As flexible working arrangements become increasingly common, many people – whether employed or self-employed – now have the option of working from home for either part or all of their working week.
Whether the idea fills you with joy or dread, here are some tips to help you work from home effectively.
If you establish your routine early on, you’ll find you’re more productive.
Without a set working pattern, it’s easy to succumb to distractions – the cheeky lie-in, a spot of housework, a pop to the shops, the household admin and the leisurely lunch. Decide what your working hours will be and stick to them religiously.
That said, when you’re settled into your routine, you will reap the benefits of this flexible lifestyle. Being able to look after a sick relative, meet your children from school or even just walk the dog when it suits you is priceless.
If you don’t enjoy the solitary life and thrive on contact with other people, you’ll need to think about how you can make this work.
Just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you need to be isolated. It just means you need strategies in place to prevent it.
The options are endless, so it’s just a matter of deciding what works for you.
From a daily call in to the office to customer visits to working from the local coffee shop, there are plenty of ways to schedule your time so that human interaction becomes a normal part of your routine.
Even though you may not be seeing customers or colleagues, it’s still important to act like a professional.
Try getting out of your pyjamas or sitting at a table rather than on the sofa. Do whatever you need to do to help you stay focused and to separate your work time from your relaxation time.
Distractions such as noisy workmen or screaming neighbours don’t come across too well on a business call, so either schedule calls when you know it will be quiet or ask for a few minutes peace until you’re off the phone.
Take a break
Once you’re settled into work it can be hard to know when to stop. Even when you think you’ve finished for the day, there’s still the temptation to log on later to check your email or finish a piece of outstanding work.
Just as you would in the office, take regular screen breaks and don’t feel guilty if you’re not logged on 24/7. You’ll be more productive if you come up for air occasionally and your contacts won’t get unrealistic expectations about your availability.
Know thy fridge
If you do take a break, where do you go? Unlike an office, where you can pop out for a coffee or stop for a chat with colleagues, your most likely go-to is the kitchen.
Need to stretch your legs? Raid the fridge! Dealing with a tricky customer? Raid the fridge! Procrastinating over an unpleasant task? Raid the fridge!
You’re going to have to find some kind of snack control system if you’re working from home. You might also want to build some exercise time into your routine, because most homeworking jobs are pretty sedentary.
Rein in your friends and family
You say “I’m working from home”, but somehow everyone else hears “I’m available for coffee, golf, gossip and favours”.
You’ll also find you get to know your neighbours a lot better, as word spreads that you can now take in parcel deliveries for the entire street.
Establish from the start that the concept of working from home does not mean a day off, and explain to people that this is your job: this is how you earn your income. If they wouldn’t interrupt you at the office for it, they shouldn’t interrupt you at home.
Stay in touch
Working on your own can make you feel a bit out of touch with the rest of the world and you may miss the opportunity to bounce ideas around.
Try to arrange chats with the office to catch up on company changes, projects and news, but also connect with colleagues on Skype or LinkedIn for informal, ad hoc chats.
Here at CV Knowhow we have a huge network of writers all connected via a virtual office where we can ask questions, share stories and even keep up the office banter.
Regular contact with the office also reminds colleagues that you’re there and productive, so could ensure you’re not overlooked when promotion opportunities or new projects arise.
If our survival tips make you feel ready to take the plunge, join us and go for it! The horror of rush hour could soon be a distant memory.
About the author: Jen David has been a CV Consultant since 2010 and currently works for CV Knowhow, the UK’s leading career and CV writing consultancy.
She has written CVs for thousands of job seekers from all industries and at all stages in their career, from students to senior executives. Jen aims to add value to CVs, enabling her customers to increase their chances of securing an interview and progress in their chosen career.