I know a lot of you are adjusting to working from home instead of in your usual workplace. At first glance it can sound like an amazing idea, no more commute, less workplace distractions. It can also be quite daunting. You will have other distractions, a loss of routine and perhaps miss the social side of working with others around you. These are all challenges I faced when I moved from my previous office work to being self employed so hopefully some of my advice based on what I have experienced will help you.
Have a morning routine
When I first became self-employed my morning routine went a bit out of the window. I had previously been getting up at 5.30 am, doing a workout, getting breakfast, etc before heading out the door at 7.30 am. There was no negotiation I had to stick to those times or I would be late for work or miss my workout. So I did it religiously for years. Then I became self employed and that went out the window. I tried to keep out of Grant’s (my husband for those who’ve not met him) way while he was getting ready for work, so I would grab the laptop, curl up on the sofa and start working. Sometimes it would be 2pm before I realised I’d not had anything to eat or drink, not even really moved just worked. I eventually reverted back to my old routine, just not as early. I get up, keep out of Grant’s way where I can, grab some breakfast then train before starting work. I also stop for a 30 min lunch break. Have some food, take our dog Misty for a little walk to get us both outside and then back to work. I aim to leave my desk by 6pm. Being self employed that does not always happen, I have busy periods where Grant just does not see me but I try my best.
So have a routine, get up out of bed, don’t work in bed! Exercise if you like, have breakfast get showered and dressed, don’t sit in your pj’s all day.
Have an official work area
When I first started working from home I used to grab the laptop and either work on the bed, sofa or dining room table. Each of these were not ideal for various reasons. I soon came to the conclusion that I needed a designated workspace. We quickly decided that our guest room, which was used maybe once a year was the perfect space for this. I now have a large desk big enough for two people to work out, which is handy as Grant’s now also working from home, a huge screen for editing and a comfy chair to work at. We’ve also added blinds so I can block out the light when needed and a desk lamp. It’s nice to have space that is just for work, we are lucky to be able to do this. If you don’t have a room, try to find a corner of a room that’s not used to much to work in.
Have a plan
I have found the best way for me to work is to make a to do list for the week ahead. I usually write this on a Sunday evening or Monday morning. It helps me to stay focussed and not get overwhelmed with everything. I’ll then review the work at the end of the week and see if anything slipped, if it did then its the first thing I work on the next week.
I have been guilty of working non stop for 12 hrs at home (of course that’s normal at a wedding). When working from home I schedule food and breaks from my desk in. You need to do this for your own sanity if nothing else. Take the dog for a short walk, potter around your garden, just get away from your workspace, you’ll be more efficient for it.
Limit social media and emails
I feel this is even more important now with everyone being at home and therefore bored, missing social contact and so sending emails, posting on social media etc. Where you can have set times where you will check emails and social media. This is easier to do for some than others. For example in my old role as an engineer I was working away on spreadsheets and calculations, social media was not a part of my work. As a photographer social media is work, I have to be on there actively posting and chatting to people. Even so, I still set times I will and will not be on there and posting. Message me after 8pm, I probably won’t reply until the next day unless you happened to be getting married the next day of course. People forget what the time is and message away. It’s not unusual for me to get messages at 2am, I will not reply to these until 9am at the earliest the next day. I have set that boundary for my own sanity. The same with emails they get checked twice a day.
Be considerate if sharing your home workspace
As you would expect I’ve been working alone at home for a few years with the cat and dog for company. I have fallen into a routine of when I eat, of silence, I like silence to work. It’s not unusual for me to talk to no one until Grant comes home from work. Suddenly he’s home, sat next to me. I already knew from our engineering days that he is noisy and does nothing quietly, even his typing would have colleagues asking if he was trying to break the keyboard. Now he’s home, into my quiet space, half the desk is his and he’s on constant conference calls, the cat and dog have retreated as he’s loud and always in meetings with his shouty phone voice, you know speaks louder than normal when they are on a phone or video. Last week I got hardly any work done. I could not concentrate, my head was banging from being sat next to the constant shouting. So I retreated and worked elsewhere. We have since agreed that when he needs to talk to people he picks up his laptop and works elsewhere. A small change but suddenly I can work efficiently again. So if you sharing a workspace talk to the other person about how you can make it work for both of you.
Have a set finish time
When working in the office I knew when home time was and 90% of the time that is when I left and went home. The same should be true for when working at home. it’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing more work as it won’t take long, suddenly you’ve worked a few extra hours. Be strict with yourselves about this.
Plan social time in
There have been times where Grant has worked away for the week and I’ve not spoken to anyone the whole week. That’s really not good for anyone. I would also feel guilty about meeting friends for lunch etc, obviously, I can’t do that as we are socially distancing. But we can still plan phone calls or video chats with our friends. So do this for your sanity, you need social interaction. Until you leave the office or other work environment you don’t realise how much things like office banter positively affect you and you will miss it.
I hope some of the above is helpful. I know it can be challenging but once you find a new routine working from home can be very effective and fit into your lifestyle in a positive way. Just remember to keep the work/life balance there.
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