I love it when I tell people that I work from home, and the response is always the same, genuine, “wow, must be nice!”. Even when the other party also works from home, we both smile and exclaim what an amazing work-life-balance we totally have. But we all know the dirty truth – working from home has an unproductive, pyjama-wearing, errand-running dark side. Here is the list of mistakes that I have already made, so you can avoid them. You’re welcome.
Work ridiculous hours. I am my most creative around 5-7am – probably mainly because no one interesting is on twitter yet – so I like getting up at a rude hour and hammering away at copy until the rest of the world is up and starts bothering workflow with their emails/calls/meetings. With no office coworkers to signal the 5pm exodus, you can also tend to work too late. I consistently get work emails from other freelancers well into the late hours of the night, and usually feel like I should also be at my desk. The problem with this range of hours is usually burnout, which can literally stall your business for a time period (true story). Keep to office hours.
Multi-Task all the things! There are obvious advantages to being home during the day, such as having time to get household duties done and run errands. I know plenty of parents who have to work from home for this reason. But you have to know where the line is, and when you’re doing too many things. If the human brain can only handle one conscious thought at a time, try to get a handle on how much multi-tasking is going to be productive. Oh, and sign out of facebook*.
Take breaks. Especially if you work from home every day of the week, you will slowly decline into a conversation-starved, vitamin-D deficient state of mental instability. Fact. Take breaks, and actually schedule them in as appointments in your diary. I like going for a run at lunch time (aka “runch”) to break up my day and get me away from keyboard-hunch for an hour. Other people take naps, which sounds pretty incredible. Just don’t tell clients why you missed their call (I was in a ‘meeting’… always).
Go into your cave and workworkwork. I used to think that a sign of hard-working was doing nothing but working hard, however chaining yourself to your home office can ruin you as a person and deplete your energy sources quickly; not to mention the lost benefits of networking. Meet other freelancers, and schedule coffee dates with them. It’s important to get out of the house/desk and speak to other humans in the light of day. It may not look like work, but speaking to someone in a similar workspace as you and exchanging ideas and referrals is incredibly beneficial to growing your business and keeping your sanity. Everyone has different energy levels for socialising, but I would recommend booking at least a couple of coffee dates a week.
Chaos workflow. I am really bad for having thousands of windows and tabs open, switching between clients every three minutes and then never really getting a lot done. The Pomodoro Technique, where you break up your day into short segments of focusing on only one task, changed my life. It’s worth a whole post on its own, so just go read about it.
Get ready for work, like the rest of the corporate world. People always joke that work-from-homers probably never get dressed. Know what? If I don’t have any meetings, ain’t nobody gona find out if I don’t put jeans on. Deal with it. (Just make sure you know whether your Skype calls are video-ON calls.)
*I don’t actually do this but it seems like a good idea.
Working from home isn’t a perfect solution for everyone, but for a growing population of professionals the home-office is making more sense, improving productivity, and supplying work-life balance. Pants or no pants.
We’d love to hear your work-from-home-hacks and pitfalls. What are they?