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Home working – or home shirking?

Hurray! You’ve decided to work from home. No more commuting, no more putting up with bad weather, you can wear what you like. Your work can be fitted around shopping when it’s quiet, catching up with odd jobs and mowing the lawn. Working from home can be the ultimate in work life balance and nobody steals your ‘special’ milk from the company fridge.

backyardproduction / 123RF Stock Photo

backyardproduction / 123RF Stock Photo

Is it really like that?

It depends. If you are working from home, you are working. Not sitting on the phone to your friends for an hour, not improving your score on the latest online game, and certainly not ‘chatting’ on Twitter about your favourite brand of cheese. Sure, you can take breaks when you like, but you still need discipline to ensure that you are productive for at least seven hours a day.

A day might go like this. Get up at 9 am, get washed and dressed. Have a leisurely breakfast listening to the local radio station. Text them as they have a competition running. Fire up the computer and check emails. Ooh, there’s a survey on cornflakes, must do that first. Now, a few online puzzles to get the head up to speed. Ah, it’s time for elevenses, put the kettle on. The postman calls with a package you are not expecting. How exciting! Rip open package, express audible disapointment at contents and phone company who sent it to complain at length. Get back to computer; client has sent an email. Will look at that later. Neighbour calls for a chat as you’re home. A few games of solitaire before getting stuck in to job that needs to be finished by tea time. Fifty games later, realise it’s lunch time. Make lunch, switch TV on and catch up with soaps from night before. Better get on with current job. Email from other client can still wait …  you have this working from home lark sorted.

Image credit: flybird163 / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: flybird163 / 123RF Stock Photo

 Sound familiar?

 When working from home, it’s very easy to slip into the ‘I’ve-got-all-day-so-what’s-the-hurry’ mentality. This is fatal for any small business, which will soon disappear altogether if ignored like this. And it’s no good promising yourself you’ll catch up during the evening. It simply won’t happen, even with the best intentions.

You need discipline in order to:

  •  Perform current jobs well and efficiently.
  • Keep communications with clients and other contacts prompt and concise.
  • Work to drum up new business and new clients.
  • Keep admin and maintenance up to date.  

So how is this worked into the day successfully?

It’s case of planning and working to a schedule up to a point, then being able to adapt to changes as they happen. A few rules need to be brought in. For example:

  • Make a list every day of ten things that HAVE to be done. Review, update and re-prioritise several times a day.
  • Use your time efficiently at home. If you are taking a break, do something from your list while the kettle’s boiling. Ditto at lunchtime.
  • Leave the TV and radio off until, say, 6 pm. Disable games on the computer if you can’t leave them alone.
  • Your clients and potential clients come first. Reply to messages promptly and look out for replies.
  • Be aware of deadlines and stick to them. Allow twice the time you think a job will take to complete, in case of unexpected problems.
  • When working from home, be available during normal working hours and if you have to be away from your desk, have your email enabled phone with you and switched on at all times, unless you are with a client. Make sure that the caller can leave a message, and respond as soon as possible.

This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you a few ideas for successfully working from home. Remember to take regular breaks to refresh your mind and stretch your muscles, but don’t allow home working to become home shirking.

By Gill Pavey

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7 Responses to Home working – or home shirking?

  1. A good post. I find it very helpful to write my to do list the night before, so I know what to sit down to first in the morning. I also work to my strengths time-wise: I know I’m good in the morning, so I put in a session 6-8am before breakfast, then do admin for a bit after breakfast. I also record my paid time (not all productive time is paid, of course) and any big projects such as invoicing, a blogging afternoon etc., in my diary to check I’m on track. I always try to under promise and over deliver in terms of deadlines.

    I do love the flexibility of working from home – e.g. I usually take a long lunchbreak for gym / lunch / shower – but I’m only flexible with leisure stuff once the work and exercise is scheduled in sensibly.

    The email enabled phone is a big one – and if you have international clients, it can save your evenings!

    • Thank you for your comments, Liz. I am not a morning person in the slightest and my biggest client is an hour ahead! Luckily, he doesn’t get round to contacting me until (his) lunchtime. I have to say, my worst habit is ignoring the filing even when everything else is done.

  2. I enjoyed this post and was relieved to find that I’m not guilty of too many of the sins that you mention. Suspect that the fact that I don’t watch TV at all – even in the evenings – is a big help, as it’s simply not a temptation! As one of the services I provide is social media, I have to confess to spending time each morning and each evening doing tweets/retweets or writing Facebook posts and blogs for clients (and a few for my own business, too!). However, I try to set a time limit for these operations, as you are absolutely correct in saying that they can so easily sneak into time that should be devoted to other tasks. Working from home does require discipline, but that’s a small price to pay for the freedom to work when you work best – and in my case, that’s often late at night!

    • Hi Karen, thank you for your comment. I find I work better at nights and there are no distractions, even my dogs are asleep. As for television I find there is less and less I want to watch these days, which is fortunate. I often need to juggle my checklist though as priorities can change during the day. The best-laid plans, etc…

  3. I agree with many of these suggestions for managing time and working efficiently. However, the email issue can be a slippery slope. I’ve found it helps to schedule several time slots in the day for dealing with emails, even for clients and potential clients. Although there is that fear that not answering an inquiry immediately will lead to a lost prospect, one brief message can quickly lead to a 1-hour back-and-forth that causes one to lose time on a current project. Having a few blocks in the day for checking and responding to messages minimizes this, and I haven’t found that it causes me to lose clients.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. We have been doing this for a few years now. I work at home with my husband so even more tempting to spend the day doing leisure activities. We have got into quite a good routine & as we sell worldwide we need to be available a lot of the time for emails.

    This means we do a chunk of work in the morning, another int he afternoon and a few hours in the evening. We always have smart phones with us to reply to emails & tweets, if we didn’t we would lose a lot of business.

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