For the last ten years or so, I have been working from home, at first for a couple of large national charities and now for myself. The work I was doing required a lot of flexibility in when I worked as everything was deadline driven and this included late nights and weekends. In theory, this flexibility was returned by the companies I worked for. In reality, this wasn’t actually the case and there always seemed to be plenty to do to fill up the days.
As a result, I often worked way over my 40 hour week and found myself tired, irritable, and missing my family (even if they happened to be in the next room!). For the last couple of years, especially, my work-life balance was shot and it’s the main reason I have decided to start working for myself. I need to be able to breath, eat, sleep, exercise, be a mom and generally have a life. This week, I got my first contract as a freelancer – exciting. Not so exciting was the comment the manager I’ll be working for made about sending emails at 11 at night – just what I don’t want to happen!
In the past, I have been my own worst, enemy. I struggle to say no and I struggle to turn off the computer and the light when work needs to be done. Working from home makes it hard to switch off when the office is next door to the bedroom. There were too many deadlines and too many people asking me for things. Now, whilst the deadlines won’t go away, I know I need to say no to things and that’s my plan. To help me, I thought it might be quite useful to remind myself and anyone else who finds themselves in this position just how NOT to work from home if you want a life of any description…
1. Don’t get up, log-in at 5.30 AM and work until midnight. Working 17 hour days does not make you more productive, it makes you tired and irritable and that has a knock on effect on everyone around you. Get up at a reasonable time and, if you have to work more than 8 hours a day, set a limit and stick to it or risk turning your brain to mush and waking up to discover most of the work you did was rubbish and needs to be done again anyway.
2. Don’t go to work in your pyjamas. The plus side of working from home is that you don’t need to be “suited and booted” to go to the office. The downside is that, when you are busy, you might be tempted to not get dressed at all. Whilst it’s one thing to check your email over that first cup of coffee, staying in your pj’s all day? Not a good idea. It blurs the lines between work and the rest of your life, making you more likely to work those 17 hour days. Plus, by the end of the day, you are likely to feel slightly grotty and more than a bit stinky.
3. Do not skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And definitely don’t skip all three, not just because food gives you energy but stopping and taking time to eats gives you the breaks away from your computer you need. Otherwise, you’ll end up fuzzy headed, distracted by hunger and, if you’re like me, you’ll all loose all ability to not reach for chocolate and spend the next month dieting.
4. Don’t keep saying yes. When you are stretched to capacity, people you work with will still keep asking you to do things because their lives go on and they still have deadlines to hit. Saying yes every time someone asks you for something not only makes your to do list longer but piles on pressure you don’t need. If you’re already pushed to work too many hours the chance of you being able to more is limited. Say so and say no!
5. Don’t forget you have a life. When all is said and done and you’re old and grey (or in my case, older and greyer), your boss won’t be checking in to see if you are ok, your friends and family will. Or at least they will if they haven’t forgotten about you because you never made it to the pub for a drink or their first ballet performance. For me, this last one is most important and why I am so determined to get my “new life” right. I want a good, strong, family life and working too many hours puts that at risk. Enjoy what you have and don’t just save fun and relaxation for holidays.
There are probably lots more rules, ones you should follow from business leaders and the like that will make you more productive as a home worker but, from someone who has done this a long time, following these will definitely help you. What about you? Do you work from home? Have you fallen into these traps?
Images courtesy of freepik and pixabay