I had to do some research and copywriting for a client, so decided to take a quick walk in the park at lunchtime to blow away the cobwebs from my mind before i settle down to some serious PC work.
I couldn’t help but notice that some of the pupils from the local secondary school were having their art class in the park. What a lovely idea and what a far cry from how art lessons were conducted in my day – always from the confines of our stuffy classroom, even on a blazing hot summer’s day.
My daughter’s primary school has recently been modernised so that some of the lessons can be taken alfresco; corporates have cottoned on to the fact that their employees are likely to be more committed if they are offered flexible working hours, and of course us freelancers have gone a step further in forging a truly flexible working career by working hours to suit ourselves.
Whether at school or at home, I think more people are beginning to realise the value of flexible working.
This reminds me of some of my favourite tips for making homeworking work for you.
- Choose Hours that suit you: This may sound obvious, but if you worked in an office prior to working from home, you may still have a ‘9 to 5’ mindset. For those of us with children at school, the best hours may be 10am to 2pm. Depending on your line of work, making just slight adjustments to your schedule will still allow you to complete your work and achieve a healthy balance in your personal life.
- Be Realistic: If you have toddlers at home with you during the day, be realistic as to how much you can achieve with constant interruptions. Plan ahead and create/buy age-appropriate activity kits, such as play dough, drawing kits, dressing up clothes, or educational DVDs to keep them occupied for bouts during the day. However, you will be far more productive if you can concentrate on your work uninterrupted. Find a registered childminder, babysitter, or nanny at childcare.co.uk. Alternatively, try swapping child-minding days with a friend and delegate a couple of days when you can both benefit from some child-free time.
- Pace yourself: When you do have uninterrupted time to yourself, don’t be tempted to sit at your desk all day to slog through that ‘To Do’ list. After a few hours’ work, treat yourself to a brisk walk around the block. The short break away from the computer screen will help to clear your head, not to mention a great way to stretch those muscles.
- Be Firm: Are you trying to work from home, while at the same time acting as a full-time mum available to all? Make it clear to friends and family that certain days or times are for work. The less ambiguity there is with your work routine, the easier it will be for people to work around you. Being firm also means being prepared to say ‘no’. You can’t put in a day’s work and be expected to run personal errands throughout the day.
- Be Adaptable: There will be times when you will not be as productive as you would like. If Johnny falls ill and needs to be collected early from school, do you have a back-up plan for ‘That Urgent Project’? Having a handy-helper to call upon could mean the difference between harmony and complete chaos.
- Be Professional: Run your home office like the ‘real’ office – so no working in your pajamas! Set boundaries by closing your office door. Even if your office is just a section of your living room, set boundaries by creating an ‘office’ desk where you keep your work. Don’t allow your children to answer your business telephone. It portrays the wrong image to clients.
- Take your work on the road: Try working in a local Work Hub. Work Hubs were designed with the modern mobile worker in mind, and offer flexible workspaces with bookable ‘hot’ desks, high speed broadband facilities and meeting spaces. You can work in a relaxed environment which encourages collaboration with other workers, but without the ‘hard sell’ that can come with networking. Many Work Hubs also offer small business advice, so they are perfect for start-ups. Do take time off once in a while to network. The process of meeting new business associates, as well as acquiring and sounding out ideas will keep you feeling mentally invigorated.
- Above all else, don’t be a slave to your work routine. Your work/life balance won’t suddenly become perfect once you work from home, but you can embrace it as a wonderful opportunity to have a more flexible work life balance.