Working from home is a real art. Lots of people think it's all daytime TV and curling up on the sofa with your laptop, but in many ways it's much harder than working from an office. You need discipline, motivation and you have to be very happy in your own company!
Gradually over the last couple of years I've been developing the ideal home-working setup so these are my top ten must-haves for working successfully and happily from home.
- Trust. Your boss has to trust you, you have to trust your collegues and most importantly, it's imperative that you trust yourself. If you enjoy your job and you are a responsible and decent human being then you will do the work, you will put in the hours and any doubt will only lead to unnecessary stress and overworking.
- A filing system. Keeping your house in order is hard enough, but throw an office into the mix and things can easily get misplaced. Have dedicated files and spaces for work documents and stick to them. Even if the rest of the house disintegrates into madness, keep your office as though your boss could see it.
- A headset. Even if your work isn't phone-centric you'll have calls with your boss, your team and no doubt some clients too. Life is so much easier with a headset, and that applies as much at home as anywhere else. I use a Logitech wireless headset as I use a soft phone (on the computer) so I can tip tap and type away on interviews.
- Dress code. What's the typical image of a home-worker? Pyjamas. Sure we all do it once in a while, but I find I have to dress for success. I don't go for a suit or anything crazy, but I make sure I've done my hair, put my watch on and dressed in a way that I'd be happy to be seen in on the street, otherwise my mindset is all wrong for work.
- A stationery system. When you work at home you must manage your own magically stocked stationery cupboard. Buy in bulk and keep a check on spares. Don't think because you can pop to the shops that you can get by with the minimum, otherwise you'll run out of the essentials all the time. (Trust me on this. I've done the annoying legwork.)
- Hours. Working from home means fantastic flexibility, but you don't want to find yourself working when all your office-based friends are down the pub just because you had a lie in. Try to set regular working hours and stick to them. This also ensures you don't slip into excessive overtime without realising, which is a big risk when work is always right there.
- A bloody good chair. It's not cheap. I waited years, and would have waited some more if I hadn't found such a good employer (thank you Articulate!). But whether you ask your boss or save super hard, it should be a priority. Your posture and body are important yet so many home-workers make do with dining room chairs or worse. Do your research, and don't settle for less than you need. I went for this one as it offered lots of adjustment possibilities and a nice deep seat (good for tall people with long legs). Being comfortable makes life so much better.
- The rule of yes. 'Fancy a coffee?' 'Want to grab a pint tonight?' 'Orange Wednesday?' No matter the offer, as a home worker, you say yes. It's difficult sitting alone for eight hours a day without the natural banter of the office, so you have to put that extra bit of effort into your social life to balance it out. Don't sink into a nightly sofa slump - say yes and get out of the house.
- A laptop. As soon as you're able, get a good laptop so that on those days where the walls start closing in you can get out and work from a coffee shop, or a library. Working from home doesn't mean you are chained to your house. Take advantage of the perks of being an anywhere worker and don't fall victim to cabin fever.
- A door. This one remains on my wish list. Ideally you need a specific room for work. It helps you focus on work when you're in there and forget work when you're not. This is a luxury for many people, but one that becomes a necessity after so long, so be sure to be working towards it in any way you can.