The COVID pandemic brought with it a huge shift in working practices in almost every sector. Remote working became the norm for many people and now all restrictions are ending, businesses are looking at how they will structure their employees working practices now so that there is greater flexibility in choosing remote or hybrid working patterns. I’ve personally been working from home since my son was born, but being self employed gives me the flexibility to decide for myself. The pandemic has opened up this flexibility to more people than ever before.
For a large majority of people, working remotely suits them and their lifestyle (or the lifestyle they would like), but before you decide to start working from home either for an employer or in your own business, you need to consider some things.
Do you have the space?
Working on your sofa with your laptop is OK for the short term, but probably isn’t conducive to long term remote working. Think of your back and posture! Do you have any space that you can convert into a home office? It doesn’t have to be a huge space, it can be the corner or an existing room, a spare room or a conservatory. Or if you’re really committed, you can have to build a garden office shed or convert the loft to give you a great space in which to be productive. Think not just of the space, but the privacy, especially if you have two adults working from home, or your kids will be home some of the time you’re working, and also things like the light and how your mental health will be working in that space day in day out.
Is your home the right environment?
Productivity needs the right environment and not every home is suitable. If you share a property with family or flatmates, then you have to try and work around them during the day. If your partner and small children are at home a lot during your working hours, then you might be constantly interrupted or your concentration levels may suffer. Will the cats be constantly harassing you or the dog deciding it’s time to play?
For the majority of remote work, you’re going to need a fast and reliable internet connection. This isn’t possible in all areas. Unreliable connectivity could make it difficult to do your job.
Can you work alone?
Many people thrive on day to day interactions with other people. On a typical workday, you might talk to people on the way to work, during your breaks or just in general throughout the day. When you’re at home by yourself, you don’t get this kind of interaction, or it is replaced by online messaging and video calls. For someone who is extroverted or who enjoys talking to others throughout the day, the shift to home working can be hard, and it can take a toll as time goes on.
If you’re happy working alone or know that you can find other ways to interact on a daily basis, then this might not be an issue. If on the other hand, you feel that you can become isolated and even lonely, then you could ask for hybrid working where you’re in the workplace one or two days a week, or you could consider hiring a co-working space or even just get out and about to work in a cafe or similar to feel connected to other people.
Do you need supervision?
Micromanaging is a sign of a poor leader, but some people do seem to work better under closer supervision. This doesn’t have to be supervision in a disciplinary sense, you might need a lot of guidance or ask questions. Feeling isolated in a remote environment could cause your work standards to drop. If you are going to work from home, make sure you feel you’re connected with your boss and your coworkers, so you can still be part of the team and get support when you need it.
Are you self disciplined?
Moving from a traditional working environment to working from home gives you a level of freedom in your day that you’re not used to. Many people can find that this change can be a huge learning curve. Distractions are everywhere. It can be very tempting to just pop out to the shop quickly or do a little housework or even load up NetFlix or Facebook instead of focusing on work. Plus, you can almost guarantee that when you start working from home you’ll become the local drop off point for all deliveries from your neighbour when they are out. And let’s not even talk about the discipline to not keep wandering into the kitchen for snacks…
Having the self-discipline to structure your day so that you get done what you need to isn’t as easy as you might think. It can lead to overwork too. As the lines between home life and work-life become blurred, you might find it difficult to switch off. Being on call for work tasks 24/7 is going to lead to burnout sooner or later so have a think about what your day will look like and how to structure it in the way that’s best for you and your work.
How to make a decision
The scenarios listed are just some reasons that remote working might not be for you, but they are not deal-breakers. With a little self-discipline and creative thinking, you can easily make remote working the right choice for you. The following might help.
Create a space that’s yours – creating your own home office space is a great way of segregating your job from your home life, and just being there can move your mindset into a more productive one. Fill your home office with the technology and accessories you need to make it efficient and comfortable but also make it a personal and positive space so you feel in the right mental headspace whenever you go to work.
Get into a routine – schedule out your day in your calendar. Work to your own strengths and block out the times that you are the most productive so that you don’t have any interruptions. Also, build in times for responding to messages, socialising with colleagues as well as times for break and exercise. Make your home routine the same as if you were going to work too. Get dressed in the morning, and then when you’re done at the end of the day, walk away from the office and leave work at work.
Learn to switch off – set boundaries for your work and home life and let your colleagues know. If your workday ends at 5.30 pm, then stop working at this time and don’t spend your evenings responding to messages or working.
Find ways to interact – try not to isolate yourself away, either from colleagues or the wider world. Find time to talk to colleagues about things other than work. Get out and about during the day so that you have contact with other people. Find networking groups in your area so you can keep your business networking skills up to date. You could try finding a co-working space in your area that lets you book a desk on an ad-hoc basis. You’ll be able to experience a different environment while also talking to other remote workers. Some companies will even contribute towards this, so it is worth raising it with your HR department.
Working from home brings with it a huge number of benefits in terms of flexibility, autonomy and work-life balance. But it’s not an easy adjustment to make for everyone. Knowing the challenges and learning how to adjust your life to meet them can make a difference.