I know it’s not for everyone but I adore working from home. I don’t waste time and energy commuting (although I do miss out on valuable reading time on the train); I don’t have to wash my hair every day; and I have the cat and the dog to keep me company. Remote working has been shown to reduce stress, reduce costs and help people avoid an exhausting commute.
I’ve been home-based (mostly) full time for seven and a half years and it’s one of the things I like best about my job. Technology has caught up with the desire to work flexibly – the cloud is a wondrous thing for the home worker and there are loads of apps that help me work smarter (we’re particularly fans of Asana here for reducing the groaning inbox and keeping track of tasks and responsibilities). And it helps that everyone in my team works from home, too.
Having one of our proofreaders working from home in Australia is great. A client can contact us on a Tuesday afternoon at 5pm and have their proofread document back in their inbox by 9am on Wednesday.
And lots of my team juggle working at their laptops with the school run, school plays, baking for the PTA cake stalls and so on. They tell me that being able to work remotely makes life much less stressful when they’re trying to be present for their families.
Other things I appreciate include being able to get the washing out (or in) according to the weather, and the comfort of using my own loo!
But it can get lonely and sometimes a little dispiriting. Research by IPSE and PeoplePerHour found that the top five challenges for remote workers are difficulty receiving client communication, difficulty receiving client feedback, not feeling part of a team, loneliness and disconnectedness.
I need to make sure that I go and talk to human beings regularly, not just stare at my computer screen. (Local meetups for home workers and co-working spaces are great for this.) Any interruption in broadband service effectively shuts me down. It’s also super-important that I ‘leave’ work at the end of the day, by turning off my computer and shutting the office door.
For some, having the opportunity to mix home and office working can be the most productive course of action. The key here is having flexible options for working from different places – and even at different times. I’m a lark and work best from 7am to 2pm, but some of my team prefer to start late morning and/or work into the evening.
My top tips for working from home are:
- Get the best kit you can afford – that means the best broadband package, a computer that’s right for your needs, a proper office chair and (of course, I am a proofreader after all!) some great stationery.
- Work in a separate room from where you usually live, eat and sleep – for the first few years of Accuracy Matters, I’d work in my bedroom or a shared living room (including, memorably, some of my team working very early in the morning proofreading on the ironing board). Now that I live in a house with a separate office space it’s brilliant being able to keep that room just for work and shutting the door at the end of the working day.
- Get out and talk to people at least once a week – this could be a client or simply a neighbour.
- Organise team outings – we don’t have the luxury of stopping by the watercooler to discuss the finale of Game of Thrones, so I like to make sure the team get together when they can either for something interesting and work based (like the British Library’s recent talks and exhibition on writing) or something that’s just fun (our summer picnic).
For me, and for many others, working from home helps to maintain that all-important work–life balance – and on this I’ll take advice from Dolly Parton: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”