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14 Top Tips for Working at Home by Louise Fleming Working at home (in your own business) has tremendous benefits – no long commute in the rush hour, no need to ask permission to go the Dentist or to leave early to pick the kids up from school. But it can also bring a whole draft of problems too – especially if you are new to working at home. Losing the structure provided by an office setting can be very unsettling for some. Problems may include things like, Never Actually Switching Off! Or other people not respecting your time. Or just not getting organised enough to actually get anything done!! So, when working at home, how do we remain productive – and keep a work-life balance? I have compiled a list of tips for working at home that I have found helpful. (By the way, I have worked from home now for over 11 years – and I wouldn’t go back to an office for anything! However I still find these tips extremely useful to remind myself what I should be doing every so often!) Top Tips for Working at Home and Staying Productive 1. Define your Work Space You need to have a workplace – and that isn’t sitting on the sofa in front of the TV! If you don’t have a separate study (which is the ideal option) then try setting yourself up with a desk in the spare bedroom or dining room. You need a space where you can shut the door and feel like you are ‘at work’ and therefore feel like you have ‘finished work’ when you move out of that space at the end of your day. Psychologically this is important as it changes your state of mind from “at home” to “at work”. Learn to FOCUS. Being able to shut the door on your separate space is vital – if the door is open it can signal to your family that you are available to chat (or play!) Wherever your workspace is, make sure you keep it tidy – the old adage about a tidy desk equalling a tidy mind is true! The tidier and more organised your workspace, the more productive you will be. Also, make sure you have the equipment you need – in particular ensure you have a comfortable chair with back support. 2. Set Ground Rules with Those Around You Set your working hours (see tip 4) and ensure that your friends and family are aware of this and respect it. You are NOT available for coffee, for long lunches or for play! Your friends and family probably wouldn’t disturb you at an office with questions that can easily wait until you get home – but if home is your office they may not show the same restraint. A lot of friends and family will also think that as you work from home you are able to stop for coffee or a long lunch at a moments notice! Ensure that everyone understands that interruptions are for urgent matters only. 3. Prepare for Work – Physically and Mentally Have breakfast, take a shower and get dressed. You don’t have to wear a suit – but don’t stay in your pyjamas! Getting dressed first thing in the morning prepares you for work – it gets your mindset in the right place. Don’t turn the computer on just to check emails as you walk past the study first thing in the morning (I am guilty of this one!) Suddenly you realise it’s lunchtime and you are still in your PJs with a stinking headache cos you haven’t had breakfast (let alone a shower!) Make sure you are in the right mind set for the day. Start the day properly. 4. Set Regular Hours – and Stick to Them A benefit of working at home is that you don’t have to work 9-5 if you don’t want to. I tend to work from 9.30-3.00 (with a break for lunch) and then 7.30-8.30 in the evening (after my Son is in bed). Think about what works for you. You may need to work early mornings or evenings to fit around your family life or to communicate with colleagues in other timezones. Whatever hours you decide – stick to them! (You are allowed some leeway – but don’t let work run your life). I think this is one of the hardest ‘rules’ when working from home – it is so easy to actually never switch off. But a healthy work-life balance is important – even if you do work at home. 5. Don’t think you need an Immaculate House! Don’t spend more time on housework than on working! A bit of light housework in your ‘lunch hour’ is acceptable, as is popping the odd load of washing on, but really, when you are at work, you are at work – even if you are working at home. If you can afford to get a cleaner and you would have one if you were working a ‘proper job’ in an office – still get one. Please don’t think you have to be Superwoman (or Superman) and do it all yourself because other people think you have lots more time because you work from home!! If you take your work seriously, especially if you have just started a new business at home, then you need to put the hours into your work – not into cleaning the house!! Schedule non-work time for household chores and get the rest of the family to do their share. It is important that you don’t take on every household job just because you work from home – those around you need to respect the fact that although you are at home you have serious work to do during your scheduled hours. 6. Limit Distractions If your work permits- TURN OFF the telephone so that you can concentrate and get on without distraction. Only check your email at certain times of the day. [...]
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