We want to help you work from home productively over the coming weeks and months and with many years of experience of working from home, we’ve compiled our top tips to support you.
Why should you listen to us? Well some 15 years ago Cathy started her first business and was completely home based, then back in our Corporate working days we used to work from home at least once every week and now with our own Xero Accountancy and Small Business Consultancy Company both Wayne and I (Cathy) work from home (together!) all the time.
Our home is our office and our office is our home. In recent years we have also had to get used to juggling our workload with childcare too (& it looks as though we are going to get even more experience at this) – so keep your eyes peeled as we’ll ave a separate blog to help you with working whilst managing childcare.
How to Work from Home Productively:
Find your space
Find a space in your home that you will use as your work base. You might not work there all the time, but this space is where you’ll keep all your work related stuff and where you’ll leave your laptop, notebooks etc at the end of the day. If you’re setting up an impromptu office this could be your dining room table or spare bedroom. It doesn’t really matter – but find that space because it’ll help you with the next section, Boundaries.
I know it sounds a bit boring but think about where you are going to sit – slobbing on the sofa with a laptop for weeks on end isn’t going to do your back/neck/posture any good at all, so start right with a good place to sit and work. Think about how you’re sitting. You want to be sitting straight and your laptop wants to be in your natural eye line when you are sat (no stooping or looking down). Laptop risers aren’t expensive, but if you cant get one or don’t want to pay out, a stack of books can do an equally good job. If you are stacking your laptop up then you may need a separate keyboard and mouse – again, not essential but they are things to think about. Fit for Work have some great, easy to understand advice to help you look after your back when working.
Make sure you take regular breaks from wherever you are sitting. When you’re in an office you get interrupted and you move. You get up and go to meetings. You walk to the coffee machines/restaurant etc. At home, you tend to stay put in the same position for ALOT longer! My tip is to set an alarm on your phone every hour to prompt you to move, stretch or change position.
Boundaries are really important when you work from home. Not having boundaries is probably one of the biggest mistakes that people make when they work from home. Boundaries are important because your home is your workplace and your workplace is your home – you need to create a divide between the two for each of them to work well.
Decide on the hours that you are going to work each day and stick to them. Block out your break times and stick to them. Have a work space where you can keep all your work related items in one place – preferably one with a door so you can shut work away at the end of the day (which helps you to switch off).
The plus sides of working at home are that you can get some washing done whilst you are “at work” but one of the downsides is that it can be hard to shut off from work at the end of the day. If you normally commute to work you might not realise it, but your commuting time is thinking time, its reflection time, its mental agility time … on your journey to work you are likely to be thinking about the day ahead and getting yourself mentally prepared for the day. And on the way home you are likely reflecting on what’s happened, analysis it and winding down before you get home.
When you work from home this obviously doesn’t happen. Basically, you get out of the shower, eat your cornflakes and then BAM! you’re in the office. At the end of the day you turn away from your computer and family life kicks in immediately. So, factor in something at the start of the day that allows you to mentally switch from home to work mode (I go for a dog walk) and something at the back end of the day that is your switch off.
Decide on your working hours and stick to them. Make that commitment. The temptation to do a little bit more work, or to check emails can be strong when your office is at home. Try really hard not to do this – you need to switch off. You need your home to be your home and work to be work. You need to have distance from work. So set clear time boundaries and stick to them (as you would if you were in the office).
This is the time to get your diary up to date. Set alerts on your calendar before each meeting or piece of work that you need to do so that you work to deadlines. This increases your focus and hence your productivity. It also allows you to think slightly ahead and know what is coming next. If you haven’t been time blocking your day this is the time to start (more details below).
The 3 things below have really helped us to be more productive:
- Write out your To Do List either at the end of the day (ready for the morning) or first thing in the day. Schedule time in your calendar to do this.
- Block out time to look through Social Media (if you don’t schedule time for this, you’ll spend most of your day on it)! Three times a day for ten minutes is usually enough for us.
- Review your Emails / new orders coming in first thing in the morning. Then review again in the early afternoon, and then lastly, one hour before the end of the day. That way you’ll keep on top of emails without getting sucked into reading them as an when they land in your in-box (which is a big distraction).
This has been a game changer for me. Create a weekly schedule in word or excel – just a basic 5 or 7 day calendar. Then block out what you do each day (my schedule includes shopping, dog walking, lunch and putting the washing on). Factor in breaks and plan in the key work goals you want to get done in the day. Get everything in that plan that you need to do. Be realistic about the time it is going to take you to do each work task – and get it scheduled in your diary. Then stick to it!
I do a weekly plan for each week and then I adapt it as we go through week as things change, just adding in new tasks as necessary. I print one copy out and have it on my desk so it kind of becomes my working bible each day!
If you struggle to stick to plans then take some solace in the fact that you can adapt and change your schedule each day if you want to – but at least you have a framework to keep you focussed and on point.
Want to know more? Check out our article on How to be more Productive at Work.
When you are at home you’ll likely find that you need (or start to crave) social interaction and input from others – how much depends on your personality. My advice is to schedule calls with your network and business buddies on a regular basis, join some online training sessions (there are lots of free resources out there at the moment), meet with people “virtually” – Skype and Zoom are brilliant tools that you let you network in an (almost) face to face fashion and you can use them for free. Check out our article “How to do Online Business Networking” for the complete low-down.
If you’d like to meet virtually with other small business owners, I’d love you to join my Facebook Group, Business Made Simple where I am hosting weekly Small Business Networking sessions. The sessions are business focussed, we have discussions and small break out rooms all focussed on helping you to run your business during these tougher times. We are a super friendly group so please do join in.
Have you been working from home? Are you about to start working from home? We’d love to hear about your situation and how you are coping with working from home.
You have been reading:
How to Work from Home Productively
Green Zebra are Xero Accountants and Small Business Advisors, specialising in Xero Software. We offer services such as Limited Company Annual Accounts, Personal Tax Returns, VAT, HMRC Administration, Director Self Assessments, Cashflow forecasting and Profit strategies coupled with Business Growth advice.
We are passionate about making Business & Accountancy simpler- we have a low jargon promise and we are friendly, reliable and knowledgeable. We are based in Andover, Hampshire but we work with business owners right across the UK.
If you need heed help with your business right now please call us – we are more than happy to chat and advise. We want to help as many small business owners as we can to cope with the current circumstances.