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Working from home……….

Working from home can either be fabulous – or hell.

I worked from a home office for the first 10 or so years of business before moving into a city based office.  I had new born babies, toddlers and teens at home with me during this time.  I also experienced the difference being a sole parent working from home to being married with a supportive partner.  So I figured my experiences might help guide you all to avoid at least some of the pitfalls working from home will bring:

  1. Never underestimate your chair. 

    • Your butt is going to be on it a long long time.  The dining room chair might be cool, heck it might even be convenient but it will not likely give you the support (and introduce you to sore butt cheeks) you will need to put in a good day’s work.  If you are going to put some serious investment into a home based office I would suggest a good chair is it.  Note when buying an office chair they may often state the recommended number of hours they are suitable for – it’s worth a look.
  2. Create an area that will be dedicated to your home office.

    • Sharing at this point is not caring – you need to minimise distractions and take advantage of each inspired moment you field whilst sitting at your screen.  Jumbling it all off to one side to set the table for tea isn’t going to work.
    • It is easier to control a dedicated area.  I find I like to work in a clean uncluttered space.  My husband is more of a ‘clutterer’ – so a dedicated area for myself means less clutter disputes.
    • It is easier to communicate to the rest of your family/room mates how you would like your area to be treated.  It creates boundaries easily seen by all.
    • The Tax office gives preference to claims that align with a dedicated office space.  Speaking of which be sure you are keeping a diary of the number of hours you spend working in your home office currently – it will help you make a tax deduction come year end.
  3. Check the area for cold draughts that catch your lower back and sunrays that blind your screen. 

    • Keeping a good even temperature (neither hot not cold) along with good visibilty of your screen (no squinting) will encourage you to stay at the desk and get work done. Try and troubleshoot for these early so you are readily equipped when that deadline arrives and you need to put serious effort into working.
  4. Have a webcam?  ALWAYS keep it covered when not used. 

    • It’s one thing to bring work home to your private space – it another to have your private space illuminated to the world.  Especially for those working from home with children (who depending on the age may consider clothes optional for instance)  Keep in mind too when you do have to webcam it – zoom has options to provide a virtual background so you don’t have to display the old clutter behind you cause you happen to be working in the spare room at home.
  5. Children, tantrums and general parenting mayhem. Where to start ….

    • COVID 19 has created a unique situation in that you are highly unlikely to be able to get support via friends or baby sitters.  You and your partner may  be it.  I would suggest firstly hold a meeting between those (adults) working from home and between the two of you outline your work requirements and priorities.  Creating a supportive team now will get you both a lot of the way through.  You may also have to include into the mix a teaching program for the school age children as well.  Focus on the must do’s for now.  As each of the family members gets used to the new routine you may find you can create a more sophisticated environment over time, acheiving more and more.  The same goes for being a single parent.  You focus on the vital stuff and over time you will find you can do more and more.  Heck I can remember writing up a report on the computer whilst I used my foot to rock the baby cradle to encourage my baby to sleep …  You find things that your children enjoy doing, it does not have to be staring at a computer (ipad) screen and work around those precious moments as you can.

Don’t beleive what you read on facebook I would think a lot of families are not doing any of this well – as we are just not geared or even educated to run this kind of household.

6. Accept that working from home ‘normal’ is not going to be ‘office normal’.

 Working from 9am to 5:30pm is a good goal, but you will find that those odd spots on the weekend are highly productive as well as time post dinner perhaps as well.    You may also find that taking small bits of time away from the desk (to hang out the washing on the line, walk the dog or vacuum the house) are great things to pop in between projects or tasks you are doing for work.  Personally I find doing small ordinary tasks of house work help me keep my stress levels down – especially when trying to deliver COVID19 related work!  Ask your boss if you can have a more flexible work regime with perhaps a set of deliverable output that they can pay you on.

7. Multi-tasking is great for nervous break-downs.

  Just being at home working is going to be highly distracting.  Plan out your day – make a list of the things you intend to start/complete or address and tick them off as you go.  But keep it simple.  When at home stuff will happen that will completely throw you (think dishwasher leaks, or dog runs off and the pound has called etc) regardless so keeping the work element as linear as you can will help you function and suceed at your day.

8. Ensure you have great communication with your workmates/boss at work. 

A lack of communication – even a late reply will feel 100 times worse now that it would ever do in an office.  Play to the new room and ensure your mobile phone is kept charged and your emails are regularly viewed.  They have never been more important.

9. Dress for work.

There are lots of good reasons for this.  One of them is that if you put the effort into presenting well, you will feel better over-all and that can be distinctly heard in your voice over the phone.  ‘No-pants work days’ only happen on radio and TV comedy – not real life.  Besides imagine if your cat figured it would jump up to sit on your lap ….

10.Pets are great distractors – both good and bad.

I have a small parrot (pictured above AFTER she had tap danced on my keyboard, deleting my current work) who can be an absolute delight and equally a complete terror.  The way I have always handled pets is mostly to have strategies in place for the bad times and take the great times in your stride.  For instance – when I am on the phone my parrot thinks I am talking to her – so she starts chattering (loudly) so I generally move her cage or shut the door to deal with the distraction.  In other ways I feel that the distraction they bring is very healthy.  It means you have to leave the desk for a short while here and there and attend to their needs – which are nothing to do with work at all – giving a sense of relief- dare I suggest relaxation.