The thought of no commuting and not having to play office politics makes working from home sound like heaven to many people. But not everyone can work from home for a variety of reasons, some of them psychological, some social and some simply because it’s hard to find a life-work balance when you are at work as soon as you are out of bed. Despite this, working from home can be done and here are six traits you need to do so successfully.
1. Working from home is about self-discipline
Working from home is all about discipline – creating a work space and setting work hours. If you can – and this is also useful for tax purposes – create a self-contained office. If you can’t dedicate a whole room, allot a corner of the lounge, the garage, or even your bedroom as your work space. Because there’s no commute, you need to give yourself a work schedule. Always aim to start by a certain time and finish by a certain time, depending on what suits your particular lifestyle. Take time out for lunch, but if friends want to drop over or invite you out during these hours, behave as if you were working in an actual office. Refusals may ruffle some feathers at first, but people will soon realise you are serious about making your business work and stop dropping by for long, leisurely chats during your office hours.
2. Create a sensible work-life balance
Your family should be aware of your working schedule, and you need to make them respect it. But equally, they will become resentful if you give all your time to the business. If you have children, try starting work earlier in the morning so that by the time they are waking and getting ready for school you are there for them. Working at night after the kids are asleep means you can catch up with them after school. Working from home means you can set hours that suit you, so take advantage of that flexibility and fit your work schedule to your family life.
3. Be a great communicator and networker
According to government statistics, nearly one million Australians run a business from home. One trait required by home workers is the ability to communicate efficiently with the outside world, something made easier with cloud-based solutions such as online faxing. This is also known as email-to-fax and uses the internet and your email as a way of sending large files via fax (up to 1GB). Instead of a fax machine, you use your PC or smartphone and attach docs to an email which you then send to a fax number. Faxes are stored online in the cloud for future access, and there’s no paper buying, machine maintenance or line rental to worry about.
4. Learn to switch off your business phone
A friend who works from home has two phones, one for personal and one for business.
The two numbers are kept separate and the work one is switched off after 6.30pm. Now, that may sound horrifying to many business owners, but this friend has a family, three children and two dogs to take care of, and needs to allot time to them. If you find yourself answering a business call at night when you promised to help with the kids’ homework, think about what that call is really costing you.
5. Avoid becoming socially isolated
Stay in touch with clients, suppliers and staff by using social media. Posting success stories online keeps everyone up to speed on developments, but also creates a sense of teamwork and community. You can Skype with clients rather email them; in fact, the verbal and visual cues we give when we are on Skype help us to get our message across. The unadorned language of emails can be misinterpreted, often with disastrous results.
6. Differentiate between the personal and the professional
In the same way that you can have a work phone and a personal phone, you should have separate email and social media accounts for your personal and business life. Why? Because if you work from home you will need to compartmentalise who you are as a parent/partner and who you are as a business person. Having different accounts is a reminder that you are not ‘at work’ all the time. First and foremost, your house is a home, not an office.
Some business people will never be able to give up the social aspect, the sense of teamwork that comes from working in an office. But for self-disciplined business owners looking to start an enterprise without office rental and other running costs, working from home can be an ideal solution.