The realities of working from home; tips and lessons learnt

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I’ve worked from home for a long time and for the past 18 month my husband has also worked from home full time, it’s interesting. We actually both really enjoy it and we’re much more productive than being in an office but you have to do several things for it to be effective…

  1. Create a designated work space
  2. Have a morning routine; exercise, shower and get dressed
  3. Take breaks
  4. Keep your desk clear and organised

There are so many things that become distractions such as being able to put a wash on, cleaning, tidying, running errands and most of us right now have our children at home with us too.

Remember how much time you are saving by not having to commute or do the school/nursery drop off and introduce something new into your day or perhaps use the time to get something done from your to do list. I lost my reading and sudoku time when I stopped commuting so I now make time to do that in my day, sometimes it means losing TV time.

Over the past few weeks and months I’ve learnt a few lessons…

How to deal with new ‘colleagues’ (partner, children or housemate):
You might be free of office politics but you might also find yourself in a new predicament; you have someone around that doesn’t understand the way you want/need to work. Make time for your new ‘colleague’ but tell them when is a good time to break for coffee, chat and have lunch, let each other know when you have clients calls or a deadline.

If you have young children then they will find it hard to understand that you need to work some times. I’ve taken the time to show my daughter things on my laptop that I’m working on pictures of women that I work with, she’s featured on some video calls too. Eventually they get bored and leave you alone or ask the watch cat videos on YouTube, to get some work done in peace I usually try to work during snack times, 30 minutes is better than nothing.

Cabin fever and feeling lonely:
Once the joys of working from home wear off you can sometimes feel annoyed about being stuck in doors all day, especially as the weather is gets nicer. Make sure you have regular breaks and get out into the garden or go for a short walk.

Make sure you have a clear and realistic to do list and take it in turns to be with your children if you are both working from home. If you are finding it difficult to keep on top of everything then you probably need to look at what your business needs to function and be successful – what do you need to do? What can you delegate and what will you have to ditch?

Working from home doesn’t have to be lonely, surround yourself with a business network or community. People you can bounce ideas off, people who inspire you, people who encourage you to grow and can have a chat with if that’s all you need sometimes. Having a mentor is really important and I’d recommend finding a recommended business coach to keep your business moving forward with purpose and focus

The freelance life and other people’s opinions:
If you can work from home then right now then you’re going to be working from home, whether you are a freelancer or not. Before the global crisis I found that a lot of office based employed friends and family members were very wary of being self-employed because of losing company benefits, security and a regular paycheck. The brain is hard wired to resist change, if you are a freelancer you are probably outside a lot of peoples comfort zones. It’s natural to come across some resistance, it’s not your job to convince those  people what you’re doing is right for you, this path isn’t for everyone.

Hopefully you’ve been able to keep your business afloat during this difficult time, in fact I know a lot of businesses that have actually started to do incredibly well since it happened. At least you get to be in control to some extent and still keep going anyway you can.

Beware of becoming an annoying manager to yourself:
It’s ironic, you give yourself freedom with one hand and take it away with the other. Being your own boss means you don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder or having to report into anyone but it didn’t take me long to chain myself to my desk. I went from working 21 hours a week to 35-40 before we had to go into lockdown and the nurseries closed. Now I’ve had to totally wipe out the blocked time in my calendar, I’m probably working about 15 hours now around my daughters.

If you suffer from procrastination then now is the time to make every effort to beat it and get clear and focused – take back some control! I don’t tend to get stuck on being a perfectionist but I’m guilty of having a long to do list, so now what I do is look at my list every week or so and just delete stuff from it. If I’d really like to do something but can’t do it right now then I write it down and will hopefully come back to it at some point. Ask yourself – Will this task attract new clients? Will this task grow my business? Is this task going to make my business money? Choose one thing and focus on it, stop multi-tasking.

Routine and resilience:
As I mentioned above, some sort of routine is really important, all our ‘normal’ routines have been completely messed up. I felt so disorientated for at least 3-4 weeks, the news was scary, we were unwell, we were missing our family and we were trying to hold it together. My 4 year old daughter was experiencing a new level of crazy emotions, well to be honest we all experienced it, you can’t really get away from it when you’re in quarantine. My 9 month old started crawling and is over the other side of the room or under the table before you can say ‘coronavirus’.

At first I laughed and then cried at all those mums who created colourful charts for their kids, it took just over 3 weeks but I discovered that I actually needed one. If you started one and then abandoned it then you aren’t the only one but I felt that having it was really important for my mental wellbeing, my business and my family. I keep it very loose the only things that are pretty much set in stone are my baby girls nap times, snack and meal times. Everything else fits in around it and I have a list of activities to choose from if we need a bit of guidance for when the 4 year old is getting aggy or having a 2 hour lunch in front of CBeebies.

I tend to swing from one feeling to the next, which is ok and completely normal, it’s called resilience. We are all adapting, innovating and pivoting. Some days are more productive than others, some days I’m exhausted and I can’t focus. I’m just going with it and taking one day at a time.

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