There are many benefits to being able to work from home, not least of which is being able to avoid the mind-numbing monotony of the daily commute and capitalise on a few extra hours to work productively.
You’ll also be able to sidestep all the usual office related distractions: water cooler congregations, colleagues “just popping by” your desk or superiors requesting impromptu meetings.
But as many self-starters will know, working from home comes with its own set of distractions, many of which can derail your productivity. Here are a few thoughts on dealing with two of the most common obstacles.
Overcome the “jack of all trades” conundrum
Working for yourself means you will need to assume a variety of roles – many of which are usually fulfilled by a range of specialists in a traditional office environment – from the receptionist who takes and diverts your calls to the IT professionals who set up your email and rescue you from tediously slow broadband.
Now all of these things will be left up to you. And whilst you may be unrivalled in your particular field of expertise, you may find your skills disappointingly lacking when it comes to others. Or you may discover you simply have a shorter thread than the perpetually calm, composed and friendly front desk staff at your previous office.
If, like me, you find yourself barking over the phone at 2pm when you realise you are barely half-way on a job with a 4pm deadline because you’ve been fielding calls all morning, it might be time to start considering a virtual office.
It may sound a bit gimmicky (even make you feel a bit more like a yuppy than you would care to) but relying on a virtual receptionist to forward your calls and take messages could dramatically improve your productivity when you are working from home.
It could also help your business in other ways you many not have yet considered. Having a different person take your calls will communicate to your (potential) clients that you are in fact behind the scenes, labouring tirelessly on their projects. If instead, every time they call they get you on the other end of the line, they may begin to grow concerned that you are not committing all of your resources to their projects.
Scratch the mid-week itch
As much as you might relish the quiet, focused calm you can achieve by working from home, everyone eventually gets cabin fever.
Your initial motivation for working from home was probably at least in part fuelled by the desire to escape the monotony of wake-commute-work-commute-eat-sleep. Repeat. But you may soon find yourself facing a similar chorus if you do not make a point of introducing variety into your work from home routine.
It may have been a productivity-sapping chore, but going to the office at least gave you an opportunity to leave the house and introduce a bit of a change of pace. Prevent getting stuck in a rut but planning trips out of the house. Whether it’s to go for a walk or to work from somewhere else for half a day, mixing things up a bit will help you press the reset button on your motivation and focus.
Take care not to make it a regular installment – your “Wednesday coffee shop session” could quickly become part of your wider routine and feel more like a chore than a reward. Try to keep outings and breaks spontaneous.
If you are already using virtual office services, keep an eye out for special deals. Some providers, like i2 Office, include complimentary access to their nation-wide business lounges in their virtual office packages. Frequented by a range of professionals, business lounges provide an inspiring setting to work and could give you renewed focus.
You may even get the opportunity to partake a in a bit of watercooler chatter – for old times’ sake.