13 April 2016

How to switch off, when you're working from home.

Author :

Working from home is a commuters dream. No long train trips in overcrowded, overheated trains. No sick, fellow commuters sneezing in your general vicinity sharing their colds and flu germs. A 3 second commute and the ability to work in your pajamas's, what's not to love?

When I was a younger, long before the internet made working from home a reality, the dream to be able to stay home and do what really needed to be done without the day-to-day distractions of a busy, loud office was just that; a dream.

Today, working from home is easier than it ever has been. As a matter of fact, I'm writing this blog post about switching off while I'm working from home, sitting in the autumn sunshine next to my swimming pool. Back before I was able to make use of working from home, I couldn't figure out how anyone got another done. Over the years I’ve come to learn; it’s not about how you get things done, but how you switch off.

The internet, Skype, and mobile phones all ensure the mythical “virtual office”, is less an idea of  sci-fi writers and more a realistic and probably efficient direction for the future. The virtual office is beginning to take root as an idea and a reality, as businesses cross-borders and staff could be on any continent in the world.

I'm currently talking to a colleague on Skype in India, and another in the Philippines, all while trying to write a blog and chatting to the team in Sydney, also on Skype, while preparing for a teleconference with the Marketing team in about half an hour.

Virtual business reality is here, and it's up to business owners to embrace the new technologies available to ensure their staff are working at maximum value and return on investment.

But the danger of working from home is there's no one around – unless you count the cats – to remind you to take a break. That may not seem like a problem, but working from home can mean long days, parked in front of the computer. Longer than you would do if you were commuting to and from work. At least commuting means you have to finish at a certain time. Working from home, it's very easy to fall into the habit of starting earlier and finishing later.

So here are some strategies to use, the next time you find yourself working from home to ensure you take adequate breaks:

Move around:

Whenever I work from home I find myself in my desk chair – or as the case currently, a deck chair – from before 7am. The tendency to do “just one more thing” before you go to make your coffee is easy and before you know it, another hour has passed. Work gives you breaks for a reason. Without them, your energy lags, your focus wanders and the quality of your work output diminishes. While it's easy to understand the importance of doing enough work to justify your day at home, it's also important to remember work, whether in the office or out of it, is about quality not quantity. Make yourself get up and walk around, make a coffee, go for a walk. Sitting and working for 12 hours straight isn't going to be an indication of high-quality work output.

Leave your email off:

I had an issue this morning where I couldn't get into my work email account. It was one of those “I've just changed my password, and now I can't remember it” errors. Instead of worrying at it, I left it alone until later in the day. While there were a stack of emails waiting for me when I finally remembered my password, I was surprised at the amount of work I'd done in the meantime. Writing 5 content marketing pieces, a LinkedIn Pulse post and a blog post for the company blog is no mean feat for a day’s worth of work, but today I did it all by 1:30pm. When you're working from home, the goal is to get those tasks done that ordinarily you'd have difficulty with in a crowded office. Focus on why you're home working and you'll be surprised at the results. The sooner you get the most pressing things under control, the less likely you are to still be working at 8pm.

Remember Lunch:

Okay, this is a bad one for me personally. I tend to forget about eating when I'm home, let alone when I'm working from home, but take your scheduled lunch break. There's no reason to think you can't walk away from the computer when you're working from home.

If everyone else gets a lunch break, so do you. Go sit in the garden, have a sandwich and a coffee and just relax. Turn your brain off for your allocated time. The emails and Skype messages will still be there when you've finished recharging your batteries.

At the end of the day, we all have to figure out what works best for us when we are working from home but it is important to remember that working from home is not slavery. You are still permitted to take a break, you are still permitted to do all the things you would normally do if you were working in the office.

These days I don't get to work from home very office but when I do I make the most of the 3 second commute to my desk and the ability to work in my PJ's. 

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service.

Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy. Mike’s first published work will be the short story Seeds of Eden, in the Sproutlings Anthology scheduled for release in March 2016.

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