Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Top 10 Tips for Working from Home

This week our guest blogger Ed O'Neill (MD of English in Newcastle) gives us his 10 top tips for those of us who are wanting to make a success out of working from home.

Ed O'Neill from English in Newcastle
Working at home can be a dream come true, real freedom for you from the daily commute, as well as the opportunity to organise your working life the way you want it. However, it can easily become a nightmare which can spiral out of control and leave you depressed, de-motivated and demoralised. Before reading the notes I have written underneath I suggest stopping for 30 seconds each time and thinking how you can apply each tip to your own circumstances, write it down if you need to. I have personally been working from home for the last 4 years, here are some pearls of wisdom which have kept me from going mad.

One: Have a Clearly Defined ‘Office’ 

    • Have a room or part of a room that is only for you and your office. Being able to ‘close the door’ and leave at the end of the day is a must.
Two: Treat Your office like a workplace

    • That’s because it is a workplace! Remove all distractions such as kids, pets, games consoles, televisions, DVD players, anything that could tempt you to ‘have a little break from work’. Have them in the house, just not in your office, you can always make use of them during your breaks. (See point 3)
Three: Be Disciplined – Plan Your Time

    • Create a ‘to do’ list before you go to bed the previous night, your mind will ‘mull over’ what you have to do while you’re asleep.
    • Decide when you will start, finish and have lunch.
    • Play to your strengths, if you are a night-owl then work at night. Personally, I usually start work around 6.45am and finish around 5 or 5.30pm.
    • Take a break after each hour or so – Maximise this ‘break time’ - play Xbox, spend it with the kids, sit the cat on your lap, anything which isn’t possible to do while in a ‘normal office’, you’ll feel privileged that you can do this.
Four: Exploit Being at Home to the Max – Seize every benefit you can

    • Here are things I like to do while working from home, before reading more think of 5 ways you can exploit working from home.
i.      On a sunny day, I take the office into the garden or the beach

ii.      If I feel in a cooking mood I take my office with me to the kitchen and cook a meal for the evening. That also gives me brownie points from my girlfriend when she gets back from her 9 – 5 job thereby benefiting my home life
iii.      I can get parcels delivered to my home and not miss them!
iv.      Public facilities such as gyms, shops and restaurants are not busy during the ‘working day’ so if I feel like a change I go for a swim or do a bit of shopping in the middle of the working day
v.      Sometimes I take days off on the spur of the moment

Five: Vary Your Days – Every Day
    • Plan your day to include as wide a variety of tasks as possible. Visit clients or prospects, go to the post office to post a letter if you need to, book in a networking session, pop in and see a supplier. Productivity increases if tasks are more varied
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Six: Divide Your ‘Work’ and ‘Home’ life Clearly

    • Planning and managing your time will help immensely with this division between ‘work’ and ‘home’ life. Some other tricks which can work:
i.      Get changed before/after the ‘working day’
ii.     Leave the house after the ‘working day’
iii.    Have a bath/shower before/after the ‘working day’
iv.    Mark’ the end of the day with a beer/wine, ice-cream, a game of Grand Theft Auto, or something that really signifies you are in ‘home’ mode.
v.     Switch off computer and business phone after work (not one for control freaks like me!) 

Seven: You’ve Gotta Love It
    • Ensure that you genuinely enjoy your business and your work. From this enjoyment of what you do will come the motivation and persistence to go on indefinitely. Enjoying what you do will help to enhance your work life and also your home life. If you don’t enjoy it stop doing it, move on quickly, life is very short and you can never get that time back.
Eight: Go Out and Be Sociable

    • Go out with friends once work has finished, take part in activities you enjoy with others, attend business events and speak to other people in the same boat. Make all of these ‘social events’ a part of your work and home life. They will also help you to vary your day (See point 5)
Nine: Be Strict with Your Family and Friends during ‘Working Hours’

    • It is absolutely essential that others sharing the house (including pets) know that they can only interrupt for emergencies. After all, if you went to work in a regular office, they wouldn’t be able to interrupt you there.
Ten: Don’t Always Work from Home!

    • Sometimes I have tasks that I can easily do in a cafĂ©, library, or even on the beach. In North East England the weather is not usually that good but on the odd occasion I have taken my towel and my mobile and sat on the beach to make sales calls or just relax. As you feel relaxed and comfortable lying on the beach the people you are calling can feel it too.
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What Next?
To make the most out of these tips, write them on a fresh piece of paper and apply them to your situation. Tick each tip if it is something you already do, make sure you implement it if you don’t already do it. If you have 10 ticks you have a seriously good chance of succeeding, whatever your business or job. I would love to hear stories of how people have got on using my tips. Comments welcomed!

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