How to overcome the downsides of working from home

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Chiumento is a virtual organisation, which isn’t to say we’re not a real one, made up of real people doing real jobs. Just that we aren’t all doing those jobs in an office together, we’re each doing our own job from home.

We’re strong advocates of flexible and remote working practices. We can list the many benefits and improvements it’s made to both the personal and professional lives of our employees and the growth of the business. However, we are not blind to the challenges and realise that alongside the benefits there are also the negatives to consider. The risk of isolation, the lack cohesion within the team, the inability to switch off, the reduction in creativity/ideas and the impact this can all have on the wellbeing of our employees.

As a company we have taken steps to combat these issues, be it regular all-team meetings, weekly Skype calls and smaller project based face-to-face meetings.

But as an individual what can you do to ensure working from home works for you?

Interact – avoid isolation. One of the hardest aspects of working outside of an office is the lack of, or reduction in, human interaction. What happens naturally in an office environment, the general chit chat about what you watched on TV last night, lunchtimes spent with colleagues or the ease of popping to someone’s desk to ask a question. All become impossible when you’re working on your own.
Make an effort to interact with people. If like us at Chiumento, you’re part of a wider team call or Skype your colleagues rather than relying on email. For us our preferred means of intercompany communication is Skype, while not quite the same as being sat next to somebody it is 100 x better than an email.

Rather than sitting at home alone, go somewhere with people. Coffee shops and libraries both have good internet connections and plenty of space to work. If you’re looking for something more formal many big cities have shared workspaces where you can hire a desk.

Move – us humans weren’t designed to sit at a desk all day. We’re designed to run and hunt. While we’re not suggesting you don a loin cloth and go stalk some local wildlife, you do need to get some exercise.
Exercise helps every aspect of your life, from improving productivity and sleep to making you happier. It doesn’t need to be much, a gentle stroll to the shops or a lunch-time jog is enough to get the blood pumping. Even better join a local gym and attend a class or two, exercise and combatting isolation at the same time. Whatever you decide to do it will all help and have a positive impact.

Look around you – is your office/work space dull and uninspiring? Research from the University of Texas suggests that certain colours such as white, beige, and gray don’t just look depressing — they are depressing. Brighten up your work space, if painting a wall isn’t an option then add some nice bright coloured accessories, set your desk up so it has access to natural light and if you’ve got a nice view, then make the most of it.

Set boundaries – working from home can go one of two ways… you procrastinate and do everything but the job you should be doing. Or you hide yourself away and stay at your desk for hours on end and never take a break. Neither is good, while homeworking can be great for work/life balance and allow you to do the washing while writing a board report or finalise that sales deal after dropping the kids at school, you need to set boundaries. Don’t let home life encroach too much on your work time and vice versa. Not everyone likes the 9-5 working pattern but find one that suits you and stick to it. Let your family and friends know that when you’re working, you are working and need to concentrate and not be disturbed. But also, don’t spend all your time working away and ignoring your outside life. It’s a fine balance that can be hard to get it right.

Talk – remember it is ok to not be ok.  If you are feeling isolated, stuck in a rut or just generally unhappy, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to someone about it, you might find you’ve a colleague who feels exactly the same who could also do with some support, do you have friends in a similar situation you could speak to.  Don’t bottle it up inside where it can do damage, speak to someone.

Since making the move to Chiumento and being permanently based at home I’ve had lots of comments on how I cope with being at home all the time.  Don’t I get cabin fever?  Do I miss being in an office?  While the answer to those is yes, at times I do feel like I spend too much time at home and I miss the camaraderie of being in a big office. I wouldn’t change it.  I have steps in place to stop those feelings becoming too overwhelming.  Regular interaction with my colleagues, that isn’t always work related, leaving the house for walk in the woods and working from somewhere else all help to give me a bit of a boost and keep my mind on the job at hand.

‘How to overcome the downsides of working from home…’ was written by Verity Morrish, Marketing Manager Chiumento Ltd. If you like what you’ve read why not follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter and read all our future careers advice and musings on the world of work.

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