Working from home brings many positives – the proximity to the biscuit tin, setting your own hours, and swapping your suit for slippers, but it can be hard to stay on track and be constantly motivated too. Here are my top tips for stay at home success:
- Don’t put the TV on. If the house is simply too quiet, opt for the radio or put your iPod on in the background. For one, music is less distracting, and most employers would allow it in the office anyway, and two, you can’t give your work your full attention with Loose Women in the living room. Nobody would willingly pay you to watch TV, so it’s not fair to charge them for it.
- Go outside. In my first few weeks of freelancing I couldn’t work out why I was finding it so hard to fall asleep at night. In my last job I’d spend the majority of the day walking from building to building, and a lot of this time outdoors. As a result, I’ve lost pretty much all fresh air and exercise from my day, meaning I wasn’t as tired. If you’re too busy for a walk around the block part way through the day, spend twenty minutes in the garden. It’ll increase your productivity hugely, and keep your from feeling you haven’t left the house in days.
- Have a lunch break. Yes, you can snack all day. You can also see the bathroom scales take a sharp turn in the wrong direction. Set proper breaks for meals, just as you would at work, and keep fruit and nuts handy for snacking on. Nobody will like you if you become responsible for eating the entire local shop’s biscuit stock.
- Get dressed. Working in pyjamas is one of the first pros of working from home that comes to mind, and until the luxury wears off, it’s great. Once it’s gone though, you’re just the strange neighbour taking their bins back in at 6pm in their PJs, and nobody needs to become that. You don’t need to dress smartly, but getting dressed at all in the morning puts you in the right frame of mind and helps take your brain from sleep to work mode.
- Speak to people. By 5pm, the sound of your own voice can be a surprise if you haven’t used it all day. Try and spend a couple of afternoons a week working from a coffee shop surrounded by others, arrange meetings regularly and make social arrangements with friends to avoid feeling isolated.
- Don’t clean the house. Yes, it’s tempting to ‘just put the washing out’, but the more housework creeps into your day, the more your work creeps out of it. If you can’t work in a lived-in house, allow some time in the morning to tidy up, but make sure it comes before your working hours before it eats into them.
- Do clean the house. Yes, I know. I love contradictions, so much that I used to write both the For and Against column in my student newspaper’s opinion page. The fact is, if you’ve got work to do, but it’s just not happening, giving your brain something different to do for a few minutes can get you back on track. So yes, OK, go and put the washing out after all, but after that, return to your desk and don’t let it be the start of a six hour spring clean.
- Find the hours that suit you. Working while the house is empty might seem the best idea, but if mornings aren’t for you (and let’s face it, you’ve chosen to work from home, they’re probably not), then start later. But you do also need to work later. Experiment with different hours for a while until you find what suits you, and get the most out of your day according to when you’re most productive.