I’ve been a full-time “work from home-r” for 18 months now. It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do, mainly because I know how unmotivated I can be sometimes, and my motivation would always be the people in the office around me. But when Grayson came along and we decided to buy a house instead of renting, I was extremely lucky to keep my Liverpool based job, and work from home, with the agreement that I’d visit every 3 or 4 weeks for a catch up.
I’ll be honest, at first, it was difficult. Finding a routine, managing your time and so on. Of course, once you get past the advice of “remember to put some pants on” and “don’t forget, you’re actually meant to be doing work”, there’s some real advice that can help (maybe). So here goes.
- Get dressed properly. No, I don’t mean, as above, just putting some pants on. Like, really get dressed, as if you were going in to work. It’s not difficult, but mentally, it’ll make a whole lot of difference to how you think about the day ahead.
No pyjamas, no dressing gowns. Actual, proper, clothes. My day starts at 7:30am, I’m up, dressed, showered by 7:45. I’ve emptied the dishwasher, put the laundry on and made my breakfast in time to start by 8am. I don’t even think about doing these things now, they are my routine. In my mind, I’ve got a bus to catch to get me to work – and I hate being late.
- Have breaks. It’s difficult when you’re at home and the kitchen is just over there with all the goodness in it. But, stick to a routine, like you would in an office. (Sadly), I tend to schedule mine around the radio. I’ll go and grab a coffee just before Ken Bruce does Popmaster. Then I can join in. You know, it’s the small things, and getting 2 or 3 questions right really helps 😉
- Make an office. Don’t just work at the kitchen table, or on the sofa. It won’t cut it. You need a space that separates you from the rest of your home. You need to make it comfortable, but practical. Remember, it’s your office, so you can do to it what you please, without annoying your colleagues
- Get away from it all. I’ve recently joined the Gym, and I go on my lunch breaks a few days a week. I have strange working hours as I’ve shuffled things around to allow myself to look after Grayson on Tuesday afternoons, so I start early, and often work again after Grayson has gone to bed, or for a bit over the weekend. So getting out of the office (house) for a bit, and doing some exercise, really does help.
- Talk to people. It’s very easy to get cut off from things. I work closely with 5 other people, and we have our stand-ups every morning at 9:30am. It’s just a 10 minute Skype call, but it means we all know what we’re doing. We all work from home at various times, so it works well to keep up to date with ongoings. I also use twitter quite a lot to talk to people who work in the same industry – I’ve suffered quite a bit from feeling distant from the tech community, so that helps a little bit.
- Remove Distractions. As you know, I have a toddler. So he’s at home most of the time. We have childcare in the form of Grandparents, who come round and entertain him whilst me and Ash are working. They often take Grayson out for a few hours, which means the house is deadly quiet. This is pure concentration time (and yes, I turn the music up nice and loud, but that’s my way of thinking)
- Be visible. We also use a chat client to talk throughout the day – even if it’s random chat. You don’t want to feel isolated or cut off, so everyday chit-chat is really useful to keep you on track. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re sitting at desk all alone. Trust me.
- Tidy up! Ok, so this is probably one for me only – but I’m a bit of a clean freak. I can’t work in mess. Take some time once a week to get the duster and hoover out and keep things clean. Plus, no one want’s to go to work in a mess, right?
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is important. I’ve had days where I haven’t achieved my goals – normally, in an office, you can chat to people and talk through it, and leave thinking “I’ll finish that tomorrow, these days happen”. At home, alone, it can be quite different. Managing expectations is important, both in terms of what your team are expecting from you, and from what you’re expecting of yourself.
- Enjoy it Cliché number 10, “enjoy it”, but seriously, you’re in charge of this office, you pick the music, you pick the furniture, you pick the air freshener, you pick the coffee, you pick the biscuits. You’ll be hard pushed to find an office job that’ll give you that freedom, trust me!