Joel McInnes

Working From Home - Could You Make It A Success?

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The following blog is authored by FlexCoach Jackie Edwards.  Join FlexCareers and our panel of FlexCoaches every Monday night in the TALENTED FLEXIBLE WORKFORCE Facebook Group. Access support and discuss the issues that matter to you with our community of job seekers and employers.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that more Australian workers than ever before are choosing to work from home. The reasons behind this are not surprising and often relate to things such as a desire for a better home/life balance, cutting costs on office rent and travel, as well as choosing their own working hours. And the decision seems to be paying off - research reported in indicates that freelancers (many of which work from home) are contributing a whopping $51 billion to the Australian economy each year!

But while this all sounds great, working from home can come with challenges. Here are a few ways that you can heighten your chances of making a success out of being a home worker.

Stick to office hours
The beauty of home working is that you can be flexible with your hours. Got a medical appointment coming up? Then take an hour off. The kids Christmas show at school? Make up the time later. But although this freedom is convenient in moderation, it can become a slippery slope to a disorganised and irregular work schedule. Where possible try to stick to some sort of routine. Of course, there'll be times when a tight deadline means working into the evening or family commitments disrupt your working day. But in general, it's best to stick to regular working hours when you can - just as you would in an office environment - so that the lines between your work and home life don't become blurred.

Dress for work
There is no dress code for home working but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make an effort. Sometimes the temptation to stay in your pyjamas might be strong but showering, dressing and getting ready for work will put you in a more focused mindset and help to separate work and home time. It also means you're prepared for any unexpected conference calls!

Have a designated work space
These days there are a number of office options available for those who want to work from home successfully - from garden offices to loft conversions. But your work space doesn't have to be fancy. The idea is that you have a designated area from which you're happy, comfortable and able to work productively. It could be a spare room or even just a desk but it should be functional and well organised. If you can, design and decorate your work space in a way that inspires you - according to Entrepreneur, the colour yellow is thought to induce creativity while low wavelength shades like pale blue are calming. Green plants are also a great addition to your work space - they aren't just aesthetically pleasing but also keep the room free of toxins. It helps to lay down some privacy rules so the rest of the family know not to bother you when you're in your work space.

Eliminate distractions
Working from home can be notoriously dangerous for distractions - whether it's that pile of mounting dishes, your favourite midday TV show or the lure of social media. In the absence of a boss or colleagues keeping tabs on you, it's down to you to remain disciplined. Try to save domestic chores for your 'home time' - just because you're in the house it doesn't mean you're not at work.

Take breaks
Another danger of working from home is not knowing when to switch off. Indeed, many home workers are guilty of over working rather than under working! But knowing when to take a break is important. At the very least you should take a lunch break (just as you would in an office) to refuel, re-energise and return to your work feeling fresh and inspired. Many home workers find that taking a stroll or even including a midday gym session into their working day can help them to remain focused. Ultimately the choice is yours and eventually you will find the best routines and working practices to suit you. 

The art of creating your work-life blend

The following blog is authored by FlexCoach Caroline McGuire (FCPHR).  Join FlexCareers and our panel of FlexCoaches every Monday night in the TALENTED FLEXIBLE WORKFORCE Facebook Group. Access support and discuss the issues that matter to you with our community of job seekers and employers.

The term ‘work-life balance’ has become overused and I often cringe when I hear it thrown around. It’s generally used by those who seek to place the different elements of their lives into silos or boxes. I’m not sure that’s possible, or even desirable, in our current society. We bring our whole self to work and it is very difficult to separate all the elements of our lives and our persona. 

Work-life balance also implies there needs to be a trade-off; that if we adjust one side of the lever we lose out on the other side. 

For me it’s more about knowing your values and priorities, then setting boundaries to ensure time allocated to those priorities is protected. There will be a bit of give and take but it’s important to ensure you are not ‘giving’ too often or too much on those high priority activities. And your blend of life activities will naturally be different to another person’s, just as our values and priorities differ and continue to evolve through different life stages.

I’ll just briefly mention the enabling and intrusive nature of technological advances. The ability, desire or requirement to be ‘always on’ has changed the way we view work time compared to personal time. 

Many of us love the flexibility technology brings to the way we work. 

We may choose to leave the office at 3 pm, collect up the kids and head home for the rituals of homework, dinner, baths and bed, then log back in when it suits us to follow up on emails, etc. Or we may choose to take care of a few personal tasks while at work, knowing we are happy to stay in the office a little later that day. When this is our choice and the way we prefer to structure our days, I don’t see anything wrong with that. 

Isn’t that the whole goal of flexible working?

So how do you find your blend when things feel like they are out of control and the pressure of keeping all the balls in the air is too much? 

About those balls – drop some! Not the ones that are important to you of course but sometimes we find ourselves working towards other people’s priorities and undertaking irrelevant tasks when our time should be spent on our own stuff. Spend some time thinking about what is really important to you. When you look back over your week, your month, your life, what don’t you want to have missed and where do you want to have spent your time? Reflecting on your personal goals around work, family, friends, wellness, community and spirituality will enable you to identify your priorities. Your values and goals will help you to remove the white noise and understand where your time needs to be spent.

If you have gone through this process, or if you already had a pretty good handle on it, you then need to ensure you are maintaining boundaries. 

If your goal is to leave at 3 pm you need to stick to it. Educate your team and your clients so that they understand why this is your priority. If you plan to spend an hour during your work day on your studies, then let people know you don’t want to be disturbed during this time and why. Look at the best way to structure your role and your tasks to maintain your boundaries and protect your priorities. Do you need to delegate some tasks or work more closely with a colleague so you can jointly support each other’s flexibility goals? Where do you have the flexibility to ensure focus on your priorities?

I feel we should be considering a personalised blend of work-life priorities, not a one size fits all work-life balance. Our own special blend of secret herbs and spices. Only you know what’s important to you and how you prefer to blend all areas for a successful, fulfilling life.