- About working from home
- Challenges of working from home
- Tips for productive home working
- Personal experiences
About working from home
According to recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there are around 4.2 million people in the UK who work from home. This equates to about 13.9% of the workforce. Thanks to the Internet and advances in technology, people now work from home in many different professions. Real-time communication tools such as Skype make it possible for teams to work together remotely, which has opened up many telecommuting possibilities for traditional office-based roles.
Challenges of working from home
However, working from home is not without its challenges. It is certainly very different from a traditional job role. Although it does offer clear benefits, such as no commute, the ability to set your own schedule, a location independent income, these also represent some of the challenging aspects of working from home. It is important to learn to manage your time, set clear income goals and develop a productive working environment and daily routine, with time for both professional and personal activities.
Here are some quick tips for productive home working:
Tip #1 - Have a dedicated work space
Much as it may seem appealing to work in your pyjamas with your laptop, in reality this is not the best way to work productively from home. Studies have shown that we are more productive with a dedicated work area which is fit for purpose. An attractive aspect of working from home is that it is possible to work from anywhere, but the truth is that higher levels of productivity will generally be achieved when you regularly work from an appropriate location, with the relevant equipment and resources within reach. Having a dedicated work area in your home also helps with work-life balance issues.
Tip #2 - Set your working hours and income goals
Being responsible for setting your own schedule and defining your own income is another attractive aspect of working from home. However, this also comes with the challenge of striking the balance between not working enough, and working constantly. Although it's great to be available for client requests outside of normal office hours or at the weekend on an ad-hoc basis, it's generally better to define set working hours. These may be dependent on the time zone of your client, as many industries will require availability during normal office hours. It's also important to set clear income goals and track your progress against these.
Tip #3 - Keep your personal and professional lives separate
It's generally better to have a dedicated business phone line and email address, as well as a professional online presence. Dual-SIM phones and multi-line SIM cards are very useful for those who work from home. They give you the ability to have two lines on one handset, and to divert your business calls to voicemail outside of working hours. This enables you to maintain a professional image, and also helps with work-life balance.
Tip #4 - Plan for time off
Often, those who work from home are self-employed and therefore do not benefit from paid holidays. Time off work, however, is an important part of life and essential for avoiding burnout and remaining productive. It's important to structure your income goals so that you can plan for scheduled holidays. Another point to note is that on public holidays, such as during the Christmas period, many industries have a quiet period. If that is the case for you, it is important that your income goals take this into account.
Tip #5 - Get involved in your professional community
A factor of working from home that many people fail to take into account is the fact that, in reality, you will be working alone most of the time. Many people miss the social aspect of traditional office-based roles, and this can be a difficult adjustment. However, most industries where home working is common have a very active online professional community. Getting involved in these communities can be a very good substitute for the social aspect of traditional roles, and can also lead to valuable professional contacts.
Tip #6 - Attend industry networking events
Many industries hold networking events, and this can be a great way of getting involved in your professional community. Those who work from home are able to get together and share knowledge, and this can help them to feel less isolated. In traditional office-based roles, it's much easier to feel 'part of something', and networking events provide this for those who work from home. The opportunity to connect with others in your industry can also lead to valuable business opportunities.
I have experienced many of the challenges associated with working from home personally. The advice above is based on my experience of running my own business from home full-time for the past two years. In particular, I have struggled with work-life balance issues, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of being unable to 'switch off' from work mode. I have found Corrine McKay's 'In the Balance' video series particularly useful, and I would recommend this for anyone who works from home.
As we can see, working from home has some very attractive qualities, but also a number of challenges. It is very different from working in a traditional office-based setting. However, it is entirely possible to overcome these challenges and work productively from home. There is a wealth of advice available on working from home, both online and in print. See below for some related books. I also offer business consultancy services for freelancers, so if you are considering working from home and would like more advice, please do get in touch.