Thursday, 18 December 2008

Working From Home: A Survival Guide

Working from home sounds like bliss, but comes with a whole raft of problems that you just wouldn't face in an office or other workplace. I think I'm gradually getting the hang of this - which, since I've been doing it for over a year now, is probably just as well. This is an accumulation of tips that seem to be constants for me whether I'm writing or working on my PhD.
  1. Get up, get dressed, brush your hair. I've had odd days when I've not even bothered to get out of bed (hey, I have a laptop!) but in all honesty it's very hard to feel professional anything when you're wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown. The only exception I'll make to this now is if I'm feeling ill, in which case doing a little work from bed is better than doing no work from bed.

  2. Prepare snacks & drinks. Inspired by, but not needing a delivery service since I'm already at home & surrounded by food, I've started preparing myself a plate of moderately-healthy snacks at the beginning of the day so that I'm not constantly tempted to go and see what's in the fridge or the pantry (as if it's likely to have changed since last time!). I also make sure I have a bottle of water within reach, and I'm toying with the idea of making up a big flask of coffee to save repeated trips to the kettle.

  3. Ignore the housework. This is particularly hard if you're expecting guests to arrive as soon as you've finished work (although, see also point 6), but it's essential to nail this one, otherwise you will have an immaculate house and no job. It's amazing how attractive the washing up or the hoovering becomes when you've spent all day staring at your computer screen...

  4. On which note - take plenty of breaks, it's easier to get completely absorbed in your work when there's no-one around to distract you or invite you for lunch, and screen-staring/keyboard-tapping without interruption is bad for your health and probably your sanity.

  5. Ignore the distractions of the internet (but not totally). Sometimes I switch off the wifi entirely, but usually I need the internet for research. The temptation to wander off and check blogs/facebook/email is huge; I find it gets worse if you try to totally suppress these urges so I let myself have a quick look in my lunch break (and I keep my email client open most of the time so I'll know if anything urgent comes in - but I don't let myself act on anything which isn't genuinely urgent).

  6. Be flexible. This obviously depends on the nature of your work - if someone's expecting you to be available by phone or online 9-5 then it doesn't work, but I'm lucky to have huge flexibility. If I have (for example) people coming round on Tuesday evening, I'll let myself take part of Tuesday afternoon off to clean and/or cook so long as I know I can catch up on the hours, for instance by working Wednesday evening instead.
There's some seemingly obvious stuff that I don't do at the moment, like having a specific work-space at home - I prefer to curl up on the sofa most of the time - and I need to find a way to not get disturbed by my husband when he's at home. So I certainly don't have it perfect yet. I'd love to know what works for other people.


Pam said...

I think you have to be very dedicated to work at home. It's hard to be your own boss!

Rachel Cotterill said...

You have to be very disciplined, which I'm naturally not - which is why I have to lay down rules for myself!! :) I think I am learning.

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