There’s been a huge growth in the numbers of people working from home, or starting up their own businesses at home. There’s an estimated eight million Britons running an enterprise – be it crafting or providing an online service – from their own properties. It’s a great solution – you use your own heating, don’t pay to commute and you can order your HP ink and claim it back against your tax! What’s not to love?
Well, for a start there’s the friends who think you’ll be able to drop everything to run an errand for them, or the delivery drivers who know you’re usually in to receive a parcel for the neighbour. Then there’s the housework – just a few minutes to put a wash on ends up with you descaling the washing machine, and the kettle, and finally the coffee machine. Then there’s the kids. Let’s stop there and think positive with four ways to work more efficiently…
Have your own space to work
This can be a desk behind a screen, an under-stairs cupboard, or even the shed. As long as your nearest and dearest know that when you’re in The Zone, you’re making things happen and you need to be left alone. Desks are much better than reclining on a sofa with a laptop, covered in crumbs watching Borgia.
Have a defined working day
You need to have definite business and working hours. If you run an online retail operation, you should aim for regular office hours – 8.00am to 5.00pm, for example. If you’re a writer, it’s a bit more flexible, but if people know you write between 10.00am and 2.00pm while the children are at school, then a couple of hours in the evening, you’re less likely to be disturbed.
You should also take a lunch break, as well as another couple of breaks in the morning and afternoon – there’s a reason office workers take a breather, it restores productivity.
Mind your own business
You need a certain amount of networking with other, similar businesspeople, but don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself with what and how they’re doing. If your aim is to earn extra money to pay the mortgage off quickly, stop wishing you were your associate who has just bought his second boat.
Working from home plays tricks with your time management – you sometimes tend to work better when you have fewer free hours than when you’ve got the whole day free. Deadlines can shift and morph, with priorities changing and confusing you. Your to-do list shouldn’t be a simple list – it needs to be filtered by priority and deadline. This doesn’t include moving documents into folders when you’ve got billable work on your plate.
Working from home is a tough nut to crack, especially if the people around you don’t see it as “real” working. However, being self-employed can be liberating and empowering, especially for mums, as they can set their own agenda and hours. The important word is “employed”, though. You are working.