With the UK Government advising people to work from home where possible due to the coronavirus spread, many of us used to the regular routine of office life are about to experience a whole new way of doing business and interacting with colleagues.
As someone who has worked remotely for several years, I thought I’d share some of the benefits and downsides of operating from within your own four walls. And clear up a few myths.
Let’s start with this one
You get to work in your pyjamas
Whenever you mention you work from home (WFH) this is usually the first thing non-home workers say. I can’t speak for the rest of the home working community but, personally, I’ve never done this and nor has anybody else I have spoken to.
Firstly, to keep yourself in a business frame of mind it’s important to stick to a daily working structure. You may feel that dressing as you would for the office helps as part of this. I’m not saying you should wander about your house in your best power dressing gear, but you have to remember that you are technically at work, your home is now your workplace and being relatively smart can assist that.
Secondly, there is also the chance that you may have to have a face-to-face Skype call at a moment’s notice with somebody that’s important, particularly if you are normally client facing. If that’s even a possibility, it’s best to adopt the news anchor approach and make sure the parts of you that are visible are appropriately attired. As a rule it’s business on top, party down below. Looking like you’ve just crawled out of a skip doesn’t generate confidence that you’re taking this working from home thing seriously.
Thirdly. The novelty will wear off when you start to smell yourself. Go and get cleaned up!
Turn the heating up!
Working from home makes you realise how cold your house is when the heating isn’t on. If you’re worried about racking up a massive heating bill, layer up but be sensible. My rule is: if your fingers are too cold to type then it’s time to flick the heating switch!
The extended lunch
You’re at home. The fridge is full. You’re starving. You check the time and it’s only 10:30am!
Not being in the office means you can save money by making your own lunches, but you can quickly eat yourself out of house and home if you’re a continual grazer. Again, try and keep to a regular office-based pattern for lunch times. You’re working like everybody else, just from home. And get out of that chair once in a while!
The commute – the double-edged sword
People moan a lot about travel time to work and back. It’s a grind. But it does give you time to wind down and separates your work life from home. Switching off for home workers can be an issue. If you finish the day with a heated business call, carrying your frustrations into the next room where your family are isn’t good.
To this point, it’s better to have a designated “office” space in your house. If it’s a separate room that’s even better. With windows. My commute is downstairs. When I close the door to my home office at the end of the day I do my best to leave my work and everything that goes with it in there.
Which leads on to…
You’re always on
Because you work from home there is a temptation for others to assume you’re always available. If you let this happen it can become a really bad habit very quickly. If you were to go into an office building you would work a fixed time and then go home to your family. Working from home is no different. However, when you have colleagues and clients in different time zones, as we do, having that flexibility to take calls at your home workstation at random hours can be a benefit. In such circumstances, and only these, working in your jammies may just be acceptable.
You miss the banter
Ask yourself if you like your own company. If you don’t, working from home is going to be a hard slog and you have to learn how to cope with that. Missing the office water cooler chat can be a good or bad thing depending on your view. The fact no one is sliding up to your desk to ask you something may help you focus more on your tasks than you would in the office, and that can increase your productivity. And you don’t have to endure eclectic office music choices in your own home workspace either. However, working alone can impact on your creativity, particularly if you benefit from brainstorming and bouncing ideas of others. Being on a conference call just isn’t as effective. While I keep in regular contact with my colleagues, I must admit I do talk to myself a lot when working at home. Or the dog. And we are both absolutely OK with that.
I hope some of the points above help you in your new working experience. On top of all the above you have the practical issues such as good Wi-Fi, making sure your laptop is set up, ensuring your office phone is connected to your mobile etc.
Working from home does require a lot of self-discipline, and it doesn’t suit everyone, but it can provide benefits to your work performance.