As 2018 rolled around, so did my new job.
Coming from an office-based job, I was super excited to ‘live the dream’ and work from home, and even though my previous job was quite relaxed in terms of operating procedures, I knew I was in for a big change.
I tell you what, while working from home can be as incredible as you would imagine, it comes with its own set of stresses.
I have put together a list of a few of the different things I have done that made me become the best work-from-home employee I could have been and if you ever find yourself working from home (be it full time, part time or just a day here and there), I’m sure some of these will boost your productivity massively – heck, I like to think one or two of these could possibly even help a self-employed person! Hopefully these tried and tested tips will help you as they helped me.
- Have Dedicated Office Space – This is a big one. If you work from the couch it’s far too easy to switch on the telly. If you work from bed, it’s all too tempting to take a quick snooze. I set myself up in a cozy corner of my bedroom and got myself a desk, an office chair and some typical office paraphernalia like a pen holder, coaster and cube notes and the difference in my productivity levels is astounding.
- Structure Your Day As You Would In A Workplace – Set a set start time, a dedicated lunch hour and a set end time. Do whatever it is you would normally do during your lunch time, and be thankful for an extra hour of opportunity to snuggle your lil one.
- Put Your Phone Away – I mean completely away. Shove it in a drawer, or under your pillow, anywhere that isn’t in reaching distance. Put it somewhere close enough that if you receive a call you can successfully answer without entering yourself into the at home version of Wipeout, but far away enough that you aren’t tempted to quickly check your notifications or your personal messages.
- Set Your Operating Hours – Set yourself strict operating hours, come hell or high water, I am seated behind my desk and ready for the day by 08h00. And when the clock hits 17h00, that’s me done. At least, that’s how it started – check out number 13 – eventually I was up and at it at 06h00, and continued well into the night. This put a massive strain on my relationship with Daddydaims and is something I would make sure to implement properly if I ever work from home again.
- You Are Still An Employee – And you have rights! The same rules and regulations that apply to an office-based employee apply to you too. Make sure your boss is aware that you are aware, if you know what I mean! Labour Law is your friend, make sure you stay in touch with him 😉
- Separate Your Work From Your Home – Another big one. It is SO important to remember that you happen to work from home, you do not happen to live at your work. When the work day is done, you put your mom pants back on.
- Make To Do Lists – Seriously, this saved my butt! At the start of each day write down exactly what needs to get done that day and check them off your list as you go. Not only does this give you a clear idea of what the day has in store for you, it is also super satisfying to check items off and watch your list dwindle as you get shit done.
- Get Up, Dress Up – Okay, I will be the first to admit that I have indulged in the occasional pyjama day. But 99% of the time, I get up and get dressed as though I was going to an actual workplace and not the corner of my bedroom. Whilst obviously I am never going to be decked out in office attire, I do make sure that I always look semi-presentable. This routine helped me differentiate between home-work time and home-home time.
- Embrace The Interruptions – When you work from home, you will always be interrupted. Fact. Whether it’s the doorbell ringing, your child crying or anything that would normally happen at your home. Sometimes (okay, most of the time) the interruptions can have you grinding your teeth and taking a deep breath before answering, but you need to realize how lucky you are that your interruption is your child or your dog or a friend dropping by unannounced (every telecommuters nightmare!) and not the usual office interruptions like a colleague asking for help, the non-stop ringing of the telephone in reception, that kind of thing.
- Traffic Light System – Unfortunately, this is something I heard about after I decided to re-join the office world. The idea is basically: Green is good, Orange is meh (tolerable) and Red is ‘do not enter unless you wish to be eaten’. So, what you would do is stick a green piece of paper on the door if you aren’t too busy and are welcoming to chats and questions. An orange piece of paper would mean that you are relatively swamped but do have a moment, and a red piece of paper essentially means don’t even knock, just walk away slowly and try again later.
- Be Prepared To Receive A lot Of Flack (And I Mean A LOT) – This was extremely unexpected. When people (even your own people!) hear you work from home, they immediately think you sit around all day doing bugger all. There is lots of mention of a ‘real job’ and you kinda sit there thinking, um… but I also worked 9 hours today? But I also have deadlines? But I also receive a salary and contribute to half the bills? Luckily, this assumption will immediately be put to rest when someone is witness to your work day (A big thank you to the flu that knocked my whole house on its ass except me!!)
- Send Reports – Believe it or not, the above point can also be an assumption of your boss! Even though they can see the results of your day’s work, sometimes they think you just got there by accident. It is massively important to document everything you do throughout your work day, and let your boss know. I sent a ‘Daily Report’ at the end of each work day, with bullet points stating the activities that were done that day – by doing this any unfounded assumptions that you sat on your butt all day can be neatly avoided or batted away completely.
- Know EXACTLY What Is Expected Of You And Get That Shit In Writing – This is something that will make or break a work from home employee. See, the very fact that you get to work from home clouds your judgement a bit because for most mothers, in fact for many people who aren’t parents at all, it is the most ideal of working situations. To give you some background, before I started my work from home job, I was happy in my previous job. Sure, I bitched about work-related nonsense (like I’m sure anyone who has ever had a job has done at some point) and there were obviously things I didn’t like, but overall, I was a happy employee and had a pretty sweet deal. I was hired with absolutely zero experience, and my jobs before this one had been waitressing and shooter-girling (it’s a thing I swear) and scooping ice cream, so my then-employer took a huge risk by hiring me. When I was approached by a competitor with a work from home position, all I could think about was my baby, and I immediately knew this was what I wanted to do. And this was evident to the offeror. I was promised spending time with my daughter, which didn’t happen. I was promised no working on weekends, which didn’t happen. I was promised a massive salary, which didn’t happen. I was promised so many things which didn’t happen that ultimately led to me leaving my office-based job (which was heart-breaking for both parties) and I had not one of these promises in writing so I could nothing but accept it at that point. Turns out, there is a reason why the saying ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ is so popular. In future, I will never even consider something a possibility until I have every single word in writing.
- ENJOY IT – Ha ha! This is probably a funny one to read straight after number 13, but I mean it. I truly do wish I made the most of working from home while I had the opportunity to do so. Obviously, if you have stuff do to that day, get it done, but also enjoy the fact that you can work in your slippers, nip out for a stroll around the garden, smother your kid with hugs and kisses and meet a friend for coffee (during your dedicated lunch hour, of course!)
As you have probably gathered, working from home didn’t pan out picture perfect for me (under statement of the year!) but the tips and tricks found in the 14 points above really did work and I can honestly say that I was the tits as a work from home momma.