In 2016, a study revealed that 1.5 million people had swapped the traditional working environment for that of their own home office.
That colossal figure has contributed to an increase of nearly a quarter of a million home workers in the last decade.
The benefits of working from home are compelling to even the staunchest supporters of regular 9 to 5, office-based working practises. You get to set your own hours, avoid the need to waste time each day commuting and find yourself surrounded by homely comforts.
Technology has played a huge part in the rise of the home worker, too, with increasingly impressive cloud-based software applications making complex tasks that were once the sole domain of the traditional working environment capable of being tackled at the dining room table.
Communication has also evolved. Meetings can now be held via video conference, no matter where each attendee is physically located, and real-time chat tools like Slack have connected disparate teams and enabled cross-continent collaboration.
However, there’s one significant downside to working from home, which can be summed up using just one word: distractions.
The home is full of distractions. The presence of the TV, family members and other non-work paraphernalia acts as a constant reminder of the stuff we indulge in outside of the office, and its allure can often be too hard to resist.
However, resist it you must if home working is to be successful for you. With that in mind, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to working from home. Don’t leave the office without it!
Accept that distractions will be present
Pretending that exciting non-work related stuff isn’t there won’t do you any favours. In doing so, the opposite will happen; you’ll simply become more aware of them and spend most of your time trying to banish every distraction from your mind.
Embrace the distractions that are present in your home. They’re not going anywhere, and the more you accept they’ll be an ever-present part of your daily working life from now on, the more you’ll grow to respect them and ensure they don’t knock you off course.
Reward yourself with access to distractions
As human beings, we work particularly well when we know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The knowledge that a special treat resides at the end of a significantly tricky project will spur you on to do your best work in order to fully enjoy the reward at the end.
When you work from home, you have the unique opportunity to reward yourself with one of the many distractions in which you indulge during your spare time. That isn’t the case if you work in a traditional office, so use it to your advantage and promise yourself access to a distraction when you pass a specific milestone.
Choose more than one designated working area
Those who are inexperienced at working from home often make the classic mistake of designating just one area from which to work.
Variety is crucial when working from your home, therefore make sure you choose two or three areas that will double as your office space. That might be your spare bedroom, dining room table and patio, but whatever they are, mix your time between them in order to remain focussed and fresh.
Email can be a distraction
Email is a productivity killer, but it remains a very useful tool. For that reason, you should relegate its position within your working life.
It’s important that people can get hold of you via this medium, but it shouldn’t be a method by which they can grab your attention. To avoid this, turn all email notifications off and set aside specific times of the day to tend to your inbox.
Turn off all social media
There’s a strong chance in this social media-driven world that you spend a significant portion of your spare time at home browsing services like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And, because the home is therefore inherently capable of putting you in a social media mindset, it’s important to remove it as a distraction while working.
Stop checking Facebook, turn off Twitter notifications and avoid the temptation to browse your Instagram feed while working. Again, you can do this by promising yourself some time with them once the work is done.
Ensure family members know when you’re working
One significant difference between home working and the traditional office environment is the presence of family members.
While they may not be there all the time, you’re bound to come into contact with them occasionally while working. Because of this, it’s vital that you set boundaries and be unafraid to tell family members when you can’t be disturbed. They’ll understand, and the quicker you can establish a rule that says “please don’t disturb me if I’m at work”, the less chance you’ll have of the people you love spoiling your work.
Set yourself to-do list goals
If you’re not already working from a to-do list each day, it’s highly advisable to start doing so – particularly if you’re going to be working from home for extended periods.
At the start of each day, spend some time organising your to-do list. Be realistic by setting goals you know you can achieve and never promise too much. If you look at your to-do list and think “yes – that’s doable”, you’ll spur yourself on to tick off every single item, regardless of the distractions that might be present.
Set yourself deadlines
Along with your to-do items, set yourself deadlines to get each one done. For example, if you’ve got a report to write, promise yourself you’ll finish it before lunch, before moving onto the next item.
Everyone loves a challenge, and by setting your own, you’ll be far more focused on them than the prospect of turning on the TV.
Get some exercise
No one is capable of working for long stretches without a break. When you feel you’ve worked long enough for a set period, get outside and indulge in some exercise.
A twenty minute run or hour-long trip to the gym will be enough to reinvigorate your brain and set yourself up for the next batch of to-do list items.
Stay active; a healthy body will create a very healthy mind and approach to work.
Work somewhere else occasionally
Despite the fact you have chosen your home as a place of work, you don’t need to resolutely stand by that decision every day. A trip to the local coffee shop for half a day now and again is a great way to remain fresh and avoid becoming stagnant.
Working from home can easily result in you becoming isolated, too, and from there procrastination can develop. Get out and try a spot of working in public occasionally – you’ll thank yourself for doing so.
Resist the urge to remain in your PJs
A brilliant benefit of working from home is the ability to do so in your own clothes. However, tread with caution. If you fall into the trap of staying in your pyjamas all day, your mindset may not be fully tuned towards working, and you could fall off the wagon as a result.
Stay casual, by all means, but be sure to get showered and dressed at similar times each day. That sort of routine will put you in the right mindset and ensure you’re not tempted to get too comfortable.
Decide ahead of time how long you’ll work each day
Flexible working is the perfect match for the home office, but it’s still advisable to set yourself some working boundaries.
You probably won’t choose to work 9 to 5 (unless that results in you being the most productive), but make sure you decide ahead of time the exact hours you’ll work each day.
For example, by promising yourself that you’ll work solidly between 7am and 10am before taking a break, you’ll do just that. Leaving it open-ended can all too easily lead to those perilous distractions grabbing you and not letting go.
Whether you’re a freelancer working for yourself or part of a wider remote team, the tips above should help you steer clear of the many distractions that negate most of the benefits of working from home.
It won’t be easy, but the more you abide by the rules above, the more easy it’ll become, until working from home without succumbing to distractions becomes second nature.