Much like how freelancing isn’t for everyone, the idea of remote working, or working from home is not really everyone’s cup of tea either. Sure, you get to work in your bunny slippers, and if you hate office politics and traffic jams, it’s actually a godsend to be able to work from home. But that doesn’t mean that life’s going to be a bed of roses.
For starters, if you were to choose to work from home, most bosses would ask that you take a pay cut (in lieu of not having to turn up at the office). Plus, you can absolutely expect your friends and family to take advantage of your newfound ‘freedom’.
The working hours will become a blur, and sometimes if you are not careful, you’ll find yourself working 7 days a week just to catch up with all the time you’ve lost! But if you have decided that working from home is your only option, here are a few tips that may help you make the best of it.
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1. An understanding family
One of the hardest thing about working from home is setting boundaries with the people you share ‘home’ with. It’s definitely easier to understand that you are not to be disturbed when you are at the office than when you are in the back room.
Start setting boundaries from the first day you start work. Granted it will get some getting used to (about 66 days, in fact, ) but your children, flatmates, siblings or parents must learn to give you your 8 hours (or more) a day so you can get things done.
2. Get help
If you have very young children, you will need to get help. A 3-year-old would consider having to go poo an emergency, and they expect you to treat it like one (drop everything and get me to the loo quick!).
In this case, it would be helpful to have another adult in the house, or to drop your children off at daycare, or a babysitter to get a few uninterrupted hours to yourself.
During busy periods, you can always get a cleaning lady to help straighten up the mess you call home. Give yourself the peace of mind required to get your work done.
3. Get your own no-fly Zone
It will help to have a room, a workstation or at the very least a desk in a quiet area in your home. Here is where you keep your laptop or PC, fax machine or phone, work documents like reports and invoices, your stationery etc. And it would be good to ensure that no one but you are to use your equipment.
In case this is not possible, stock up on your essentials (e.g. always keep some ink stored away for emergencies).
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4. I’m working, honey!
Within these four invisible walls, you are working and you are to treat it like how you would treat your old office. Coming to work is merely a hop into your ‘cubicle’ and going home is ‘hopping out’.
Everything else should remain as it was – keep problems, issues, and matters that have to do with a home outside of your no-fly zone. If you can convince yourself to compartmentalize like this, it will be easier to convince everyone else.
5. Have a routine (and breaks)
Apart from the reason that we are just tired of commuting, another reason to work from home is because of other responsibilities you have that require you to be home.
It could be because of your children, your old nana or your spouse who had suffered a broken leg from an accident. In this case, you will need to set a routine that will ensure that you can be there for them and for your company.
For the rest of us, the routine will help with keeping up with house chores – and the breaks you schedule in will help you keep your sanity. It’s also great to help you recharge for the next project or refuel your inspiration.
If you get breaks while you’re in the office, there is no reason you can’t take breaks when you are at home.
6. Deliver the hours
Depending on what has been ironed out in the clauses of your contract (or discussed over two cups of coffee) you will be expected to deliver certain working hours for your work-from-home job.
The good news with working from home is that nobody is keeping track; the bad news is nobody is keeping track (let that sink in for a bit).
Don’t think that you can prop up your feet and catch a whole season of your sitcoms in one afternoon and try to work it back during the weekends. Do it often enough and it will turn into a habit in the long run. Have some self-restraint and keep the entertainment to after hours or the weekends.
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7. Open up, be reachable
The problem most managers have with their employees working from home is that they can’t keep an eye on them. Make it easier for your boss by being reachable whenever possible. Let them know when you are not around like when you are heading out to the bank or post office, and when you will be back.
Keep yourself in check at all times so your boss doesn’t have to. After a while once a routine is set in, the reins will loosen and you will have the freedom to roam about freely… which could lead to another problem.
8. Deliver the goods
One thing that should always be at the back of your head is that your productivity should not diminish when you work from home. If it is counterproductive for you to be working from home, what’s to stop them from making you brave traffic and parking wardens to turn up at the office again?
Set quotas for yourself and discuss roadblocks or problems that you have with your colleagues or managers while working on a project. Consider joining in brainstorming sessions via conferencing tools, but stay away from the office politics or gossip.
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9. Get out of the house
Moderation is key. Working in solitude has its disadvantages but only because humans are social creatures. Hence, getting out of the house is very important.
If you don’t have to go back to the office to have meetings or deliver progress reports, you can bring your laptop and work at a coffee shop or meet a friend during lunch.
The idea is to break the monotony of working with your shadow and your reflection.
10. Stay healthy
Get plenty of fluids and eat healthily, and if you aren’t a fan of exercise, just try to move around whenever you can. This gets oxygen into your blood circulation which can be the cure to that dullness you’ve been feeling after looking at the same project day in, day out for months! Relax with music, do some light reading, or make lunch for yourself.
Also you should pamper yourself for being able to keep away from online distractions and for getting the job done with minimal (or no) supervision. Not everyone can do it, so when you do, reward yourself for it!