Working from home, and how to make it work for you…
You’ve got to keep it professional. We’ve crowdsourced some helpful advice to keep you working productively away from the office.
Working from home is a marmite situation; you either love it, or loathe it. Some people really benefit from working in an office environment. The rhythms of a busy workplace provide them with structure and motivation for the work they do, and the routine of a commute helps them to compartmentalise their life into work and leisure time.
Others find the office a place of ceaseless distractions and depressing routines that leave them restless and frustrated. The office banter can wear thin, and the endless small talk or rounds of tea-making can limit productivity, especially if their work requires long periods of concentration.
These days, working from home is commonplace. With a change in the law dictating how companies manage requests for flexi time and remote working, more and more people are shaking up their nine to five routine, and companies are starting to see the value of not adhering to a ‘bums on seats’ mentality, including the ability to offer extended office hours whilst downsizing on office space and equipment thanks to an increasingly decentralised workforce.
If you have recently started working from home, or are starting up a freelance or home business, you’ll be looking to create a work-centric environment in your domestic surroundings. Whether you’re working from a dedicated home office or a desk crammed under the stairs, there are a number of simple things that you can do to make working from home work for you.
The dream is floating into your home office at 9.30am, dressed and ready for the day. The reality can be stumbling to your desk at 11am, unwashed and still in your pyjamas because the overflowing laundry basket or last night’s washing up delayed you. Procrastination can be a drain on productivity, so many people find that the key to working effectively at home is scheduling. Whether you use an app, a calendar or an old-fashioned whiteboard, set defined times to work, break and eat, and stick to them to keep yourself productive and focused. And always, always get dressed!
Take control over your ambient conditions
In the office environment, we’re often at the mercy of majority rule. If you’re the only one who thinks it’s a bit chilly with the aircon on, then usually your only choice is an extra jumper. Assess your environment and get it set up to your own preferences before you start working.
Smart heating systems that allow you to control the temperature of individual radiators will give you the ability to change the temperature of your work room at the touch of a button, rather than with a vague spin of the thermostat wheel. Plus, if you’re only working in one room for the majority of the day, you can turn down the heating elsewhere and only use energy to heat where you are, minimizing the impact of your presence at home on your heating bills. Complete temperature control, and no Bob from Accounting to turn it down when you’re not looking!
Make sure you can hear the doorbell
Whether you’re expecting a delivery, a client or the kids coming home from school, make sure you can hear the doorbell. If you’re subconsciously listening out for it, you’ll be distracted from your work. A portable model is perfect, as you can take it into the “office” with you to make sure you’ll never miss a visitor.
If you want to see who is at the door before you decide to answer it, you could consider upgrading to a video entry system. Utilising a built-in video camera with microphone and speaker, you can see who is at the door from your smartphone or laptop, and communicate with them directly without leaving your seat.
Customise your alarm system
Whilst closeting yourself away in the office, it can be easy to neglect your home security. According to research conducted by the Office on National Statistics, around 70% of domestic burglaries take place during the week, and over half of all incidents take place when someone is present at the property. So if you’re the only one at home during the day, it can’t hurt to ensure the rest of the house is secure.
Install an alarm that allows Home Zoning, so you can set door and window sensors, and motion detection sensors to cover the parts of the building that you’re not using. If you’re lucky enough to work out of a workshop or garden office, a wireless alarm is a great option as it can cover outbuildings with minimal installation time, ensuring that expensive equipment such as laptops, printers and mobile devices are safe and secure once you’ve clocked off for the day.
For added peace of mind, invest in smart security cameras. These wireless smart cameras monitor your home and instantly record as soon as they register movement, sending a feed to your mobile phone to alert you. Some even give you two-way audio, so you can hear what is going on, and speak your mind to whoever tripped the camera, whether it’s an intruder or the family dog!
Out of sight isn’t necessarily out of mind
Remote working removes you from the physical office, but you can still be an effective presence thanks to video conferencing and screen sharing. With increased connectivity through mobile devices and ultra fast broadband, we’re entering the age of the ‘anywhere office’, where video calls are made through phones in the garden, and screen sharing can be done whilst you sip latte at the kitchen table.
There’s a wealth of programs that support document sharing too. Gone are the ‘send it to me on email’ days; through platforms like Google Docs, a whole team can view shared documents online and edit them simultaneously in real time. It’ll even auto save it for you as you work.
When only face to face will do, then Skype for Business can provide excellent video conferencing facilities. Reliable and trusted by people all over the world, from backpacking students to CEOs, Skype has perfected the multi-user, multi-interface video conferencing model, and are constantly adding value to their offering with features such as screen sharing, Powerpoint editing, personalised URLs, and calendar integration to make scheduled video meetings as easy as chatting round the water cooler. But the onus is on you to make your presence felt, so don’t be shy about staying in contact.
Flexible and remote working is now part of the national consciousness, and figures are only set to rise in the coming years. As people look to redress their work-life balance, we could see dramatic changes in the way the UK workforce does business, eventually consigning the clichéd ‘9 to 5’ – along with Dolly Parton – to the history books