I’ve been working from home for 15 years now, and wouldn’t change it for the world: no gruelling twice-daily commute, no boss breathing down your neck, eating when you want to, no clock-watching until you can go home. Freedom.
But it does take some getting used to. I often have people say to me: ‘I could never work from home – I’d never get anything done!’
Sure, it’s weird to regulate yourself at first, and the urge to sleep in is pretty strong, but trust me when I say that knowing the bills are coming out, regardless of whether you’ve earned two pounds or two thousand, is a pretty big motivator.
Plus, there’s something really empowering about knowing you’re your own boss – creating your own income, and truly supporting yourself. I can safely say I will never work in an office – or under someone else – ever again.
So, here are my TOP 5 TIPS for working from home…
1: DRESS THE PART
Some people reckon working in your jammies is the best part of a home office, but I totally disagree. You don’t have to be in a tailored suit and heels, but getting dressed helps switch your brain into work mode and get you ready for the day.
Not only is a bit awkward to answer the door half dressed, but making that high-powered telephone call when you’re wearing a fluffy bunny onesie just feels weird. Although, I’ll make an exception for slippers; slippers are a BIG BONUS of working from home.
2: FIND YOUR RHYTHM
There’s no such thing as ‘office hours’ when you work from home, so remember to make the most of this flexibility. It’s a fact that, according to circadian rhythms, some people work better in the morning and others work better at night.
Figure out when you’re most motivated and productive then plan your workday around these times. I find I can power through posts in the morning, but start to lose focus around lunchtime.
This is when I’m easily distracted and can end up spending hours staring at a blank screen. I’ve learned to close the laptop as soon my mind begins to wander and do something practical – go to the gym, sort the laundry, unload the dishwasher, or photograph some flat lays.
Then I squeeze in another couple of hours after the school pickup (I use to work late into the evening, but now I’m really strict about keeping that time for winding down and keeping my insomnia at bay).
3: DRAW THE LINE
Just as important as working the hours that suit you best, is knowing when to stop. When I first started freelancing I was so worried about getting enough work that I regularly volunteered to work out of hours and weekends, just to prove how keen and hardworking I was.
The trouble with this is, once you get known as ‘the girl who’ll work the crappy hours’ that’s all you’ll get offered… the jobs no one else will go near. People then come to expect you to be on call 24/7, and that’s a really hard hole to dig yourself out of when you decide you want your life back.
Nowadays, I make it clear I don’t work weekends. I still might choose to do some blogging or Instagramming, either to get ahead for the following week, or just because I’m in the mood, but choose is the operative word.
Alternatively, I might not open my laptop all weekend, and that’s OK too. Equally, make the most of this flexibility during the week – if it’s a stunning day, or you’re simply sick of staring at the same four walls, pack it up.
Nothing feels better than knowing you’re outside, smugly enjoying the sunshine, while most people are stuck inside a pokey office, praying for the day to end.
4: VALUE YOUR TIME
This segues on from my previous point: just because you don’t sit in an office or have a boss who conveniently pays you for 40 hours a week (regardless of how many how those you’re actually working), doesn’t mean your time doesn’t have a value.
Another common complaint I hear from freelancers is that, because they’re working from home, they’re lumped with a pile of additional chores. Partners ask them to pick up with dry cleaning, or take the dog to the vet. Or, they’re asked, ‘Why is the house so untidy when you’ve been home all day?’. Aarrgh!
It can be frustratingly difficult for people to comprehend that we are actually working, and don’t spend all day drinking tea and watching This Morning (well, not all the time…).
Do not get guilt-tripped into doing all those extra jobs – just because you’re physically closer to the washing machine doesn’t necessarily mean you have spare time to do the laundry. I work harder from home than I EVER did in an office, because if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Simple as that.
Equally, be firm with friends who think it’s fine to drop round whenever they like, because: ‘I knew you’d be home’. I’ve heard of freelancers literally dropping to the floor and hiding when uninvited guests knock on their door. Avoid awkwardness by making it clear when you’re busy working, and which days you have more flexibility. And don’t be afraid to say no to weekday invites – your desire not to offend anyone will only create lot more work and stress for you later.
5: MAKE A PLAN
I’m not an organised person, in fact, structure and routine completely freak me out. But one thing I’ve learned to do is scribble a quick ‘To Do’ list at the end of each day so I don’t waste time in the morning trying to remember what it was that I was going to do.
There’s a smug satisfaction to crossing each task off the list, and visibly seeing my progress always spurs me on to become even more productive. Another trick I’ve learned is to carry out jobs (or write them down at least) as soon as you think of them: without a team of co-workers to back you up and jog your memory, it’s too easy to forget about them.
Now you have these top tips for working from home you can make the most of your locked-down office
• image ‘still life details‘ courtesy of Shutterstock