Small Business Advice Week: working from home
To mark Small Business Advice week, IPSE is contributing to the discussion with a series of advice blogs written exclusively with the small business community in mind. For more information on Small Business Advice week, visit the website or join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SBAW.
The sophistication and accessibility of technology and the boom in self-employment has catalysed the surge in a new office environment – the comfort of your own home. But when you’re working from your kitchen table or back bedroom, how do you go about maximising the benefits? Maintaining productivity? And overcoming the potential risks of loneliness?
Reaping the rewards
According to Labour Force Survey data, nearly two in five freelancers (38%) work predominantly in different places but use their home as a base, while a further 28 per cent spend the majority of time working from home.
Many of the UK’s 4.8 million self-employed cite an improved work/life balance as the primary benefit for working for themselves. And, in many instances, this is stimulated by the appeal of working from home.
Many professionals struggle with finding a satisfying balance between work and personal lives. The flexibility that comes from working from home is a great way of readdressing this balance – particularly for those with families.
The convenience of removing strenuous daily commute is manna from heaven, while the improved work/life balance allows you to carry out family, social or other commitments. Taking your children to school, for example, can be a very rewarding way to start the day, while working from home allows you to keep up with other leisure and business activities.
Financially, huge savings can be made once you remove outgoings such as commuting costs and rental office space. Working from home means you can also offset a small portion of your home office expenses on taxes.
For all of the very evident benefits, it is also important to identify and overcome the potential drawbacks. Being productive when you’re sat in your pyjamas can be difficult, separating your work life from your private life isn’t always easy, while not having an alternative to everyday office gossip can lead to loneliness.
Managing time and productivity
There’s a danger of becoming ‘always available’. Setting yourself a clear schedule of availability, would dictate when people can contact you and ensure they don’t make unrealistic expectations about your ability to respond or produce work at the drop of a hat.
Some people set an out-of-office at certain times of the day - such as evenings, weekends or lunchtime - so that you don’t feel guilty about not responding immediately. Being available 24/7 isn’t good for your mental health or your performance.
Having clearly defined times to start and finish for the day, and breaks – such as an hour for lunch - can also help maximise efficiency and keep you disciplined. Setting yourself a routine makes it easier to measure and monitor your performance and maximise your time rather than working periodically over a longer period of time. After all, consistency breeds productivity.
One of the huge perks of working from the comfort of your own home is being able to wear what you want. However, wearing pyjamas on a Monday might be appealing, but isn’t necessarily prudent for efficiency. Smart casual attire is a good way of balancing comfort with clothes conducive to a productive mindset. Pyjamas to end the week could act as a nice alternative to a “dress down Friday”.
Research by Aldermore found that two in five (39%) self-employed people feel lonely since becoming their own boss. Not only can loneliness impact wellbeing, it also affects productivity and the general day-to-day running of your business.
There is no singular remedy for alleviating loneliness but connecting with other freelancers can help. Building relationships with those who work on a similar basis and understanding the benefits and challenges of being self-employed is an important way of knowing you’re not alone.
Regular breaks, such as walking the dog or collecting children from school, are good ways of getting out of the house and maintaining a fresh and stimulated mindset.
Stuart Sanderson is IPSE’s press and PR intern. Stuart works for Hudson Contract Services and is currently studying at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Productivity, Home-working, IPSE News