Working from home can seem like a perfect scenario for both employers, employees and sole traders. After all, it minimises overheads, reduces the need for office premises and allows for greater flexibility, with opportunities to work when busy and do other things when not.
But there are a few potential pitfalls it’s important to be aware of when working from home.
In this post-lockdown world some staff may still be apprehensive at the prospect of returning to work, are concerned at using public transport or may not have enough actual work to sustain them in a return to full-time employment. Home working can accommodate them being available as needed, be able to work their hours to suit and then gradually regain their desire to return to some semblance of normality.
Sole-traders may have had to cut back on their overheads, let go of support staff and may be trying to recover some of the ground lost during lockdown. They may have had to effectively start all over again, building their businesses from scratch. Working from home is a proactive step on the road to recovery, with many important support services able to be engaged virtually, as and when required.
Serious logistical considerations need to be investigated at the outset. Is creating a designated work station viable? Trying to work on the kitchen table or in an area that’s busy, noisy or has several demands made on its usage does not contribute to a productive work environment. Neither is sharing kit with children and their homework requirements. Assess the availability of space, software requirements, internet capacity, data security and any additional training requirements. Many home working situations are hugely compromised due to unreliable connections and data security.
Meetings, networking and team building are often a key component in a business’s success. Good relationships oil the wheels of commerce. Those with a reputation for being fair and treating their staff and customers well invariably do better. Check to see where there’s a convenient hot-desking space, hotel or venue that would be suitable for keeping in touch in person, to hold necessary briefings and meetings. Online offers important business connectivity, but in-person is crucial too.
Working from home offers the option to work one’s own hours, to fit in around children and their school times and assorted demands, to be able to schedule personal appointments or deal with domestic matters more comfortably. But these non-work items can become an increasing distraction, where you find yourself all too frequently going to the gym, meeting friends for coffee, or doing chores rather than actual work.
Set yourself clear times for starting work where, even if you’re not especially busy, you check-in both mentally and physically, do some emails, social media updates, make phone calls, network and engage in conversations with colleagues, problem-solving and building relationships.
But also be clear about finishing work too. Clocking off can be a pitfall of working from home; it being tempting to keep on working until something’s finished or ‘just’ check in again out of fear of missing out (FOMO) or being perceived as not being productive enough.
Distractions don’t only come from being in a formal office setting. Sometimes it can be tempting to dip in and out of several pieces of work, not finishing one piece before starting something new. Unless a new urgent matter arises it’s far better to remain disciplined and focussed on one piece of work at a time.
Good list keeping can ensure that there’s no danger of forgetting something new, important or that still requires attention. It can prevent time-wasting and randomly hopping from one thing to another.
Are some staff or sole traders still apprehensive about leaving home to meet others? Some people will have experienced personal tragedy, maybe first hand. The prospect of going into busy meetings or seminars may still be daunting and need to be managed with sensitivity.
Also how to dress now? I daresay many of us have spent weeks in casual lounge gear, occasionally freshening up the top, visible part of our bodies for the next zoom or skype call. Dressing in more professional work attire can be a good discipline as it conveys a more businesslike impression and mindset. Don’t forget the service providers near your place of work. Working from home was a disaster for many cafes, bars, hairdressers and shops regularly frequented before people were required to work from home. Try to support them, now that many of us are finding a different balance between home and office-based working.
Working from home requires a different set of a skills where you manage your own discipline, self-care and regime. Commit to proper stress management, exercise, eat well and have fun. Yes, you can do chores, attend the gym and parents’ events, have lunch with a friend or a game of golf but it’s also important to invest in the success of the business too. As Oprah Winfrey once said, if you had a young child that you cared about and wanted to grow up healthy and well you’d check in with it every day to ensure its continued growth.
The same applies to your business.
Susan Leigh MNCH (ACC)
South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer and media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon and with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
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