Recently I’ve read a lot of blogs from freelancers and bloggers about working from home. I thought I’d throw my few thoughts into the mix and kindly ask for any advice you might have to give from your own experiences!
Working from home
A few things about my situation:
- I’m currently working from home because I broke my leg, so there was no transition period to prepare.
- I predominantly work alone in the office, so I’m used to planning my days and managing my workload alone.
- At work I have a huge number of emails in my inbox. I find it very hard to delete anything and am guilty of sending too many emails.
Ask anyone about working from home and the first thing they’ll say is ‘make sure you have a dedicated work space’. It could be a home office, a desk in the corner of the room or even under the stairs, or so they say. There’s no doubt in my mind that that would help, but up until last week I needed to keep my leg elevated at all times so sitting at a desk wasn’t going to work.
However I tried to take that ethos and adapt it to my own needs. I found that simply moving between chairs throughout the day helped me keep my focus. I sat on the sofa with my leg up to check emails, research and read industry blogs. Then I’d move to a sturdier chair with my leg up on an ottoman to produce work. It might seem silly, but simply mixing things up helped me schedule out my day into tasks.
Another piece of advice from the blogosphere about working from home was to take breaks. I don’t have set breaks but when I feel the need to take a break, I make sure I get up and do whatever is feasible to clear my mind. I’m a big believer in taking breaks between tasks (even just for five minutes) so you can finish one bit of work and then start another, instead of one thing leading onto the next. Getting up and hobbling around the kitchen for a few minutes was enough to signal the end of one task so I could start afresh with something new.
I’ve tried to keeping my working hours as strict as possible for my own sanity. Routine is important and it’s nice to work at the same time as usual. When I do take a break, I make sure it includes a walk around the house and I try to eat my lunch in a different chair / in the kitchen / with the radio on. I don’t think I’d have this need if I was more mobile, but I find segmenting my day is good for productivity at the moment.
Usually I work in a very busy and often loud office which I love. I’ve always been a silent worker (I’ve never worked with music on, even when I worked freelance or was writing essays) so it surprises me still that I can work well amongst the noise.
At home I miss the noise and talking to people but I achieve a lot more in a quieter environment. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and although I may work quicker alone, I spend a lot longer preparing and researching. At work every time I make a cup of tea or walk across the office I end up speaking to a colleague and finding out what they’re up to / what the market is like / what their biggest challenges are. This enables me to produce responsive work rather than blindly addressing a topic. Naturally I’m still in touch with colleagues and that information does come through, but it’s not the same.
I’m addicted to email. At work I send far too many so this has been an opportunity to assess that. I think my obsession with email stems from a previous job where everyone was pretty much required to send an email asking to do something, whilst they were doing something, after they’d done something… Email was used as a way to prove you were working. Old habits die hard but I’m trying really hard not to send an email unless I need something. If I’ve said I’ll do something my colleagues presume it will be done – they know it’s in hand and if they want an update on where I am they’ll ask – I really don’t need to be filling up their inbox with pointless updates.
I recently read that if you haven’t solved a problem within three emails you should pick up the phone instead. That’s something I’ll try very hard to stick to when I’m back in the office.
The biggest issues I’ve had working from home has been to do with technology. Thankfully the majority of my work is Internet based and it’s possible to do it anywhere but some issues have arisen.
The main issue is that my laptop will not connect to the Internet. At all. My iPad has saved me, but I can’t write long documents or analyse Excel spreadsheets on it (unless you know of a way?).
Because of my laptop situation I’ve been unable to access my work emails. I should be able to, but I can’t! I have a work gmail account that I use for testing purposes so I’ve been using that instead. Although I’d love to get into my work emails, not being able to is saving me tons of time (because of my aforementioned email addiction). Instead I just check my gmail a few times a day and spend the rest of the day email free actually working, which has been scary but ultimately very liberating.
Last week I received a card in the post from my friend Lucy. She included this quote:
Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.
I found it very apt, especially from a work perspective. Being forced to work from home hasn’t been ideal, but it’s allowed me the opportunity to reevaluate how I work and change some aspects of my working style that have become habitual. The true test will be whether I can maintain these changes back in the office and not waste the opportunity I’ve been given!
Do you work from home? I really would love to hear your thoughts and any tips you might have. Also, this comic about working from home might make you laugh.