When we first started working from home full time, we thought it would be great. A 30 second commute to the office meant no more fighting through the rush hour. We could listen to our favourite music while working, stay in our dressing gowns all day, and generally enjoy home comforts. Not to mention the joys of not having a boss breathing down our necks or having to ask permission to go to the toilet (yes, really!!).
And then, a little thing called “reality” kicked in. It’s not easy to stay productive and effective when you’re working at home, especially if you are easily distracted. The techniques which served you well in the office environment don’t seem quite so useful when you’re working from your home office, or your sofa and things feel all together more “casual”.
Here is our guide on how to remain productive when working from home:
1. Dress like you mean business: When we first started working from home, we often joked that we were members of the “Dressing Gown Club” because, frequently, we didn’t bother to get dressed if we were not going out anywhere. We could lounge around in our comfortable dressing gowns.
However, we soon realised that, mentally, this was not a good way to carry on. We now make a point of getting dressed as if we were going into an office for the day. There is a certain formality about getting dressed, which prepares you mentally for a productive day, and also means you can pop out to meetings at short notice. This helps us to feel more focussed, take it more seriously, and reminds us that we need to work and be productive.
2. Start your day by writing a list of what you want to achieve that day: It’s all to easy to get distracted when working from home, as no boss is breathing down your neck and you only have to answer to yourself! A good way to ensure that you remain productive is to sit down each morning and write a list of goals and targets that you want to achieve. Putting things in writing helps clarify your thoughts, and you can work through the list and tick things off as you get them done. That also gives a great sense of satisfaction at the end of the day when you can look back and see what you have achieved. We use google calendar to schedule our work. We plan our days up to three months ahead, to remind us when to broadcast newsletters, blogs etc. and to make sure that we keep all our appointments. If you are a husband and wife team like we are, you can allocate who is going to do what and make the most of your particular strengths and roles within your company.
3. Remind People You’re Working: When you are working from home, you’ll find you are fair game for friends and relatives to phone or to drop in, because they know you will be in. It’s important to remind them that you are working, and that it might not be convenient to talk. Politely let them know that you will call them back after working hours.
4. Work when you feel most productive: It’s true to say that some of us don’t do mornings very well, and some of us prefer to start early and finish early. Recognise when you are at your most productive and work your day around those times.
5. Keep Work and Home Separate: When you’re in your home office, it’s all too easy to get distracted by housekeeping tasks like cleaning, doing some laundry, unloading the dishwasher, nipping out to the shops etc. You would never go off on such a tangent in the office environment, so make sure that you don’t when working from home. Stay focussed and disciplined during working hours to ensure you stay productive.
We believe that it is also vita to keep a physical difference between your working areas and your home areas. After all, your home is where you are most likely to be able to relax and unwind, but if it becomes too associated with work, you will find it difficult. Keep your office areas separate and shut the door at the end of the day. We have worked from home for three years, and just recently had our house redecorated. Mentally, that has proved to be a very positive thing. We just used to look at our house as a “work horse”, but now we have spent a bit of money on it, it has reminded us of what a lovely home we have. (It just happens to have a home office).
6. Take a Lunch Hour – and have a schedule and routine: Ensure that you take a lunch hour to give yourself a break. Maybe pop out for a walk to get some fresh air, or go to the gym. Be sure to eat something to keep your energy levels up. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, as working near computers can be very de-hydrating.
Your productivity will get a boost if you do take a decent break in the middle of the day. An hour is about right: long enough to relax and recharge, but not so long that you lose all momentum. Also, decide on a start and end time for working each day, and stick to them: you’ll find that you focus much better.
7. Keep In Touch With Colleagues: Many people who work at home say that they miss the casual social interaction at work. Perhaps you miss having easy access to colleagues when you had a question, problem or idea; or perhaps you just feel isolated without the daily chats at the water cooler.
Don’t just keep up with work by email: Online tools like Twitter or Facebook can be an easy way to casually stay in touch during the day. Twitter is great for getting instant input if you have a question or need a recommendation for something. Use a Twitter client to manage you Twitter account effectively and keep control of your interactions.
If you’re a freelancer or sole trader, forge links with other people in your community (online or offline) who work in the same area as you. They can often support you and help motivate you.
