Deciding to start a work from home job can be a huge step towards improving your lifestyle, whether you are working for an employer, as a contractor, or completely for yourself. But before you make a decision you need to know if it is going to suit you personally and suit others in your home. You also need to know about tax implications if you choose to claim home expenses related to your business.
All too often, people fall victim to distractions when they work from home and their productivity levels fall off sharply. So we need to consider why this happens and how we can be efficient workers but still enjoy the pleasures and perks of working from home.
How do you measure your productivity?
When working a normal 9 to 5 job most people base their level of productivity on their surrounding atmosphere of co-workers doing similar if not the same tasks. This gives you a baseline on which to compare your own productivity. But when your job requires work from home it’s up to you to determine how hard you should be working to achieve what you want to achieve in a day.
However you may find that being able to leave work to go to a yoga class or for a walk actually increases your productivity dramatically.
There are also many distractions through out the work day at home which will can easily lead you off the path you planned for the day. If you have children living at home you need to plan carefully how you are going to manage the children and work. If you are a grandparent with grandchildren close by this can present a challenge too.
Phone calls can be a huge problem. They know you are at home so friends or family call up for a chat. Emails keep popping up, as do distractions on your phone. The house needs cleaning. The laundry should be put on. The family pet is hungry or wants to be patted. All these things are good in their own way, but not if they are stopping you from getting your work completed.
How’s your time management?
Time management can become an issue when you are trying to make your work from home job work well for you. Some people would suggest setting up a schedule of what you are going to do and stick to it. Yeah, right! That’s not going to happen for most of us, myself included. If you are that organized you probably aren’t reading this article! Every day I make a list of what I’m going to accomplish. Every day I only get through about half of it.
From my experience everything takes longer than I think it will. Certain things take a lot longer if I’m finding out how to do something I haven’t done before, or I want to find a better way to complete a task. When I write articles I have no idea if it is going to flow for me, and I’ll write quickly, or if I’ll need to reflect, research or rewrite.
Find the best system for you
I’ve given up beating myself up about this. I now create a list of tasks for the week and try to create blocks of work. One day I might be writing, the next day doing business administration tasks, the third day preparing social media. In theory this works well. Some weeks it even works well in practice, but things crop up and that can throw all your planning out the window.
Working in your pyjamas?
Experts say you should dress like you are on your way to the office. I’m not a fan of this idea. If one of the reasons why you want to work from home is so that you don’t have to dress up, then don’t! Neither am I an advocate for working in your pajamas, but in summer (in Queensland, so you’ll forgive me I’m sure) I often work in my swimming costume after I’ve been in the pool. If dressing up every day helps you focus on your work then do it. If not dressing up makes you enjoy your work from home job more, then go with that.
You do need to have a dedicated workspace. Ideally use a room with a door, with no bed in it (too tempting when the mid-afternoon slump sets in). Your desk and office chair must be the correct height for you to work comfortably. This is a health issue as poor working posture can lead to many problems with your neck and back. It is pleasant to have a comfortable chair to take a break from the work, but I just use a lounge chair if I want to sit somewhere else. A window to let in fresh air and light makes the room feel more welcoming.
If you can’t work at home due to space constraints enquire in your local area for a co-working space. For a low cost you can be working in an office with other people around you, all engaged in some sort of work from home job. They may be employed but working off-site, a contractor or self-employed, but you all have that same common desire to get the work done in a non-traditional setting. You wouldn’t technically be working from home, but at least you’d still be in charge. An alternative is to enquire if a local professional business may have an office that is not being used which they would rent to you for a manageable cost.
Coffee shops are a great place to have a break
I’m self-employed so if I feel trapped, or more commonly if I feel stuck on a decision that I need to make or a blog post I am writing, I take myself off to a nearby cafe, usually with a pen and notebook in hand. There I sit quietly looking out at the Bay and thinking about the problem. By the time I’ve finished my coffee I am usually ready to start writing all the thoughts down. It seems my mind sometimes likes to sort out problems while I relax and not give much input. It works for me. Besides, it’s a very good excuse to go out for coffee! Interestingly there are always a few other people sitting in the coffee shop using a computer or notebook.
Of course there will be days when you have to leave the house, do some shopping, go to a doctor’s appointment, take your car for a service and you may feel you get nothing accomplished. But that’s the beauty of working at home. If you are self employed it’s all up to you. If you are employed you don’t have to tell the boss that you have to leave early, you just get your work done at a different time.
Having a work from home job, employed or self-employed, does require discipline and consistency just like any other job. It certainly doesn’t suit everyone but if you get it right it can be very rewarding.