For an increasing number of us, going to work is becoming a case of not leaving the house. There has been a 13% increase in the number of people working from their own homes, since 2008 according to the TUC, and most of them are women. It’s a figure that’s undoubtedly been boosted by the big hike in the numbers of women starting businesses.
But while working at home is definitely convenient, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy. Go with the flow and you’ll soon be swamped. Plan, prepare and work at it and yes it will get easier and easier. Here is my guide to making the most of starting your business from home.
Take yourself seriously
When a business is in its infancy, it makes perfect sense to avoid the cost of hiring an office by using the home as a workplace. After all, most homes will have desks, computers, phones, reference books and other facilities which are needed to start and run a business. Also, since many companies start off with just one or two members of staff, there is rarely a need to move into an office when an ordinary property will suffice. Working productively in this way will depend on different dynamics, however, and it is important to treat a home-based position every bit as importantly as a field-based one.
Get a routine
The ultimate misconception about working from home is that people who do so spend all day in their pyjamas, huddled under a duvet with The Jeremy Kyle Show blaring out in the background. Working from home actually requires immense organisation and commitment, and those who fall into the trap of getting out of bed when they feel like it and fitting their working schedule around their preferred TV programmes are likely to be the ones who realise further down the line that home-working might not be for them. It’s important not to forget the importance of being self-disciplined managing time well.
Perhaps the most crucial piece of advice is to treat working from home with the same regimented approach as you would with a job in a traditional workplace. This means getting up at a set time and, to as great an extent as possible, working to set shifts. You wouldn’t head out to work half-dressed, so be sure to show your position the same level of respect. This is the first step to getting yourself into the mentality that you quite literally mean business, and that you have the mindset required to conduct your job without leaving your front door.
Deal with distractions
While the average home does contain most of the resources needed to work productively, one of its downsides is that it also houses plenty of attention-diverting items. There’s a reason why the ordinary workplace doesn’t offer such amenities as TV sets, general interest books and magazines, music instruments and computer games – it’s because they don’t lend themselves well to a hard-working environment.
One of the best things you can do is set up an office within your home, away from the blare of the TV and other general household distractions. Keeping your workplace tidy will also help it to become a more practical and appealing place to get on with things – a cluttered desk won’t help you at all. Perhaps harshly, these distractions can include co-inhabitants of the house, so make sure you keep them in the loop about when you’re working so that they can respect your need for a bit of peace and quiet.
Of course, there are few ways of avoiding perhaps the greatest distraction of them all – the internet. Writer and comedian Dave Gorman hit the nail on the head when he said during his 2003 ‘Googlewhack Adventure’ that one of the toughest things about carrying out work in the 21st century is that you will usually have to do it in front of a computer with internet access, which means that almost anything you’d like to see, read or discover is only a few mouse clicks away. This is just something that requires a bit of will-power to overcome, but if you’re working in front of a computer all day, be sure to take breaks to avoid eye-strain and lapses of concentration in front of the screen.
Make software your key colleague
Working from home is likely to mean you will not be surrounded by colleagues reminding you of upcoming deadlines. While this might sound refreshing at first, the upshot is that it means you will need to take full responsibility for your own workload, and will not have that voice from the other side of the office reminding you that something needs to be done.
There is only so much information the human brain can store, and if your business has an active online presence, you are sure to start forgetting things if you don’t use aids like scheduling tools to help you keep on top of site posts and social media. Have a play with tools on software like WordPress and Hootsuite to discover how they can help you stay up to speed with your content output.
A less taxing affair
We’ve covered plenty of the challenges of home-working, so let’s finish with one of the perks. Working from home can become especially financially prudent when some of the tax relief benefits are taken into account. Support can often be claimed for such expenses as lighting and heating for the workplace, as well as phone bills. It is important to tread carefully to make sure you are doing things by the book, however, and seeking advice from HM Revenue & Customs first is highly advisable. A good accountant can obviously advise and make sure that everything is in order; these days your accountant can work with you virtually and in the cloud too.
All in all, working from home is rarely a cushy experience. But before long you’ll be wondering how you ever put up with those daily commutes to work, when you could be virtually there in just a few steps.