The opportunity to work from home is a dream for many. Plenty of small business owners start out in a spare room but, while there are undeniable advantages, there can also be significant problems associated with home working.
While many people are able to get down to work anywhere, lots of people tend to find that they are more easily distracted, or less productive, when they are at home.
There are a number of factors you should consider in order to combat this problem. Primary among them is the nature of your working environment. Even if your ‘home office’ consists of little more than a chair at the kitchen table or a desk in the spare room, it is important that you think of it as a place of work.
Your productivity will to a great extent be dictated by your environment, so you should think carefully about the way in which your home office is arranged.
Everyday distractions are the most common productivity killers for most home-workers. You should aim to minimise distractions to as great a degree as possible.
Distractions might take many forms. Many home-workers complain that they often find themselves staring out of the window, without even noticing that they were doing it. As a result, it is common to find desks and chairs facing into the room, with the window behind. This also helps to ensure there is enough light to work properly.
The lure of the kitchen or the TV might also be strong. Make sure that you have everything you need to hand before you start work, in order to avoid a potentially lengthy trip to get food. You might even consider putting a kettle and some coffee or tea bags in the room in which you work, so that you are not side-tracked during the day.
Finally, although certainly not only the preserve of home-workers, the internet provides a particularly dangerous distraction. Depending on the nature of your work, you might choose to turn the internet off altogether. Alternatively, you might wish to investigate some of the free, full-screen text editors available. These remove everything from the screen but the text on your word processor, helping to minimise the chance of skipping over to your browser to check the football scores.
Think about ergonomics
You should carefully consider the ergonomics of your furniture and of the office as a whole. Perhaps the most important part of any home office is the chair. You should spend as much as you can on a good office chair – but bear in mind that the ‘industry standard’ models can quite easily set you back £1,000. If, like most people, you cannot afford to spend this much, you should concentrate on finding an office chair with an adjustable height, excellent lumbar support and padded armrests that will fit under your desk.
The desk itself is also an important element of your home office. Make sure that you have enough space for your computer and any other equipment you might need. For example, do you need a reading lectern, or a phone? Try to keep your desk tidy and make sure it is always arranged in the same way. This will prevent you wasting time looking for things, and helps create a general atmosphere of calm and organisation.
As well as ensuring that you have comfortable and functional furniture, you should also think carefully about the layout of the room as a whole. We have already mentioned the positioning of your desk in relation to the window, but you should also think about things like your proximity to power sockets, and the accessibility of storage. While these might seem individually unimportant, together they determine the effectiveness of your home office.
You must be realistic about your work hours and the amount you intend to achieve. Just as you would not generally expect to do a 12 hour day in an employer’s office, you should not expect to be able to work flat-out in your home office. If your job allows it, set yourself realistic working hours and stick to them.
This means that you will have artificial deadlines each day, encouraging you to get things done. Furthermore, it helps to keep you productive while you are at your desk. The longer you are sat in front of a computer, the less productive you will be. Making sure that you set reasonable limits will increase your productivity significantly.
Many people think that working from home is an easy option. In reality, home-workers are probably faced with more problems and difficulties than those with more conventional arrangements. Taking these simple steps can help to maximise your efficiency – and, ultimately, help you get more done.