How to work effectively from home

Working from home brings many benefits domestically, but does it make sense professionally?

I read with interest recently an insightful and witty article by Jamie Vine entitled ‘The Psychology of the Home Office’. This highly enjoyable post lamented the isolation of working at home and how ‘water-cooler interactions’ in a dedicated place of work enhanced stimulation.

Whilst is hard to find fault with any of his observations, there is still a case to be made for working from home; with respected periodicals such as the Harvard Business Review claiming that productivity increases when workers are allowed to do so.

In this article we’ll look at the two main benefits of working from home and suggest ways in which you can minimise distractions and maximise productivity.

The obvious benefit to a freelancer of working from home is the flexibility it gives to effectively manage both work and home lives – with minimal disruption to either. But let’s not discount the financial benefits; as one can legitimately offset a percentage of your domestic costs based on mortgage/rent and utility bills (check with your accountant for more accurate and up-to-date advice). It is also worth noting that the IR35 Business Entity Tests (BETs) scorecard has now been withdrawn by HMRC – and so it is not now immediately apparent how much ‘protection’ will be derived from renting an office or office space (when compared to working from home).

Undoubtedly there are many more advantages to working from home – perhaps you would share your more benefits with others in the comments section below? So, how to maximise the effectiveness of working from home…

Discipline – the key to effective homeworking

By ‘not being at home’ you will be more productive when working from home. Clear as mud? Bear with. This is the mental discipline that is required of you to make homeworking a success. Most of the strategies outlined below are predicated on taking the mind-set that you are not actually at home:

Dress for work: Just how effective is the pyjama-clad engineer or the jogging-bottomed accountant? Many studies attest that what you wear really does affect your productivity; so dress accordingly; even if you’re working from the kitchen.

Leave for work: It is vital to compartmentalise your double life into work and ‘pleasure’, so when it’s time for work you should move to a separate room to do so. If your available funds don’t stretch to a garden office, you could leave the back door and come back in through the front – as simple tool to convince your subconscious that you are now ‘at work’. Regardless of where you work in the home, it should always be an area dedicated to professional output; and one that meets all of your requirements (such as comfort and equipment).

Set a schedule: Plan the hours you are going to work that that fits in with things like childcare and the daily grind – and stick to it! And when I say working, I mean ‘working’ – the definition of which does not encompass checking your Social Media platforms (unless that is actually your job).

Minimise distractions: Do not underestimate the pull of the sporting event ‘in the background’ – trust me it isn’t. Where possible you should also consider muting your emails, and closing any internet browsers during work too.

Make the most use of online collaboration: Assuming you have a wifi connection that is sufficiently robust, you can negate the impacts of working in isolation by using tools such as Skype or FaceTime. You may even consider maintaining a constant connection with a colleague or client – just wave to grab their attention so they can turn the sound back up!

Get out of the house: If you wouldn’t spend all day at an office desk ‘at work’, then don’t do it at home. This can be as simple as popping out in the garden for 5-10 minutes; but NOT TO HANG UP WASHING – you’re at work, remember? But do stay active; working from home can be very sedentary. Keeping mobile will maintain energy and productivity levels.

What top tips do you have for maximising effectiveness whilst working at home? We’d love to have the benefits of your experience in the comments section below.

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Great article with good advice about using technology effectively. Affordable phone systems can now create the impression of a large office setting to enhance your business. Your number could say London/Leeds/Lincoln, with departmental extensions but you could be taking calls anywhere in your home or on the road – even on the beach at Skegness!

the furious engineer Author February 13, 2016

Thanks, Tony. Good point on the use of the latest phone systems. What’s more they can be run on VoIP – which drastically reduces call costs (but maybe not on the beach at Skegness…?)