“You don’t have to go to work? Lucky you!” That’s certainly what each of us, entrepreneurs and people using Home Office, hears quite often. I have already mentioned the advantages of having an office at home. However, what we must not leave aside are the relevant risks which might result in a totally different outcome than you expect if you fail to cope with them.
You planned to make a draft of your new project, but at the end of the day you realize that you’re hardly mid-way through although you didn’t stop for a while. How is that possible? If you write down all the tasks you do during the day, you can easily find out what the reason is. It may be some of the following ones, or their combination:
You’re sitting on two chairs
It starts rather inconspicuously: before you bring a morning coffee to your workplace you fill and switch on the washing machine. That’s no big deal, it takes you two or three minutes. Before you open your laptop, you clean the table after breakfast so that you have enough space for work.
When you have a toilet break after working for rather short time you notice that the plants need to be watered and you decide not to put it off. After all, it is a matter of a few minutes! When you go for water, you notice that the washing machine has finished and since it is such lovely weather outside it would be a waste of opportunity if you didn’t hang the laundry immediately.
Before noon you realize it is high time you start making lunch for your children and partner as you have planned to cook stew for that day and that requires you standing at the cooker for some time. Of course, this break was planned, but you somehow didn’t expect that you will be through so little work by then.
So you put your project aside and you answer at least some emails and do simple tasks that don’t require your full attention as you stir lunch.
What would have happened to this housework if you had left for work in the morning? It would wait for you, wouldn’t it?
Others don’t think you’re at work
People around you usually know that you work from home. As soon as you turn your thoughts to your project, you can bet that a phone will ring because your mom or brother just feel like talking to you and they know that there is no boss or colleague who would scowl at you for discussing family matters during working hours.
As soon as you hang up and work for a couple of minutes, a neighbour or a friend turns up at the door, looking for someone to have a cup of coffee with. And you’re the one who stays at home so they logically presume that you have the time!
Don’t be mistaken, this erroneous assumption is not only held by people “from the outside”. Even your partner thinks that nipping out to the post office, doing the shopping, picking the kids from school or some other errands mean no complication to you.
You will even start getting new tasks such as taking your car to MOT test or having tyres changed, as your partner would otherwise have to take a day off, which would be a waste especially when it is obviously no bother for you.
But it is! By doing all of this you’re putting off your work, aren’t you?
Shrunk working hours
In addition to doing extra tasks for yourself or somebody else during your “working hours”, the time for work that earns your livelihood may easily shrink because of several other reasons.
If your partner takes care of the kids in the morning, you can sleep in a little. Especially if you worked until small hours last night because you hadn’t done as much work as you needed during the day.
But it may easily happen that you’re so exhausted that your body switches off and you wake up, terrified, to see it is half past nine. Before you start doing something meaningful, it is time to cook lunch again – in another two hours the children will be home and before they nod off you won’t be able to concentrate as much as you would need. So you probably have another late night ahead, unless you want to chase your kids away from you. But what kind of mother would do that?
But it cannot go on like this forever, can it?
You’re isolated in your home all day long and when you could have some time off, you try to catch up on the work that you couldn’t do for the above described reasons. You don’t have any colleagues around who you could ask for advice or opinion and your partner’s feedback is not exactly what you need.
Your friends invite you to go out with them for a glass of wine in the evening, but you can’t join them, as you haven’t completed the draft yet. The fact that you work from home has the unwritten advantage that you don’t have to dress up, do your hair or make up, so going out means you would have to spend some time getting ready and that’s inconvenient.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, you realize you like yourself less and less and invitations from your friends are coming less and less frequently, because they know it would go down the drain anyway.
That’s not the way you planned it, is it?
Work and personal life merged into one
You’re getting into a whirl that is hard to get out of. You don’t distinguish between working and being a mother, partner or friend. You try to do work in every spare moment when nobody expects anything of you and despite that you are still desperately short of time.
You would need to clone yourself as you’ve been promising your family to go with them on a weekend trip for several weeks, but you cannot go even this weekend as too many tasks have piled up by Friday. So you send your partner and children to go on the trip on their own.
But you would like to go with them, wouldn’t you?
Does it sound like a kind of horror to you? It surely does! But that’s something that working from home mustn’t come down to. That’s something I wanted to warn you against.
TIP: Don’t let things go that far and define a couple of rules that you should strictly adhere to and require the same from others.
Try to imitate as much as you can a situation of being a regular employee who has to commute to work. Get up at a fixed time in the morning, wear clothes “for work” and spend fixed hours in your “office”. You can turn a specific part of your home into your workplace, or you can work from a nearby café before you learn to distinguish between your work and leisure time.
Write down the work tasks that you want to complete and “don’t leave the office” before you’re done with them. If there is anything that distracts you, switch it off, ignore it, eliminate it. Now it is time to work. Nothing else should be on your mind and don’t let yourself postpone any tasks.
Arrange with your family and friends signals by which they can tell whether you need to focus on work or they can disturb you. Put a “BUSY” sign on your door or table, arrange a fixed time when they will consider you invisible. For instance, wearing a particular blouse may signal to others that you’re immersed in your work.
Harmonize your time schedule according to your needs and needs of people around you. Tune up the time when you are most efficient with times when other people you need to communicate with are available. You can divide your working hours: for instance 4 hours in the morning and the rest at night so that you can cook for your family, fetch the kids and do all errands that you consider important.
Don’t forget to plan your leisure time: time for your family, friends and yourself. You should know in advance when you are going to have free time so that you can enjoy such moments with easy conscience. Set deadlines for your work tasks so that you’re done with them before these free moments – don’t forget to reward yourself for meeting them.
As soon as you teach yourself and people around you to respect the rules, you can make most of the advantages linked to working from home. You shouldn’t forget that working from home is just like any other job where discipline is of double importance.
I believe that after reading this article you will know what to watch out for.
Have you had to cope with any other problems when working from home? Share them with me and other readers under this article. I’m looking forward to your reactions.
‘Bye for now