The Three Golden Rules of Working from Home
Many people aspire to work from home these days. Indeed, the prospect of being able to roll out of bed and be in 'the office' within a minute or two is the stuff of dreams to many. Imagine it; no need to shave or put on make-up every day; no commute to deal with ten times a week; no office politics or needless gossiping to contend with: oh, it must be Heaven!
Well, after working from home for more than five years now, I feel suitably qualified to tell you that, whilst homeworking does indeed afford a number of unique benefits, it can also be something of a nightmare if you don't get things right from the off.
Allow me to elaborate.
The well known benefits of working from home (such as those mentioned above) are normally the only things aspirational homeworkers consider when they're trying to realise their dreams. I know I did. In fact, one of the main reasons I became a freelancer in the first place was so that I could enjoy the simple decadence of being able to work from my nice, cosy bed for the first few hours of the day!
However, focusing exclusively on 'treats' like this stopped me from noticing the potential downsides which can – and more often than not, do - manifest themselves when working at home. Not anticipating how variables such as tempting distractions, technological faults and the presence of others might impact my Utopian vision was, I can see now, quite an error on my part.
Needless to say, I have had plenty of time to learn what does and doesn't work in a homeworking environment. Therefore I thought – it being nearly the season of goodwill and all – that it would be a nice idea to share some of my insights so that aspiring homeworkers can avoid making some of the elementary mistakes I did when I first started out.
So here, in no particular order, are my three golden rules for working from home.
1. Keep your work and home life separate
This is without doubt the most important piece of advice I have to proffer. It doesn't matter what your job is or what industry you work in, I can guarantee you will find it hugely beneficial to keep your work life and domestic life separate. The best way to do this is to have one designated place on your property that will act as your office. If you can, try and make this a place which is as far away from the main living area as possible – a converted garden building or extension/annex is perfect – as this will enable you to maintain a tangible border between your work and your home. If you work at a roll-up desk in the living room or at the kitchen table then you will be surrounded by your work in the evenings and have to contend with domestic distractions all throughout the daytime. Needless to say, this can lead to a lot of tension developing if you have a partner or family as they will not want to feel like they have to 'walk on eggshells' in their own home for fear of disturbing you. I would urge you to address this issue before you do anything else.
2. Enjoy a change of scenery
If you're not careful, living and working in the same place can deprive you of experiencing much in the way of a varied day-to-day life. Indeed, working at home all day and then spending all evening in the same place can cause you to develop a touch of 'cabin fever' from time to time (especially in the winter). To counter this, make sure you get off your property at least once or twice during the day. A slow canter around the block, a gentle stroll through a park, or a relaxing lunch at a local café or nearby pub will not only provide you with some welcome respite from your all too familiar surroundings, it will also help you to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of being sedentary for much of the day.
3. Maintain a structured working day
Whilst part of the appeal of working from home is that you can do as much or as little as you please, adopting a laissez-faire attitude to work will invariably affect your productivity. Without doubt, devoting inordinate amounts of work time to non-occupational concerns like keeping up with Facebook/Twitter, watching a bit of daytime television or having a quick blast on your games console is not something you want get in the habit of doing, just because you can. Set yourself some basic structural boundaries and stick to them. Get up at the same time each day, provide yourself with a 'treat' (TV programme, video game, etc) only once a day (during lunch is the best time) and limit your visits to social media sites to just before you start your morning or afternoon shift. Similarly, try to ensure you maintain a distinct cut-off time at the end of the day; that way, when the work day is done, so are you.
If you're looking to become a self-employed professional or a full-time remote worker anytime soon then I hope these tips will help you along your way. The benefits are there to be had, you just need to be savvy enough to nip potential problems in the bud before they get the chance to take the sheen off what is actually a pretty cool way of making a living.
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