8. Take advantage of your advantage: Working from home means you can be an agile and flexible business, so make maximum advantage of that! With the advent of Web 2.0, businesses increasingly need to react in real time, as the most up-to-date information is the most relevant to your customers. So respond to enquiries and emails quickly, make quick decisions, change the rules, and embrace the new business philosophy of open, random, and supportive. After all, you are not in a hierarchical structure where you need to get your boss to approve your actions! Business is becoming increasingly up close and personal, which is to the advantage of the home worker, so make the most of interactions and engagement with your clients and always give a personal touch.
9. Take a holiday: When working for yourself, it’s often hard to keep perspective and you may feel the need to work constantly. But if you take a day off with ‘flu, will your business go bankrupt? Probably not. Therefore, if you plan carefully, you CAN take a holiday, and you must. You deserve a chance to rest and unplug and if you recharge your batteries through a holiday, you will come back to your business with a whole new energy and perspective. Creating a good work/life balance is vital to being a successful business person. Learn to say “no” if you can’t meet someone’s expectations and be realistic about how much you can achieve without burning yourself out.
10. Use business networking sites like ecademy as your “boardroom”: There’s no need to work in isolation, when business networking sites like ecademy provide a wealth of people and knowledge to tap into. If you need input or advice, then you’ll surely find it among the many knowledgeable and giving people who contribute to these sites. Attend networking meetings to increase your business knowledge and get the latest cutting edge information to keep you ahead of the competition. Develop relationships with people who will advocate your business in their networks and benefit from word of mouth marketing.
Coincidentally, ecademy founder, Penny Power wrote a blog on ecademy today which very much sums up why we are entering the era of the individual and, in the future, there will be a huge shift to working from home. (Tangent: Think how this might impact on the type of properties you might consider buying in the future – ones with home office space). We thought we would share an excerpt with you here, as it is such a powerful read:
“What I am seeing through my conversations, meetings, blogs, and absorbing an energy and an understanding inside the Ecademy Community is a huge change in the workforce across the world. This is why I want us to lead and teach this movement, it is very, very important and is a massive change in citizenship and how people will be feeding their families in the future.
The change is far more than purely people choosing to work for themselves, it is a movement of thoughts toward Independent Living and Personal Responsibility for our actions, our values, our networks and our ability to contribute. Individually we do not need to sell, if we have friends and advocates and are part of a community we attract customers to us. Brand Building is about building trust, people can do that far better than companies. Individually we can adapt to the accelerating world, individually we make a difference. This is so empowering.
Several factors are bearing down on the change, the lack of trust in large organisations, the ability to build personal brands across social media, the fear of family breakdown, the desire to be closer to our homes and communities, the need to balance our work and our families with dual incomes, the desire to make a difference to others, the list is exhausting, people want to have a different life. Change is afoot, the world is re-booting.
The last 150 years marks the rise of the company, Industrial Revolution created dependence and employment. We are now seeing the movement toward an Individual Revolution, people standing on their own, but supporting others, caring, being their friend and advocating one another. Networks with a heart like Ecademy can provide the sense of belonging and the ‘permission’ to act in the way that we all love to. To care, to share, to open up to our weaknesses, to ask for help, to help other people succeed, to reflect who we are in all our words, deeds and actions.
How this impacts the larger organisations is far reaching, ask many young people and they do not aspire to work for the Brands, they want to have autonomy, be independent and have their own personality and their own values reflected in the way they earn an income. They certainly know the value of being liked and having a network around them. This means that large companies need to change their employment policies and reach into networks like Ecademy to find the skills, talents and experience they need in order to resource themselves. The resources they need will be diverse, creative, out of the box, random thinking, the mavericks that they feared in the past, the fluffy people that they revered and bullied. The benefits for them are massive as they can garner the skills when they need them, always get the best for a particular task, reduce HR costs, reduce capital costs of office space and maintain a networked community around them that will be committed to them as suppliers not employees. BUT, can you imagine this change in culture and leadership! Wow, how will they adapt to being Open, Random and Supportive when they are Closed, Selective and Controlling?
Click here – to learn how to effectively use social media from home.
Take into this the fact that we will all live longer and we can all achieve so much from our homes, does the concept of ever retiring go out the window, I assume I will never retire because I love what I do, that is very common in this community.”
So it looks like working from home is here to stay for more and more of us. Let’s make it a productive and enjoyable experience. And remember when we get snowfall in the winter and the whole transport system seizes up, you can remain cosy in bed, knowing your commute is 30 seconds!