Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Five Tips for Working from Home
More and more these days people are working either fully or partially from home. Technology has allowed global businesses to run in a distributed way without the need for people to commute to an office. For some people this is an ideal situation, I am one of those people. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home and I love it. Over the last few years I’ve grown to despise commuting, as I hate the wasted time, and embrace a home based work situation. That being said, it wasn’t a straightforward transition and I had to learn a few lessons along the way, I thought I’d share my five top tips in this article.
1. Think about your Work Space
Offices are something we take for granted but there’s a lot of complexity in terms of layout. The science of ergonomics works silently in the background to create a space where people can sit for long periods of time, focused on a computer without doing themselves long term damage. There are health and safety laws that govern everything from the distance to your monitor to the temperature of the office. Don’t expect to transition from this to working on your sofa or kitchen table without getting some amount of back pain.
Put as much thought into your working space at home as the office, invest in a good chair. The reality of working from home is that your hours will be longer, so skimping is not going to work. I have had a Herman Miller chair for over 10 years now and although they are expensive (around £200 second hand) I can work 12 hours in the chair, day after day without having any amount of back pain. Find out the recommendations from the HSE are in terms of desk ergonomics and try and replicate those in your home working space. Do try and work at a table that is the right height with the monitor the correct distance away. Don’t slump in the sofa working on a laptop screen.
2. Be Social
People are social creatures and a lot of the socialising we do is with other people at work. It’s not like that when working from home, you may be alone or you may be at home with your partner. In either case you will be getting far less socialisation than you did when you worked in an office. For this reason, to avoid going mad (or driving your partner mad) you need to make sure you have other avenues of social contact. This does not mean you need to be out every night, but it does mean that where before you might have crashed after work, now you need to put aside a night or two in the week to go out and meet or interact with other people.
The internet is great and I’m a bit fan of social media but it can’t replace being in a room, chatting with people 1:1. You don’t need to be super intense about things, just join a club of your choice and get out the house a couple of times a week. You’ll be happier and (in my case at least) your partner will get a well needed break.
3. Make sure your Internet is Decent
Most offices have good network speed. I might be biased, working for a technology company, but decent network access is central to my job. The network package you have may be fine for binging Netflix in the evening and lurking on Facebook, it may not be capable of supporting your working. If, for example, you have to download large files regularly, usage limits and low download speed are not going to work out. Likewise, if no internet means not being able to work, it has to be reliable. All this needs to be considered and costed out. There may be big savings in commuting costs but you will need to spend on things like a reliable network connection.
4. Enjoy your Job
When you work from home, you are responsible for getting up and getting to your desk and cracking on. There’s no boss or co-workers to motivate you and you’re sitting in a house full of distractions. Because of this it’s really important to be doing a job you enjoy and feel passionate about. If you don’t it’s simply too easy to slack off. I love the work I do, possibly a little too much, so getting down to my desk in the morning is something I look forward to, I have done jobs I did not enjoy so much and found it hard to get into the swing of things when working from home. For me, it’s really important to stay motivated and a big part of that is loving the job I do. If I had a job I hated I would avoid working from home.
5. Learn to Blend
I think this is my most important tip and it centres around learning to blend professional and private life. When I first worked from home I quickly fell into bad habits. As I never really left work, I found myself working more and more until ridiculous working hours became the norm, it wasn’t healthy for me and it wasn’t fair on my family. The answer, I thought, was to have really strict boundaries, closing the laptop at 6pm and ignoring the phone from then as well. That didn’t work either, I felt like I was clocking off too early, worse, I felt that if I took so much as a coffee break during the day I was robbing time from my employer. The answer, for me, is to blend work and home.
I don’t really stop working until I go to bed. I’ll still work with colleagues over instant messenger, answers emails and participate in discussions but I usually close the laptop at around 7pm and transition to working on my mobile. If I need to go back into my little office I will. By the same token, I blur the lines during the day. I like to walk the kids so school, so I do that, while being available on my mobile. If I need to take half an hour to start dinner cooking, I might do that as well. Rather than having a fixed demarcation between work and home, I blend them so at times I’m more home focused and at times I’m more work focused. The only time I do turn my notifications off fully is when I am on holiday, that’s family time and some things should stay sacred. For the rest of the time my world is a mix of work, home, kids, fun, email and technical problems and I wouldn’t have it any other way.