My top 10 tips for working at home from someone who's done it for 8 years.
By knittykittybangbang, Mar 18 2020 02:36PM
I've been working at home on and off for 8 years with knittykittybangbang now and I thought I might share some of the things I've learned with you folks who have suddenly been plunged into it due to the current pandemic. Hopefully these tips will help you out whether you're self employed or work for someone else.
Some people really come into their own working for home and for others it's difficult. I definitely fall into category number one, however there were still many things I had to get used to and behaviours I had to adapt to get there.
Firstly I do need to stress that I don't have kids at home. I don't need to consider anyone other than adults and I definitely don't have any tips on juggling childcare with working from home. You should still be able to use some of my tips to help though, you might just need to adapt to take your wee ones into account.
1. Realise you've gained time.
So morning for me used to be hectic (and that's without kids!) Get up, shower, hair, make up, dress appropriately, eat something, sort lunch, commute, try and park, walk to work and work. So when I first started I approached mornings with the same mindset -go go go go go! Knocking out my commute and walk to work alone gave me an additional 2+ hours per day. For a long time I still had this 'get up and go to work' mentality that quickly leads to burnout. Now I get up and have time before work that I use at a slower pace. I'd love to say I use that time to do something instaworthy like make incredible breakfasts but usually I use it for reading, catching up with friends by phone or video call or online message, talking with my husband or taking my dog up the forest. It's a different mindset and feels really luxurious! Equally though, I could just start work earlier and finish earlier, or get housework done (lol nah) or just sleep a bit later.
2. Decide what your 'work hours' are and stick to them.
My 'office hours' are 10-4 Monday to Friday. I usually work at least one weekend day, and usually a bit later than 4, but these are the hours I communicate with people about work. It might not be communication you want to keep to office hours, it might be something else, but just because you COULD do an additional hour doesn't mean you SHOULD. Time away from work is important too.
3. Get. Dressed.
Now I know working in your jammies is a novelty for a start or occassionally, but in the long run you'll feel much better and more productive if you've dressed. Now I'm not saying dress for the office, but I am saying wear something you feel confident or good in and you'll be more productive and be taken more seriously by other people. Which leads me on to number 4....
4. Make everyone else take the fact you are WORKING seriously
OK so I have been doing this 8 years and I still have to explain to people that I AM AT WORK. Just because I'm physically in the house and can answer the phone, doesn't mean I'm off. You need to set boundaries with people so you're not driven mad by interruptions or with favours. No you can't interrupt me every 20 minutes to tell me non important things because you are breaking my concentration. No I'm not going to chat with you for an hour on the phone because it means I'll be doing an hour extra later (unless I'm ok with that!) No I'm not going to 'just do' that bit of housework or pick up that thing or whatever you can't do because you're AT WORK. I am also AT WORK and you need to respect it. It might take a few goes of saying it politely before you scream like a banshee but if you don't put in that boundary then you will struggle. Turn off your phone if you need to.
This of course will only work with adults or older kids. Do, however, make sure that if you have kids that other adults in the household are doing their share and do remember that if they go out to work and you work from home, your work and mental health is not less important.
5. Try and have a work space that is good for you
Now this is a tricky one. It's not ideal to have your work space in either your living space or bedroom for a long duration. Nor is it ideal to be stuck in a cupboard, unless you like that. It's also not ideal to have to tidy your workspace away each night. I know this isn't going to be achievable for a lot of people but being able to mentally step away from work is easier if you can't still see it. The temptation just to check an email or whatever can lead to you never not being at work and that's seriously bad for your brain. Time off is important. Make sure you have good light, the chair is appropriate and comfy. If you work on a laptop get one of those stands because your carpal tunnels will thank you. And open a window occasionally! (This is as much a reminder to me as it is to you...)
6. Take breaks
OK hands up I'm bad at this. I can work 9-5 without stopping and not think too much about it (thanks retail!!) but breaks are important, especially if you're used to employment in a workplace, especially if you're still being paid on those terms! STOP for a teabreak. STOP for lunch. Go and stretch your legs or get fresh air if you need to. DO call/message a friend or socialise if you're missing it from your day. You don't have to lock yourself at your desk out of fear that you shouldn't stop because you could just keep going. You'll be more productive if you pace yourself and take the breaks you need. This is also related to....
I'm not telling anyone what and how they should eat, ever.
I struggle with not eating meals through the day and it does have a detrimental affect on me. I feel much better if I make the effort to eat something 'proper' rather than surviving on tea and biscuits or whatever is convenient. Leftovers are great when you're working at home, we often plan our meals with lunches in mind too.
(Note to readers: this is a no diet talk zone. Comments regarding weight and diets will be deleted)
8. Find a sounding board
Not gonna lie, working from home can be really isolating. Sometimes you need to talk work things through with someone. Find someone who you like and whose opinion you trust that you can drop a message to or call. Use your social media – post photos 'what do you think of this?' Do what you can to sound things off other people to inform your decisions, but do remember they are YOUR decisions.
Big huge important caveat on this – you husband/mother/friend/whoever may have a lot of opinions on your business or work. That DOES NOT mean they are right. It's important to find someone in your field you can talk to who has as much or more experience than you and who you respect as someone who is good at what they do. I do not care if your husband/mother/friend is smart and talented in whatever they do, if they aren't in your precise field, you know more than they do.
9. Plan, list and routine
OK most people hate this but hear me out.
Unless you're just being given tasks on a daily basis, plan your days, weeks and months and you'll get more done and feel like you achieve more. Sitting at home every day can feel like you make no progress but having projects and goals, even daily, will help your mental state and if you are self employed it will improve your business no end. I make a monthly plan, have created a routine for a week and then make a to do list each day. I do like tasks together – social media for example happens on a Monday, Etsy tasks happen on a Tuesday etc – and then I slot in everything else around the routine of important things. It can be really easy to get caught up in 'busy work' so making sure I have a plan with big important things in first means they will definitely get done and the less important stuff can be squeezed in in a rush. This also allows me to use the ability I have to be flexible with my time so that if a friend wants to video call during a time that's designated for work, that's no problem, I know what I'm doing then and I can slot those in on other days and still not feel like I missed work.
I've recently got really into the bullet journalling method and I've found it really good! There are lots of tutorials online if you give it a Google.
OK. I'm gonna guess a lot of the women reading this will identify.
When I started working from home on my own business, it was hard to find people who took that seriously. I still have some friends who don't really respect what I do 8 years on, and that can make you question yourself. I felt a lot of guilt early on that all the housework wasn't done and here was me sitting here working. Surely I could just take a few minutes to do the dishes, or to hang up laundry etc etc. Having everything organised and clean and tidy in the house would no doubt make me feel more organised and productive, but that doesn't mean I need to wait until it's done to start work and it certainly doesn't mean I should prioritize it over work. If you were working outside the home, you wouldn't be late so you could iron, the same goes here.
I'm not going to tell you to keep your workspace tidy either. Some of us need that, some of us thrive in chaos, some of us find tidying and organising really really hard. Decide what you need, make it happen, then ditch the guilt you have regarding housework. If it helps to put it into your work plans, then do that, but washing dishes is not more important than your business.
I hope some of these might have been helpful. Do you have any working from home tips that have really worked for you? Let me know in the comments.