Working from Home
Working from home can be a perfect solution - especially when everyone is prepared.
Setting up your own business is the dream for many people. Being in charge of your own destiny - no more dancing to someone else’s tune and working long hours for their benefit. You will of course work really hard, but at least the proceeds come to you and not your boss.
Since there will be many start up costs plus loss of regular income, working from home can make real sense. It allows you to cut back on rent and sundry costs, thereby reducing middle of the night sweats as bills exceed available money. It’s the ideal, especially at the outset when thefuture is uncertain. However it can have drawbacks that need some careful planning.
I’ve worked from home alongside my husband for the past 40 years, so the house has been the hub of a number of thriving businesses. We’ve worked with clients in the front room, had offices in the loft, the spare room and now finally in a custom made office at the end of the garden. It was great when the kids were little and enabled us to share their care. We had many of the days we all dream of when we took time to help out at kindergarten, stopped to share lunch together or spent time doing homework with them before tea.
So it really can work and be good fun at the same time, but there are elements that you need to prepare for:
Put the work behind a closed door – if you can see work, you’ll want/feel obliged to get on with it, so don’t let your workspace intrude on social space or the bedroom. The urban myth is that you’ll choose when you work and have lovely long lunches, but the truth is you’ll probably be so preoccupied that you’ll forget the normal stuff of life, including sleeping and meeting your friends
Work timetable – decide how you want to organise your working day. Home will always have chores to distract you and the dirty kitchen floor can become the perfect way to procrastinate. Take into account:
- Your natural rhythm – when you have most energy and when you need to rest.
- When your customers/clients are working and when you need to be in contact with them.
- When you can get quiet time to do your thinking.
- The needs of the family – who is around to help with the kids, who needs to do the shopping and cook the supper.
- When your friends are around to have some fun and provide moral support.
Daily timetables and alarms can be a real help, especially if you have family to look after or you’re going against your natural body clock. If you don’t organise, you can lose focus and may feel too guilty to enjoy your time off when you get it.
Choose your technology – depending on your home and work, you may want to shift location sometimes. When I have to work at unsociable times, but don’t want to feel ‘worky’ I settle in the sitting room with my laptop. Then there are holidays when I know I’ll want to answer emails or do some writing. So for me, a laptop works really well. If you don’t want to do that and you don’t have to travel for your work, then a desktop will be cheaper and keep work well behind the door.
Sort out practicalities – I recently missed a cheque that got mixed up with a load of junk mail and had to be reissued, so even the simple things can cause problems if not thought through. Work out where to put business mail, find filing cabinets that fit your work needs and don’t look out of place, make sure your desk set up works and doesn’t strain your back. Decide what works for you and then inform your partners/family/ housemates, so they understand and can support you.
Taking on help – I remember realising that I could no longer manage without a PA to sort out my diary. Booking flights, finding hotels, sorting materials for programmes and organising client meetings was just beating me. I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with the same person for nearly 20 years. She came into the house every day which was convenient, but also a strain at times.
Today of course, you can do this remotely, but there may still be times when you need people to come and see you. Make sure you check with the people who share your home. They need to accept that strangers may be using their house like a workplace. It’s the same old stuff that causes friction – do they put their cups in the dishwasher; do they clear the work papers off the dining table when you need it; are they clear they can’t come in early before everyone is up? Set some ground rules – it will help them as well as you. It’s your choice to work from home, so you have to manage the balancing act.
Take everyone into account and working at home can offer numerous advantages – time with the kids, low costs, fluidly blending work and fun. Fail to sort yourself out and you run the risk – as I did once – of responding to the doorbell in scruffy joggers and sweatshirt only to come face to face with a client!
Let us all know your ideas for making a home office work for everyone – what worked and what did you learn.
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