Working from home; thoughts after a year.

Its been just over a year since I started working from home with just a single day in the office each week, and over 6 months since I stopped even going in even that often. I thought I’d put down a few thoughts on how it has been for me, and some pointers if people are thinking of doing the same.

First of all, working from home is not for everyone, I’m just lucky that it suits my personality. It can be very quiet and I have actually gone nearly a whole week without leaving the house at times. For me, this isn’t a big deal and I am really liking the whole working from home thing. It has come in very handy for getting parcels delivered, and makes things like getting boiler services done or meters replaced a lot less of a logistics nightmare. I am also finding that I am being a lot more productive during the day, and the stress levels are nearing non existent!

Tips:

  • Have a separate area to work in. Don’t try to work from the living room or similar. I have my cellar set up with my main computer and all my hobbies, but if I tried to do actual work from there it would be a failure. I converted the front room from a spare bedroom into an office (with a sofa bed for visitors). This has many benefits, not least of which is I can close the door if I don’t want to be disturbed. Also, it gives you a definite feeling of finishing work when you leave the area, just the same as if you left the office to go home.
  • Work set hours. If the rest of the office workers do 9-5, then so should you. Take a lunch break at a reasonable time, and don’t take too long. It is important to be disciplined with yourself on this count. Its too easy to fall into bad habits and you will find your work suffering and your colleagues getting annoyed at you.
  • Social media helps. Not just facebook, but corporate chat systems, email, etc. You do manage to avoid a lot of the office politics that might go on, but you also need to make sure that you build good relationships with the other staff. Don’t just barge in to chat, at least not at first, but if you’re talking about work, have a bit of a chat afterwards about what you’ve been up to.
  • Make an effort to go to the office on occasion. Nothing beats real face to face time. It will also remind your colleagues that you exist!
  • Be organised. You won’t have people around you to remind you about tasks they’ve requested. Keep a list of things you are working on, prioritise it, and keep it up to date. At the end of the day, make a task list for the next day. This tip isn’t really just for people working at home, and is a useful thing to do even in an office, but it is more important to do if you are home working.
  • Arrange daily catch up meetings. This is something that was initiated at my work and is something I find really useful. For my work, the process is: At the end of each day (my time) we have a quick ‘standup’ meeting with all the remote workers to catch up on what we’ve done since the last meeting, and what we are planning on doing. This is a process taken from the agile development process, and by designating it as a standup meeting, it is kept as short as possible. Only the tech people are allowed to speak and very little, if any, organisation should take place. It is purely for information. Other people can listen in if they wish, but must stay quiet. It helps keep you connected with your colleagues, and forces you to be organised and methodical with work.

Of course, I’ve tried to be general with the above information as my job carries its own quirks that have to be adapted to, not least of which is that most of my colleagues are in a different time zone, and so are working until gone 10pm my time. That coupled with the fact that I also do a lot of on call work means working hours tend to be flexible, but that was a career choice I made a long time ago. Working with a different time zone does have a couple of big advantages, especially in my role. For starters I can get a lot of the server work done whilst most of America is still asleep, and it also gives me a lot of uninterrupted time to get stuck into things. I then have the afternoon at work to field questions from my colleagues and help them out.

So in summary, if you don’t mind being on your own for extended periods of time, and have the discipline to work unsupervised, then home working is a great option with a lot of benefits. If you enjoy the company of other people and general office banter, then working from home will rapidly drive you mad.

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