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Setting up your home office for success

By Emma Heuston, Founder & Principal Lawyer, The Remote Expert

Done the wrong way, working from home can be like turning a blender on without the lid fastened. Mess spread everywhere and a lot of mopping up and stress. However, if you are purposeful about working from home – whether that is an occasional or permanent arrangement – it can literally change your life. You just have to know how to do it.

I thought a lot about the dos and don’ts of working from home when I wrote my book, The Tracksuit Economy, last year. To write that book I spoke with 15 other case studies who work from home. Some were freelance or self employed, others worked as employees. They all enjoyed it but had to make minor adjustments and tweaks to their routine to get the best from it.

The number one benefit to working at home is undoubtedly the lack of commute. When I lived in Sydney I commuted 90 minutes each day (45 minutes each way morning and night).

Doing the maths that is  becomes 7 and a half hours a week. Over a 48 week work year allowing for leave that is 15 days I was sitting in a car. 15 days I will never get back.

Just think if you had an extra 15 days per year. What would you choose to do with them?

 

So, you are all, “Yeah, okay Emma we get the benefits, but I have tried it and struggle. All I want to do is binge watch Judge Judy and eat nutella from the jar. What can I physically do to make it work for me?”

I hear you. It CAN be tough. The recently released 2019 Remote Work Report found that the top 5 issues that challenge remote workers were: 

  • communication problems;

  • lack of social opportunities;

  • loneliness and isolation;

  • setting boundaries between work and home; and

  • visibility

So, how can you flip the work from home experience to lonely, isolating and unproductive to a positive experience? Read on……

Hack # 1 - separate workspace

Ideally you want a separate room with comfortable (read ergonomic) furniture free of distraction. This is from the woman whose son occasionally photo bombs me from time to time even though I have the ideal set up with an office downstairs away from the rest of the house. So know that working from home will come with occasional distraction wherever you are set up. But at least you aren’t working in the middle of a nerf gun fight most of the time.

If you don’t have the space for an office but you still need to work from home or want to run a side hustle on your dining room table, you can do the best with what you have. Keep clutter at a minimum and respect your work or side hustle - you need space to work and create, so give your work and space the respect it serves.

Hack # 2 - social interaction

I was worried when I moved from remote worker to self employed early this year. I thought, “what if I never see anyone and I become a recluse that goes 3 weeks between washing their hair?”

You will be pleased to hear those fears are unfounded. In fact, I feel a lot more engaged being self employed and creating some regular social opportunities outside of the 4 walls of my office. My reality is a child that needs to be picked up from school every day too. This means guaranteed social interaction most days with other parents and a break from work.

My advice is to get out there and make sure you block in a lunch with a family member or friend or a yoga class once a week or once a fortnight. Time block it so nothing else will get in the way of this really important social interaction.

Remember, social interaction is the key - whether it comes from colleagues or external sources, the important thing is you are feeling connected and included in day to day life. Also consider joining some online entrepreneurial communities. It can be really valuable to interact with people who “get” you and what you are doing day to day.

Hack #3 - switching off after work

Another biggie is consciously creating that boundary after work and at “home time”.

For me, switching between “work” and “home” is a trip up the stairs complete with a high five from Lulu the poodle at the top of the stairs. However, walks after work or even dancing to some music while you cook dinner or go about your “home” life helps flick that switch. Anything that tells your brain to get out of work and into living the rest of your life is what you need to change that mindset.

The other really practical thing you can do is to pack your laptop away until the next day so you are not tempted to jump online and answer another 3 emails after dinner. You wouldn’t drive back to a physical office to do that, so why is it ok to get on your laptop and break that boundary?

Hack #4 - Wi-Fi please

Your internet is key if you work from home. Without it you can’t do your job. Make sure it works. And please for the love of all things holy, have a back up plan!

I have a portable 4G modem for this very reason and it came in very handy during the debacle that was setting up our connection to the national broadband network.

However, a word of caution. Wi-Fi is great, but please make sure it is SECURE wi-fi. You want to make sure your data is safe and not open to be hacked by using free wifi or similar at a cafe. Security issues and remote work is an issue for a whole other blog.

Hack #5 - Go beyond email

If there is one thing I can say about remote work after being involved in this space, it is that we have the technology and the methods to use. It is our mindset that needs to change.

If you feel like you need to communicate beyond email, pick up the phone. Arrange a free video chat. So much gets lost in text messages and emails.

Also consider collaborating as a team on a product like Trello. I have set up Trello with my VA and it is amazin. , I can put tasks on her to do list, we attach documents and then move them around when done. So much easier than 5 emails when they aren’t needed. The world has enough emails already, why overload people with more where it is not necessary?

What now?

I challenge you to re-arrange your office this week and ensure you turn off that laptop before dinner each night. See what a difference that will make to your boundaries.

If you are after more tips, jump online and order a copy of "The Tracksuit Economy”. Print version here or ebook here.

Finally, comment below to let me know what has and hasn’t worked for you and any other tips you swear by.