working from home – observations over 10 years

Thought I’d write this article for those of you that have just started working from home during these unprecedented, unrehearsed times.

I’ve been working form home nearly 10 years now – my business birthday is May 4th this year, we were hoping for a bit of party, might have to rethink that to more of a virtual one – thought I would share my learnings on how to cope.

From the many recent video calls, conference calls it’s clear that this is so new to everyone some are obviously struggling with ‘how’ to work form home.

It is NOT the same as working in an office environment, far from it. You have no one to chatter with, no banter, more distractions in the house – washing up, cleaning, tidying, not to mention the kids.

My kids were 10 and 14 when I started working from home, still at school, both boys with loads of energy. I had to work in our through lounge dining room as it was the only place we had available. It took me a few weeks to get it set up properly and to work out a routine – routine is crucial for productivity.

I set clear boundaries with everyone in the house, if I was at my ‘desk area’ (dining room table) on my laptop I was ‘working’. I had to fit that into when the kids went to school and then came home again so that all calls were finished before they got back and the noise started. My most productive time was the school day, bit different in the current situation but having a routine is important.

I also made a point of ‘going to work’ every day, exactly as I did when I went to an office. I got up at the same time, got ready – didn’t need a suit though which was great! I put my laptop bag on my back and literally walked round the block, I was ‘going to work’. It helped get my mind into it.

I always (well nearly) stop for lunch and very rarely eat at my desk working – it was downtime. I found working from home I concentrated on tasks much more than I had in an office with all the noise distractions, so I got tired quicker.

Another break I put into every day is exercise, either a quick walk round the block, trip to the gym or a run. Its vital to keep your body loose and does wonders for the mind. I use it as my thinking time and get so much shit sorted out – its amazing the conversation you can have with yourself on a run.

Motivation is big one, you need to plan your week, I still do it every Sunday afternoon, I look at what meetings, calls and projects I have and what needs doing through the week. Running a couple of businesses this also includes accounts, finances and all the fun admin that goes with being a company owner.

In my calendar I block out time for the project (doing) work and I keep to it, if I don’t my week gets filled with meetings and I don’t get anything done. I turn my email notifications off if I need time and also put my phone on do not disturb – if you were in a meeting in an office you wouldn’t take interruptions would you?

You need to be disciplined with what is work and what is home. Set you and your family clear work and play boundaries, don’t forget the kids they like to see you working but also playing. Make sure everyone knows that if you are at your screen you are working wherever that may be in the house.

I spent 7 years working from the dining room before we had a cabin built in the garden – best thing we ever did. Got our house back and I have a work area that I can ‘commute’ to everyday. And at weekends it stays locked up, unless I am really busy. My biggest distraction now is Red Kites flying around all day.

I do hope the above musings help someone, I know it’s a difficult thing to suddenly start working from home. If anyone would like a chat about it or advice just drop me an email – happy to help wherever I can.

Stay safe!