want when you want – and your boss can’t see you pop off to hang out the washing or wander to the fridge. But, although working at home offers many freedoms, it has its downsides. It can be isolating and the lines between home and work can become blurred.
Of course, we need to focus on our work, however, we also have to consider our well-being in order to be both productive and effective.
After many years working in offices, I’ve spent the last seven working at home and feel I’ve finally found a work-life balance that works for me, giving me the best of both worlds. Well, most of the time at least – none of us are perfect.
Here are my top tips:
Network online and put the time in your schedule to comment, share and read what other people have to say. Be active in building a like-minded, supportive community on a professional network such as Linkedin or on less formal ones such as Twitter.
Feed the need to chat. It’s natural to need or want to bounce ideas off other people, check what they think and get feedback. Use your circle of friends, current and former colleagues and related professionals as sounding boards. Have a coffee break, use social media (it is meant to be social after all) or call a colleague or friend for a few minutes.
With flexible hours and clients with needs, keeping set hours can be hard. It’s tempting to flick the mouse and ‘just’ do something before you go to bed, but I’ve found it’s important to close the laptop at a certain time and leave it that way until later when you’re ready to ‘go to work’ again.
If you can, have your workspace in a separate room and then close the door behind you when you are not working – as you would if you were based ‘at work.’ You will then have psychologically and physically finished work for the day.
Get comfortable with saying no
This can be hard to do when you’re aware that every client counts, but being overly available and constantly working to the needs of others can be draining and you can lose focus.
If you value your time as much as you need to, then clients can see that your time is more valuable too and respond accordingly. Be flexible, but be firm.
Keep learning and stay fresh
There is an abundance of things you can read, subscribe to and join to keep up-to-date, to keep your brain engaged with why you do what you do and what you love about it.
Getting stale isn’t going to work for you or your clients, so look into signing up to an online course in your industry or look at sites such as FutureLearn or Udemy. You can then be confident that the skills you offer are the latest and most effective to ensure the best service for your clients.
Don’t be a hermit
It can be hard to make yourself go out when you’re based at home. Somewhere else can seem too far, plus, why bother when your PJs or scruffies suffice as office wear and going out would require a LOT of effort.
But, like staying connected online, we feed off others’ energy and ideas and won’t get that if we don’t make the effort. Get together with people that give you the energy to be more productive and creative.
If you don’t have an online group already, try Meet-Ups for social and business interests or networking organisations such as Business Network International which are all designed to bring people with similar interests together.
If you are quite experienced and would like to give back, you could try mentoring. Like many things, these all operate in the digital and real-world, so you can dip your toe in the water, and then if it feels right, go to a Meet Up. They can be fun, as well as very useful for work.
Working from home successfully can work really well when you treat it like working, acting and feeling like a professional and not a hobbyist or a workaholic who doesn’t know when to quit.
If you want to be taken seriously as someone who works from home, then take yourself seriously as someone who works from home.
Finding the balance can be a challenge, but it’s ultimately worth the effort when you find yourself working hard and also, running a successful business.