Ultimate Guide To Working From Home
Working from home can be good for the environment, beneficial for family life, can save you money on gas, food, clothing, and of course can save time – what’s not to like! Here is some advice about how best to make it happen, if your organization is serious about fostering a more bodily independent way of working.
Creatures of Habit
Whether working in a communal space or in your own home space we tend to like routines and timings to remain the same. Set yourself a work timetable each day; factor in break-time, lunchtime and stick religiously to it. 9 to 5 works best, although if you include the school-run or do a lunch-time grocery-shop to avoid heavy traffic, then that could become more flexible. Stick to it and an ingrained sense of rhythm including all the usual rituals of coffee and lunch can help your mind focus on the various tasks at hand.
Coming up for Air
Within your daily routine create breathing space. Literally go into the garden or walk round the block. You’re at home so take advantage of the locale. Even including a form of exercise and a shower in the middle of the day becomes easier when working at home. You are no longer bound by the stress of having to commute or having to squeeze into the gym at those peak times when everyone else is trying to do the same.
Following the Leader
Seeing as you are not literally in the same space, it is important for you to get a sense of what your line manager and organization believes in and follows, in terms of a corporate culture or modus operandi. If your boss likes to receive e-mails at all times of day and night, or if those virtual meetings and conference calls allow you to express strong opinions, disagree and reach consensus, this is useful to know. Every workplace has its own culture and you are a fellow employee, unless you’re working for yourself and freelancing.
You need to decide how strict you want to be with your own working space and time. For example, how would you feel about your spouse or kids interrupting and having a bit of a chat? You might want to fit more into shorter hours and not be disturbed or adopt a more flexible approach whereby your presence at home is one of being accessible and amenable to regular interaction. Will you turn your shed into a private office? Is there a study which is off limits? Will you work in the basement? These are important decisions which will have an impact on how effective an employee you will appear to be.
It might sound obvious, but you need to ensure that your internet package is up to the job. High-speed broadband generally costs more per month, but if it means your conference calls will never be disrupted then it’s worth it. You also need to make sure you have all the right software and security measures in place. This is something that is usually designated to a specific IT employee or employees within the confines of an organization, but when at home you’re on your own. It might also be worthwhile to own an old-school flip-phone as well as smart-phone when discussing highly sensitive data. Old-school phones generally cannot be hacked into because they are not connected to wi-fi.
You’ll be avoiding all that poisonous office gossip, but on the other hand all the heart-warming banter and camaraderie. It’s therefore important to establish good working relationships, and even consider making the odd appearance in person, so as to develop some kind of rapport and personal connection. Even with live conference calls you generally only talk to a face on a screen, and so to meet up in person enables you to humanize your working relationships and avoid unnecessary loneliness and isolation. This might seem to defeat the object of working from home but seeing as it’s only from time to time it is a good investment of time and energy.
The amount of screen time you’re likely to be having will dramatically increase, so you need to have the self-discipline to close the lap-top and do something completely different. You can learn how to cook more interesting recipes for your family, take up a new hobby such as off-road biking, and develop a closer relationship with nature. You also need to monitor your body posture while at the screen and explore some more screen-less forms of entertainment and relaxation.
You don’t have to make it one or the other. If your organization is amenable, consider requesting the option to work from home 50% of the time, or more or less. This way, you’ll get a good portion of the benefits explained above and yet will also feel like you’re physically, bodily part of the team at work. Your commute will be cut in half, you’ll have 50% more time to become more involved with home life, and you’ll potentially be able to educate other work colleagues on the benefits and drawbacks of working from home.
Consider your Employees
If you are a boss of an organization or line-manager of a team, seriously explore the possibility of some of your employees taking the plunge and working from home, at least for part of the time. Another healthy feature is the extent to which independent decision-making and the avoidance of a ‘yes man’ corporate culture of conformity can be fostered. These days it’s more important than ever to be adaptable, flexible, and be able to be proactive about time management, personal wellbeing, and have a conscientious attitude to the environment. All of these things can be helped rather than hindered by the enormous possibilities that working from home affords. It’s also possible to trial it and see how it goes. You might be pleasantly surprised. Try it.