Home working has never been more appealing and if you're thinking of taking the plunge then you may as well start right now. However, there are some points to consider before you set up shop in your new home working office space. We’ve put together our own top ten tips for making home working a success to set you off on the right path.
1. Your location
Where you work from home is one of the most important aspects to consider and the location should be one of the first considerations. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room that can be turned into a proper office then so much the better. If you're tight on space, or have potential distractions such as family members around during the day, then you might need to lay down some ground rules. You’ll need to underline how working from home is indeed proper working, and so having your own time and dedicate space to do that is a vital piece of the home working jigsaw puzzle, as well as ensuring that no one disturbs you unless strictly necessary.
2. Get organized
Working from home will be pretty disastrous unless you stay organized and have a plan. There are countless options for organizing every aspect of your life and the work part of it is no exception. Have a look at task management software, apps that can get your organised and also remind you of appointments. Invest in an old-school calendar or personal organizer if you want a break from all those digital assistants. The main thing is to have a plan or schedule and stick to it, within reason.
The same goes for your working hours too. One thing that home workers can often find themselves doing is working a lot longer than they originally envisaged. There is of course the convenience of being able to work when and how you want. But, if you’re still en employee and your boss has agreed to home working then follow the same rules as you would in a regular office. If you’re self-employed on the other hand, there are more freedoms, but don't beat yourself up for shutting up shot for the day. You’ll usually find that ultimately you're more productive by taking a break from work anyway.
3. Be around
Working from home can be challenging for some people, which is why a lot of employees actually enjoy going out to an office. Being ‘at work’ means there are theoretically no distractions but we all know that not to be the case, thanks to coffee machines, water coolers and the internet to name but three things that can interfere with productivity.
Equally, working from home can present you with other diversions, so don’t work with the TV on (unless it’s part of your job) or be tempted by social media. Crucially, make sure you’re around and contactable during working hours. Employers, clients or anyone else for that matter will soon get frustrated if they’re trying to get hold of you and your desk space appears unoccupied while you’ve nipped to the gym.
4. Stay connected
It’s all about the connectivity, so be prepared to invest in having the best broadband connection you can afford. If you’re employed then your company may well cover the cost of any upgrades or purchase extra equipment to keep you firing on all cylinders. On the other hand if you’re paying for connectivity out of your own pocket then this is another vital area that is well worth spending money on.
If you’re more productive as a result then the expenditure is justifiable. And, as is always the case for anyone self-employed, you can claim a lot of the outlay back as legitimate business expenses. That extends past your broadband supply too, with even your home working surroundings having many features that can have tax-deductible appeal about them.
5. Top tech
Being productive in the home working environment doesn't have to be expensive, but it is worth investing in quality tech that’ll boost your performance. If you're employed and your boss is forward thinking then ask if they’ll get you a better laptop and other peripherals that can make you more productive. On that point, incidentally, don’t forget to factor in insurance to cover anything you’re using for home working, including your work space.
A decent desk, chair and other work space ancillaries aren't just for making your home office look cool, they're essentials for health and well-being. So don't skimp. In any case, if you’re working for yourself then there are allowances when it comes to tax return time for anything and everything related to home working. Make sure you have a digital documents or a physical paper trail of invoices and receipts for purchases and outgoings, so you can trim at least a little a bit off the unavoidable tax bill come year-end.
6. Work smart
Being productive in the home working environment is very much about being organized and having a plan of attack. Try to optimize your days and use your time wisely. You’ll need to be fairly disciplined and have a proper routine, especially if you’re the sort of person who can be easily distracted.
Get everything that needs doing into an organizer or diary and get reminders set up for things like video conferencing, calls to clients and sending out chasing emails for late payments. If you're self-employed, for example, then depressingly a large chunk of time will disappear chasing invoices so use accounting software and everything else at your disposal to minimize those chores.
7. Stay healthy
Working from home has many benefits, but there can be some downsides in terms of your health if you don't work smart. Where once you might have had to commute your days might instead be spent being largely physically inactive. Desk jobs can be sedentary at the best of times, bit without the getting to and from work part of the day you’ll need to balance your home working day out with some physical activity.
That means taking proper breaks, including an away from your desk lunch hour perhaps. Be sure you make your work space as ergonomically pleasing as your workplace desk would have been. Staying healthy in both mind and body is not to be taken lightly.
8. Avoid diversions
While some of us slip into focus mode and become hugely productive in the home working scenario, others can be easily distracted. And, if you're working from home, there are lots of potential diversions including sleeping, the kitchen, the TV and more besides. If you lack self-discipline then any or all of these factors can be pretty destructive to a days work, so try and make a point of avoiding things that allow you to procrastinate during your working hours.
9. Keep in touch
Working from home can often be a solitary experience, especially if you live alone. People can underestimate this aspect of sitting in a home office all day. However, the great thing about living in a connected world is that it’s never been easier to stay in touch. There are many different ways of contacting workmates, or even family and friends, such as video calling and the ever-present smartphone.
It’s easy to get in a rut and cut yourself off from people if you’ve been working from home for any amount of time. And, while that is actually a good thing for some people who prefer to get on and do their work thing while they work, it can be counterproductive for others. If you enjoy being sociable in a regular office environment then there’s no reason you can’t still be even if you’re working remotely.
10. Enjoy it!
Being a home working success story is as much about enjoying it as anything else. If you’ve followed the tips above, got yourself kitted out with the right tech and put together a healthy and comfortable work space then home working can be hugely beneficial. Staying on top of things, using organizers and all those other work aids that are so prevalent, will make everything fall into place and hopefully you’ll enjoy the experience.
If there’s any part of the home working picture that doesn't seem quite right then spend some time figuring out what it is that’s nagging you and try to get it sorted. You might not have any HR services to hand, so the responsibility is on you to be happy and enjoy it.
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Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.