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Working from home – great or grim?

More people are working from home

Information from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 4.2m people regularly worked from home in 2015 and it has been suggested that by 2020 half of the UK workforce will work from home on a regular basis.

Wow – those are staggering numbers and they are only really considering those people that are truly home-based. Increasingly more and more people employed by big organisations are spending at least part of their working week based at home.

There are many reported benefits of giving people the flexibility to work at home including enhancements to productivity and motivation, along with businesses potentially having lower premises costs.

 

My experience of working from home

Whilst I was leading teams in the banking industry I relished a day being able to work from home – oh, it was complete bliss.

Once technology enabled this to happen (yes I was working before the age of the laptop and mobile phone!), then a day to be able to get through the inbox, write things up and simply have space to think away from the hum-drum and demands of the office were a real luxury.

And of course there was the benefit of not having to commute, being able to pop a wash-load in, be at home for a parcel being delivered rather than a Saturday morning trip to the sorting office. Yes, the benefits were amazing and I really valued that flexibility.

Interestingly now that my business is home-based I have a completely different take on the subject. My business allows me to work from home at least 75% of the time and I’ve been working that way for some time now.

I have a dedicated home office that is my work space and nothing else, I face my desk to the window with views of countryside, and I’ve invested in proper furniture and technology to help me work well. And let me tell you that an ergonomically designed chair is worth its weight in gold – never again will I set on a dining chair for the full working day!

Plenty of benefits

There are obviously significant benefits when you run your own business and are self-employed. I can be completely flexible as to when and how I work and I can adjust to other commitments or routines I have in my life. I’m not out sat in a traffic jam or crammed onto public transport at rush hour. I can keep on top of things at home. I can have appointments during the day if I so choose. I can cook from fresh for every meal. And so on.

Nevertheless, when you’re doing this full-time it is a different scenario. It’s the popular saying – you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone!

And also challenges

The challenges that come with being self-employed and home-based can be quite striking and here’s my personal experience:

  • Isolation – top of my list is the isolation and loneliness. There’s no-one checking in with you as part of their morning walk to their desk, the ability to bounce ideas around or share a problem is much harder, and the buzz that comes with people being together is absent. I miss regular human connection.
  • Lack of routine – sometimes too much flexibility isn’t a good thing. I never thought I’d say it, but often I miss the routine of needing to be out of the house at a certain time, the structure of a working day in the office, even the clothes that I’d wear and the sense of being ‘dressed for work’.
  • Work-life boundaries – now we all know that in the modern technology-driven age these boundaries are getting more and more blurred for everyone, however I’ve find it easy to lose them completely. It’s all too tempting to just pop into the home office and do something for half an hour because you’ve had an idea or remembered something. Previously that half an hour would have been spent on social connection, or down-time or a job in the house.
  • Always being ‘on’ – anyone self-employed knows this anyway, but I do think working from home exacerbates it. The switch-off button becomes harder to find. A CIPD study (2018) found that a third of staff felt that working remotely meant that they found it difficult to switch off outside of working hours.

 

I still think the benefits outweigh the downsides if I’m honest, but the extent to which I can feel the challenges I’ve described have surprised me. And when you talk to other people I know that I’m not alone in this – they are common factors that people experience.

 

Overcoming the challenges of working from home – 6 top tips

  1. Creating routines and boundaries – whilst the flexibility is there when needed, it’s actually a good habit to create a daily routine and try and stick to it. It helps with boundaries, motivation and productivity.
  2. Co-working office and public spaces – either on a regular day of the week or every now and again get booked into a co-working office space, or take your laptop to a café – just to be surrounded by people, having some connection and feel the life that goes with it. It can give you a real lift, and without the distractions of jobs at home can make you more productive. (It works both ways!).
  3. Networking – not only is networking a great business tool for finding services to help you or getting leads for yourself, it’s a way to have social connection and get to know a group of local people on a more personal level. There’s plenty of different groups out there with different styles and purposes – there’s bound to be one that feels right for you.
  4. Create your tribe – be sure you’ve got a group of go-to people, whether you just want a chat, or you want to work something through it can be great to have this virtual support network around you.
  5. Be accountable – you can even use your tribe to help hold you accountable, ensuring you get those all important goals achieved. Of course a coach can help you with this too!
  6. Self-care galore – important wherever you work, but ensuring that you’re doing things to look after yourself in amongst it all is key. Build things into your routine and know what works for you.

 

What should businesses take from this?

For many reasons enabling people to work from home can benefit both employee and employer – the trend is on the rise and I don’t see that stopping.

As you know I come at things from an engagement and wellbeing perspective – my firm belief is that if you get those things right then people will perform, generate ideas and be loyal, amongst many other benefits.

So if you’re an employer and want to embrace this kind of flexible working here are 3 considerations I’d encourage for you:

  1. Support the transition – create awareness of how things will feel different for the employee and incorporate relevant support and reviews
  2. Maintain the human connection – whilst a dependency on technology can be the facilitator for flexible working, communication via technology doesn’t fulfil those basic human needs we have for connection.
  3. Create boundaries – studies show that people can work more hours and struggle to switch off when working from home. Ensure your people are creating those boundaries and support them in doing so ….. or you’ll only be setting them up for a fall later down the line.

Oh, and get them a good chair…..

 

How I can help

If you’re a home-worker and want to be more productive, motivated and effective then I can help you create the focus, the routines that work for you, and stay accountable for achieving your goals.

If you’re an employer then your teams working from home may need support in creating the intended win-win – delivering what you need as well as them thriving in the environment they are working in.

Just use the link on the website to book your free discovery call.

 

Have a great day, wherever you are working from! 😁

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