Chiumento is a ‘virtually virtual’ business. Over 80% of our team now work permanently from home and that will increase further in the months ahead.
Much has already been said about the benefits of a virtual business. For example, one of our team recently wrote a blog explaining the difference it has made to her life – and her family’s.
However, working from home isn’t without its challenges. Some obvious – others possibly not. If it is something you are seriously considering then we’d strongly suggest you take the following into account.
1. Setting out the ground rules – family and friends
It is amazing how announcing that you are working from home can be mis-interpreted. Suddenly people are thinking your time is your own and you can do all sorts of stuff during the day. Making work fit around anything from the school run to the supermarket delivery or a quick coffee.
While home working is undoubtedly more flexible, you need to be clear to people from day one: I’m still working. In the same way that they wouldn’t just wander into your office block and arrive at your desk unannounced they need to treat your home workspace with the same respect.
My children have grown up used to me working from home and have adapted well to the idea that when my home office door is shut I am in ‘do not disturb’ mode. You need to similarly be clear with family and friends about the ‘ground rules’
2. Setting the ground rules – with yourself
Successful home working is like any other sort of employment, it requires structure and organisation. I still have a time to set off for work even though my ‘commute’ lasts less than a minute. If you don’t have that structure I am sure you can quickly get into bad habits…
And that works both ways. Without colleagues coming and going around you it can be easy to forget things like taking proper breaks. And you find yourself suddenly looking at the clock and realising it is 7.30pm or even later at night.
3. You need a proper workspace.
Not the kitchen table, the settee in the lounge or any other place where people are in and out all the time. You need to have a place to call ‘the office’ even if it serves other purposes at other times. It needs a door you can shut, good lighting, a proper chair and enough power sockets.
I’ve seen lots of ingenious solutions to this – from converted garages and sheds to conservatories and dining rooms that revert to domestic use at night or at weekends.
Oh, and remember to think through what’s around you as you work. Video conferencing is on the increase and it is amazing what sights you see behind people when you are calling them. I’ve seen everything from a clothes horse covered in underwear to unsuitable posters and the detritus from last night’s dinner. Thankfully not from our team!
4. You need to think about health and fitness
Working from home can present all sorts of well-being challenges. For starters, it is all too easy to access food at any time. All those extra biscuits or snacks will pile on the pounds if you aren’t careful…
You lose the exercise effect of travelling to work too. When we had an office in Camden I used to walk there from Kings Cross. Typically, I’d do 8-9,000 steps a day in London. On a day I work from home I can do less than 3,000 – unless I do something about it.
The combination of both factors led me to piling on best part of two stones in weight. Not overnight but over about 24 months. Now I run every day that I work from home. Sometimes before work and sometimes at lunchtime or in the evening. My weight is back to its long-term average. I won’t be winning any slimming awards but I feel a whole lot better. My best tip – get a fitness tracker and make your physical activity level visible.
5. You need to work hard to avoid isolation
You can easily get sucked into an inner world at home. Especially, if like me, you are an introvert. In fact, I am an ISTP (if you know your Myers Briggs). I easily get absorbed in what I am doing and lose track of time and people.
To avoid that, I have to structure contact into my diary. You don’t bump into people in the lift, by the coffee machine or in the corridors when working from home. Instead you have to give yourself daily prompts to reach out and make contact. Often that’s what may appear to be an impromptu video conference call. In many cases it is anything but. It is all part of a conscious communications plan with the team that’s in my diary.
6. Go paperless
If you don’t, the office will expand and take over your house. You’ll become much more acutely aware of how much recycling you create once you work from home and you need a plan to minimise it.
There are also all sorts of confidentiality issues involved in working from home – which is another reason why a separate workspace is important. How will you dispose of confidential waste? You can’t put it out with your domestic rubbish that’s for sure. Going paperless solves the problem.
With the right mindset and organisation working from home can be a revelation. Where it goes wrong is often when the lines between work and home become blurred. So, before you take the leap think all the above through. If your home working context isn’t right you won’t be happy or successful.
‘Thinking about working from home’ was written by Ian Gooden, CEO Chiumento. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future advice and musings on the world of work.