Working from home is one of the many perks of owning your own business (and is even something companies now offer to their employees). No commute, no early alarm clock, no one watching over your shoulder all day, sounds like heaven, right?
Unfortunately, if you don’t manage your own home/work life properly your productivity will quickly disappear and your business with it…
You can easily lose focus, become isolated or even work TOO much. We’ve compiled a list of ways to get through the working week at home successfully from our own experiences, and from other business owners we’ve spoken to, and how you can maintain the perfect work-life balance!
Keep your work and home life space separate
This means keeping your workspace out of sight, out of working hours.
If you’ve got the space to have an office then great, you can close the door at the end of the day! However, if you don’t there are still many little things you can do to close the space off at the end of the day.
You can buy room dividers from most good furniture stores; this means you can pull the divider across at the end of the day and not have to see your workspace anymore!
Keeping a workspace separate is key for being able to switch off at the end of the day! If you can still see your computer sitting there, or your documents lying about your brain will automatically still be thinking of work. In most typical jobs you go to work and then when you leave, you know you’re going back to your home which is a place of relaxation! It’s key that your home can still feel like that for you out of working hours!
Having a routine
One of the most key components for a good working day is having a routine. Knowing a time when you’re going to wake up, and then what the rest of your day is going to look like! For example, you may;
Wake up, have some breakfast, walk the dog and then get on with work, have a lunch break, work some more and then finish by 5 pm! Of course, everyone’s schedules differ but they key is that if you know the hours you’re meant to be working then its easier to stick to it, rather than staying in bed half the morning to do some work then slowly getting out and pottering around. The most productive we can be is with a routine.
If you think of a work environment you will most likely have a routine you have to stick to every day, e.g. your typical 9 to 5 job! If you can replicate that at home, then you’re more likely to get your work done and not feel so ‘lost’ during the day!
Keeping your work area clean and tidy
Some people are neat freaks and some aren’t and that’s fine, but a workspace should always be functional and make sense to the person that’s using it!
If you’re having to dig through hundreds of pieces of paper just to find a bill you need then you won’t be at your most productive. We like to follow the thought of ‘a clean desk equals a clean mind’.
Not only this but as we said in our first point, it’s key to keep your work and home life separate; that becomes more difficult if you have documents spilling out everywhere!
If you were in an office could you do that? It’s unlikely! Therefore, it isn’t a habit you should take home with you either!
There are many ways you can organise your workspace!
Buy filing cabinets and order all your stuff alphabetically or by categories with dividers! Or if you have loads of stock then find a useful space to keep it; a secure shed in the garden, a garage, an unused closet or room where you can keep them well organised! Don’t let your work life spill over into your home life. Mess = stress!
Treat every day like you’re going into the office!
It’s easy to become complacent when you work from home! Rock up to your desk in your trackies, who cares because no one can see you?
The issue is that the allure of this can wear off fast! If you treat the working day as an extension of your relaxation time, then it will become that way!
Getting dressed into normal – office, or even just day to day life – clothes is a great way of defining your working day, making yourself feel more productive and also making yourself feel good. Realistically most people don’t want to be in their relaxation clothes constantly because they then lose their point!
Yet again what would you do in an office? It can depend on the office of course, but wearing your dressing gown or Trackies isn’t normally acceptable in most offices 🙂
Compartmentalise your work
When you work from home it can become incredibly stressful to know where to start, what’s next or how to organise your own day! That’s why focusing on one task at a time is key! Start each day with an idea of what you want to achieve that day! Don’t open a bunch of emails if you’re in the middle of completing a task because the chances are you’ll get distracted and won’t complete your current task as well as possible! This can, of course, be an issue that office workers also experience, but when at home you won’t have any boss giving you an idea of what task is the most urgent or needs looking at straight away! You have to be able to prioritise and compartmentalise yourself!
Use a diary to schedule your week
This ties into compartmentalising your work and having a daily routine but on a longer-term basis.
For example, you may know how your daily routine works every day and that you have to focus on one task at a time, but you then need to work out what those tasks are that you have to complete that week! By scheduling your week, you can work out what you NEED and then WANT to be finished by the end of the week, and work out how that can then fit in every day! This is key in order to keep moving forward; if you know that you have big deadlines coming up, but then don’t think about it till the last minute then you’ll be in trouble.
