30 years experience working from home
ReviewRecently the term “Working From Home” seems to be popping up everywhere. I’ve done it since 1990, (30 years) and it occurred to me, that I can help Professionals migrating to a home based Office or Studio and even Workshop, with my experiences and pitfalls to avoid.
Hi, My name is Adrian Cartwright, and I’m a Freelance illustrator….. working from Home, but I have spent a few years in different work situations from sharing a co-working desk at a local business hub, and renting desks and offices/studios in the past 30 years Freelancing.
Working from Home, I’ve learnt many skills surrounding my profession, and as you’d expect, freelancers are normally responsible for day to day tasks like answering the phone to bookkeeping as well as my job (illustrating). Comparing working from home with the other places I’ve worked, has given me a unique perspective on the Pro’s and Con’s from both situations.
Finding a Suitable Place
at Home to allow you to complete the main tasks you need to do is important.
Working from the Sofa will give you back ache if you’re using a laptop, and dealing with social distractions (TV guilt for instance, but I’ll get onto that later.)
If you have a spare-room... like a study, Perfect, but a luxury for many.
Some people like to work in the Kitchen, not ideal, but it will have a table or worktop with a Chair, a good short-term set up, but note you’ll be limited with mealtimes, and packing up every day. And working in a room full of food can be too tempting for some.
Other locations are spare / guest bedrooms, which are perfect, away from distractions and flexible in layout. Try and replicate the area similar to a professional environment, like having a sizeable desk and suitable chair... some employers will provide these.
Other options are the Garage, not always the cosiest, but if your work is more of a physical kind, it’s great for access, and away from family life.
If you have the budget and space, a garden office or simply put a shed is a more permanent location to consider.
There’s another option, but not very private, and I’ve done it on occasion, and that’s working in a public space, like internet Cafe’s and hotel lobbies. Normally this ends up expensive on your 5th Latte of the morning, and a No No if you’re easily distracted and relying on power can be a challenge. Libraries if you can find one open can work too.
And finally, an option that sometimes is better than working from Home, and that’s from someone else’s home... if you’re in a team, this can be very beneficial providing you get on and live near to the donor home office. This is worth thinking about, and perhaps a share arrangement is needed. Much like car sharing.
Setting up a work space
is often a challenge especially in unusual areas of the home, but can be fun and often a flexible area, ie space under a staircase or conservatory. My wife for instance has a desk and office area on our top floor Landing. It’s only about 5 ft by 5 ft, but enough for a desk and chair.
Think creative, and look at Ikea, who have some funky home office furniture to help make and style your workspace. Go to town, get some plants and a whiteboard if that’s your thing.
One area not to skimp on, is ergonomics... ie chair and correct desk height. Or you’ll simply start to work all around the house, Sofa on Monday, Kitchen on Tuesday..... This will break up you work flow, and may effect your professional attitude to your work.
Avoid facing a wall, and if possible finding an area with a window is a nice luxury.
Depending on what equipment you use, power internet connection and a landline need to be considered. Keeping warm & cool is a consideration often missed, and often resolved with a portable heater/fan.
Thankfully technology can provided many with Laptops that are essentially a small compact portable office, but I suggest setting up the Laptop as a desktop computer, and if you can connect a larger screen and keyboard, this will make working life a lot more comfortable on your eyes, neck and back.
Connecting to Colleagues / Customers
is often done via the internet nowadays, but a telephone is more professional, and if you suddenly lose internet connection... lets face it, who hasn’t especially at home. The telephone is your safety net.
Data security and backing-up of work is always important, and some people work in the cloud with a secure network. Talk to your IT department if you have one, or research on-line for automatic cloud based backup solutions. A hard drive in the home and connected via your home wifi is a good stand alone option, just make sure it’s in another part of the house to protect from theft. Ask your employer if they’re prepare to help you with this.
Disciplines to avoid distraction
is something YOU have to do, and you have to identify the distractions, and put in place ways to combat them.... for instance a desire to browse Social media, is often an urge many can’t resist. So switch the mobile off. or leave it in another room with notifications OFF during working times.
Don’t allow family members to call in for a cup of Tea or three. Make it clear when a friend or family visit, that you’re at work, and have an important Skype meeting in 15 minutes... this is polite and most will understand that your time is limited, and keep it to a quick chat and go.
If noise is an issue, like neighbours. Then headphones are great. Alternatively make people aware you’re working from home. 98% of people are considerate, but only 2% are telepathic. ; )
Emotional attitude to the situation
can be a real issue for some. Manifesting in ways you wouldn’t expect, like working extra hours each day, simply because you need to prove you’re not skiving... it’s an odd guilt trip that effects many. When in some cases, people work better when not interrupted by colleagues.
Employers will often not stop increases in productivity... why would they. But be mindful that this extra effort will become the norm, which could cause issues in the future if you’re over-working your day.
I suggest planning out a typical list of tasks, realistic to your daily hours. Then if you finish them sooner... good for you. But remember if you’re distracted, you’ll end up working later. Be flexible, and realistic with your expectations and work / life balance.
I’m a social animal, and love company, but I work alone most of the time, and I’m fine with it. My wife often has to deal with my overly enthusiastic chatter in an evening due to my social fasting during the day... sorry Jacqui xx.
Keeping Mentally and Physically Healthy
is important because working from Home is normally isolated, and the normal signs relating to difficulties are missed by others. For an employer or manager, It’s difficult to detect emotional issues remotely until it’s quite late. So be honest with yourself and others about how you feel working from home. It’s not for everyone.
If you’re feeling isolated, getting out and about is normally all you need, just interacting with others is enough. Going to the shop at lunchtime is a productive way to escape the four walls. I found swimming a great release, allowing me to get some exercise, escape from the screen and a little social interaction all in one bundle. The exercise helped with not only fitness, but mental relaxation like meditation, body flexibility to counter my chair bound day, and a positive social scene.
Insurance: Check you are covered with work and in your home.
Expenses: Costs are tax deductible and your employer can help with that too, with some contributing to pay utility costs.
Help: Make sure you get the support to perform your job properly.
Data Backup: Always have a backup, and check with IT / internet for support.
Author: Adrian Cartwright illustrator.
Juggling young family life and running your own business.
Looking for a fresh style?
email suggestions for topics to blog about.
Please Share this blog if you like it.
You can follow me on the social media sites (see the icons below). LinkedIn
Read more blogs here... Blogs