Increasing numbers of us are working from home; whether just part time, or as a full time arrangement. Both managers and employees are recognising the benefits it brings, but for those who are new to this way of working, it can be a challenging exercise to maintain a productive working environment. So, here are some valuable tips to take on board for running a productive virtual office.
Separate your home and work life
One of the biggest challenges with working from home is the ability to separate your work from your home life. It can be tricky if other family members are in the room or you have distractions from neighbours popping round for a chat or household chores that desperately need doing.
To be productive when working from home you need to learn to switch off from everything home or family related. Get a separate phone line so that you can avoid answering your home number if it rings when you’re working. Let family, friends, and neighbours know when you are working and that you can’t be disturbed. If you have a spare room then turning it into office space would be ideal. But, if you don’t, then try to find a quiet corner at home where you can work without distractions.
A lot of people like the idea of working from home because it conjures up images of being able to work in your pyjamas. But, if you want to feel like a professional, then it’s important to dress as if you are going to work. Besides, if one of your colleagues suddenly wants to call up an impromptu video meeting, then you’ll probably be frowned upon if you’re still wearing your nightclothes at lunchtime.
This may seem strange – surely one of the greatest benefits to working from is that you don’t have to commute?! However, getting dressed and leaving your house to go for a walk can be really beneficial in helping you segregate your home from your work life. Before you go for a walk, you are at home, once you get back, you are at work.
Take regular breaks
If you’re office-based, then you’ll likely have a lunch break, and maybe even a coffee break in the morning and afternoon. It’s harder to schedule in breaks if you work from home, because there is often more pressure to feel that you should be at your computer. But, a productive worker isn’t one who doesn’t take regular breaks, so employ the same habits you would if at an office.
Communication can be one of the trickiest aspects to manage if you run your own virtual office, because you don’t have co-workers physically present with you. It’s therefore vital that you keep in regular contact with them; you need to be kept in the loop with important work issues, communicate progress and ideas, and be a part of virtual meetings.
Many home workers feel isolated and cut off from colleagues, so keeping regular channels of communication open is key. Don’t just rely on emails. If you need an instant response, then pick up the phone. Make the most of audio video technology so that you can take part in online meetings. Invest in technology that enables you to share and edit files with co-workers, and always let relevant colleagues know when you will be at your desk and when you won’t be.
Because you may have limited space when running a virtual office, it’s of paramount importance that you are as organised as possible – even more so than if you were based in an office. The last thing you want is to find your dog has chewed up some vital documents, or one of the kids has got hold of your work mobile phone and hidden it, so keep everything locked away in a tidy, organised place at the end of each day.
About the Author
Amy specialises in online marketing and has joined us from Maintel to write about productivity when working from home. Maintel offer complete voice and data solutions for businesses, which enable employees to work whenever and wherever they choose.