One way of scheduling your week is by time- blocking. That means that you allocate a certain amount of time each day to certain tasks. This helps clarify what you need to be doing that day, but it also helps with motivation!
When you work from home it can sometimes be hard to know what task is next! By time-blocking, you know when you sit down in the morning at your screen what you need to have done by the end of the day!
One thing to remember though is this; sometimes even with the best intentions, it is impossible to plan your entire week and everything goes to plan. If you have a rather dynamic business where meetings pop up and unexpected deadlines get put in front of you, then we highly recommend that you adopt the start each day the evening before method. I.e. keep a rough schedule with blocked out periods every day, but also plan in all upcoming tasks the next day, the night before.
Take decent breaks
Just like at work where you’ll get lunch breaks, and smaller breaks throughout the day it’s key to do that at home too! Whilst you take those breaks try and do something you enjoy too!
If you live in a town or city, nip out and get yourself a coffee or some lunch! And if you’re more rural then go sit in the sun with a coffee, watch your favourite show for half an hour, play the video game you like for half an hour; the list can be endless!
By doing something that you enjoy in those breaks you’ll feel motivated to get through your work to get to those breaks!
Also realistically when you work at a screen for hours on end getting away can be key to relax your brain and your eyes! ‘Fuzzy head’ is most definitely a thing after staring at a screen for too long!
You’ll be surprised by how getting away from the computer screen and doing something you like for a little while helps your productivity when you return!
Interact with someone throughout the day!
Of course, this can depend on whether you work from home or with someone. But human conversation throughout the day is really key for keeping you sane! (No your dog doesn’t count 🙂 )
If you work alone then take the time in the day to; call a friend, one of your parents, your partner at work, or if you work for someone at home then even your boss to check-in!
If you yet again think of it as an office, you would be surrounded by people all day to talk to! Isolation can, therefore, become a key problem for people who work from home alone.
And isolation eventually leads to lack of productivity!
Know the importance of getting out every day!
When you work from home it can be easy to barely leave the house but this isn’t healthy! As we just mentioned above, not leaving the house can be very isolating and depressing! If you can get out after work, during your lunch or a break, whether it be for a coffee with a friend, walking the dog around the local park or even just going to the shops!
Breaking the monotony of being stuck in the house every day is so key and can be essential for your productivity levels! If you’re not happy and fulfilled the chances are that you won’t be working as hard!
Be able to switch off after work is finished
This can tie into many of the points we have made previously. The ability to switch off from work can be more difficult when you work from home. You can’t just leave a building and be done with your workday, because your work is your home! As we mentioned, having a separate working space (that is clean!) is very important in order to switch off from work! If you’re staring at all your work stuff constantly how on earth can your brain stop thinking about it?
Another key thing is to have a set time that you finish! Time-block to ensure that your tasks for the day can be finished by that time! By doing this you won’t then be tempted to just work another hour or so on another task and you won’t eat into your precious personal time!
Don’t have your work emailed linked up to your phone or iPad email or have a separate work phone!
The worst thing possible is if you’re enjoying a lovely meal with your partner or lying in bed and you see that notification on your email tab and it’s something work-related! Instantly you’ll be thinking about work again and your relaxation time is hindered! We speak to so many business owners/ those that work from home that complain that even on their days off over the festive period they were receiving work emails!
The answer to that is; if you’ve clearly stated when you’re working and are not then turn your work email off, they can wait!
If you worked in an office 9 times out of 10 you wouldn’t have access to that email from home so treat it that way!
Clearly there are a number of factors that you have to take into account when working from home, but the main thing is that you should make your work environment seem as much like an office environment as possible!
You should be able to switch off after work, you should be able to compartmentalise your days and weeks in order to stay organised, and you should treat every day like your heading into an office!
This way you can keep the motivation and the productivity that is necessary to work from home. If not you risk your whole house becoming your workspace, and after a while, you’ll begin to get fed up with where you live.
No one wants to feel like they’re trapped inside their own home which is why it’s so important to follow these golden rules!
Also, remember that working from home does come with huge benefits! You don’t have the commute, you don’t have to pay fuel, tolls etc every day just to get into work, or get stuck in traffic every morning and evening! Also, you’re not wasting any of your own precious time in getting to and from work so appreciate it:)!
Even if someone’s commute is only half an hour each way that means that each week they potentially lose 5 hours of their own time that could be used to do something they enjoy!