After what probably can be described as several false starts from the 1980s onwards, over recent times working from home has really taken off.
In fact, recent figures show that around 1.5 million people in the UK now cite the home as their main workplace.
However, it’s worth thinking carefully about some of the things you’ll need to put into place before you can start happily and productively working at home. These may vary from one person to another of course but they’re all worth thinking about.
Your working environment
It’s not unusual to see publicity shots of people working from home, showing them looking intently into a computer on their dining table or kitchen worktop.
In reality, many people will find it very, very difficult to work if they’re just perched in the middle of their home. The main problem is distraction – partners, children, pets, unexpected visitors, the sudden spotting and doing of a household chore you’d overlooked etc.
So, if possible, try and dedicate an out of the way location as your office or workshop. Spare bedrooms, converted garages or lofts and so on, are all fine providing they’re comfortable.
Make it your private domain and hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door. In passing, it’s worth making sure you’ve protected your domain and its business through appropriate working from home insurance.
Linked to the above, it’s important to draw lines around your home social and home business life.
Keep them insulated from each other or they’ll run together and merge. That’s good neither professionally nor for your private life in the psychological and emotional wellbeing sense.
There’s no single easy way of doing this but having strictly defined business hours and stopping work once you pass them, barring the odd crisis, is a good start.
Invest in a communications infrastructure
To work successfully from home, you’ll need to be able to communicate with your colleagues, clients and suppliers etc. That means primarily broadband or fibre optic internet and also good mobile phone comms.
Today, that’s becoming less and less of a challenge in most parts of the UK but there are still notorious dead-spots for mobile networks, old snail-speed internet connections and if your internet router should be in a museum then that will be a problem too.
Don’t penny-pinch here – be prepared to spend reasonably well in this area to give yourself everything you need. Your ISP or a technology expert should be able to help with advice on the minimum comms configuration you’re likely to need in your area.
Stop, take breaks and exercise
It’s very easy to slip into bad habits when working at home.
The warning signs are stepping more or less out of bed, sitting down at the PC in your night clothes and then starting to work with a cup of coffee by your side. If you’re still like that at lunchtime, then action is needed!
Just like office work, try to get into a rise, breakfast, shower before work routine. Ignore the PC’s temptations and instead go for a 15-20 minute walk (or exercise) before starting – exactly as you would have done going for that train or bus.
During the day, take coffee breaks and again, try and get five minute’s exercise by just walking around. Make sure you take a lunch break of an hour and try to get some more moving around activity there too.
It’s all replicating office practices and helping to keep you a little healthier.
Find someone to talk to
This is a hugely underestimated issue for many start-ups at home.
Not being part of the office gossip chain can seem attractive but seeing nobody else hour after hour can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
So, try and find a neighbour to pass that coffee or lunch break with or just phone a partner, friend or colleague for a quick chat a few times during the day.