Working from home
If you are considering working from home in 2014 it’s important to think through the pros and cons and to strike the right balance between work and home life. Emma Cowan has been a homeworker for 20 years and has a few lessons to share…
Separate life from work
One of the biggest dangers of homeworking is the temptation to overwork or to under work, being lured by household chores or even the TV break that just goes on. So don’t set up shop in your kitchen or living room! Make a designated working area, even if it means giving up a bedroom. This allows you to effectively go to work and also to leave work – both equally important for the homeworker. Keeping your work area separate is also important in terms of protecting your equipment.
Schedule and discipline
Set hours that you work and try to stick to them as much as possible. Of course, one of the big benefits of working from home is having the freedom to take time out during the day for other things that are important to you, but arrange your hours so that you can do this and still work a full day. For example, in winter, I take an extended lunch break to muck out stables in daylight, but I also start work an hour earlier to make up for the time. In most jobs, there will be occasions when deadlines have to be met and the hours become extended to meet those deadlines, but try to make this the exception rather than the norm. On the other hand, don’t be tempted to take too much time out during normal working hours. Complete as many chores as possible before starting work and leave the rest until after. Most people still work office hours so you need to be contactable and this is doubly important if you are establishing trust with an employer.
The right equipment
A workman is only as good as his tools so don’t be tempted to skimp on your equipment. In my work, my computer and connectivity are vital, so I always buy the best computer available and keep it insured, as well as installing surge protection on every socket in the room. It’s important to inform your home and contents insurer that you have a home office and to list the equipment that you need protected by insurance. It might cost you a little more, but being properly insured will protect you in the event of mishap or misadventure. If your job is sedentary, then it’s also vital to have the right chair. Don’t just steal a seat from the kitchen or dining room – invest in a proper office chair that gives you the support you need to work without causing muscle strain or injury. Last, but by no means least, remember to take frequent short breaks from your computer to protect your eyesight and your ability to concentrate.
If you plan to have regular meetings in your home office, you will need to consider public liability insurance. Generally, insurers are happy to cover working from home when it does not involve third parties entering the property but most will want you to have extra cover if you are planning to have meetings in the home. The alternative is to arrange meetings in a hotel or coffee shop near to you or to your client.
Stay in touch
One of the perils of working from home can be a sense of isolation and, if you constantly work from home without leaving the house, there is a temptation to simply not go out. I have found it beneficial to make sure I do have meetings to go to, even if it is just catching up with a colleague for coffee, and that I have a list of phone calls to make each day. This keeps me connected to the outside world and motivates me to work better.
Good to grow
Homeworking is usually associated with being self employed as a sole trader but this limits business growth to what one person can achieve in a day. This may suit your needs well but if your business grows to the point of needing to employ others, what then? Well, you have learned by now that it is possible to be highly productive, comfortable and connected working from home – your employees could do the same from their own homes. You can also consider moving to shared workspace or serviced offices when your business is ready for that next step forward.