Ah the dream, working remotely, drinking endless lattes on picturesque terraces in the morning sun, the flexibility to go away whenever you want because, hey, you can work by the side of the pool with your phone in one hand and a glass of rose in the other.

The reality, kids come home from school sick, the neighbour comes over to ask if you can walk their dog because they’re out all day, actually you might as well get started on that pile of laundry whilst you’re here. And whatever Instagram would suggest, you cannot see your laptop screen when sat in the morning sun, and you don’t really want to be there for the fallout if you do spend all afternoon working whilst drinking glass after glass of rose. Working from home is not as easy as it sounds and requires some real discipline to do so successfully. In fact, this article alone I’ve been trying to write for about three months…

There is also a slightly less documented side to working from home. There have been links made between working from home and increased anxiety and even depression. This is due to the blurring of lines between your personal and professional life, as well as it sometimes just being a bit lonely! As long as you’re aware of this though there’s plenty of ways you can mitigate against it to ensure you get the best of both worlds.

Most of our consultants as well as directors at All Star Reserves work from home, this presents cost savings that we pass on to our clients and helps them achieve a better work-life balance. In doing so we’ve learnt what to do and what not to do so thought we’d share these little pearls of wisdom to help you do the same.

1. Stick to defined working hours, have a routine

It doesn’t necessarily have to be 9am – 5pm, in fact when working at home without distractions you’re often much more productive than sat in an office with lots of people to chat to so you should reflect that in the hours you work. But having a routine, a defined start and end to your day help you stay motivated, reduce the temptation to get distracted with general to-do’s around the house and reduce the risk of spillover into your home life.

2. Get out of the house

Fresh air and exercise can make you more productive, boost your creativity and focus and has huge benefits to your mental wellbeing. You forget that when working in a city desk job even the walk to and from the station on your daily commute will help you get the endorphins flowing. It’s surprisingly easy when working from home to go day to day before realising that you’ve barely left the house. Taking part in group fitness activities is also a great way to expand your personal and professional network. In fact as the UK becomes more health conscious, the gym is being touted as the new centre for business “Sweating together breeds a unique sense of camaraderie,” writes David Tao for Forbes.

3. Surround yourself with other people working remotely, set up co-working environments, attend workshops, maybe go to the library or coffee shop

The modern working world has promoted independent working at the expense of social interaction. A distraction free workplace can increase productivity for certain tasks however research by Tom Rath and Jim Harter discovered that people need a whopping six hours of daily social interaction to create a high sense of wellbeing. Professional coworking spaces like WeWork and LABS are popping up everywhere for this reason. Working alongside someone with a similar work ethic can help you stick to a routine as mentioned, as well as the obvious benefit of using others as a soundboard for ideas or even collaborating on certain projects.

Sustained periods of working alone can promote loneliness, which on a chronic basis, can subject you to depression, frustration and career burnout. Not only that but working alone means your unable to take advantage of Equity Theory. This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others.

This is a sociological phenomenon in which individuals gauge their own performance and sense of belonging against the habits and actions of others. When there are no coworkers around to help you measure your own performance, you might develop a constant, nagging feeling that something is not right. But you don’t have to hire a desk in a shared working space to reap the benefits.

Try working once a week from a friend or a colleagues house, or stay on after a meeting to continue working in a cafe. The change in environment alone can be pretty beneficial.

4. Use online sharing software, Google docs, dropbox etc

One of the biggest challenges with teams working remotely is collaboration. There’s undoubtedly a big reduction in in the sense of teamwork if you don’t all sit in the same room but luckily there’s loads of tools out there that mean that these challenges don’t extend to the sharing of information. Every team or organisation should choose one of the online shared drives or set up remote access to a server and stick to it religiously to ensure everyone has access to the most up to date version of every document.

5. Arrange regular team meetings, calls, or at least time to answer each others queries

One of the most frustrating things when working remotely is when you hit a roadblock because you need someones input on something but you can’t get hold of them. In an office environment you can grab their attention to get what you need, but all to often when you’re not physically in front of them they might not message back or pick up the phone because they don’t want to disturb what they’re doing at that time.

As a remote worker you need to plan ahead to foresee areas where you might need someone’s input and forewarn them or block out time in their diary. And as a manager or colleague of people remote working you need to be aware that by not answering their query straight away might lead to them being sat there not being able to progress, so you can’t then get frustrated when things don’t happen on time.

6. Organise your tasks, use to do lists, Trello boards

It’s quite easy when you don’t have a team around you working on the same project to forget or get distracted from you’re supposed to be doing next. Micromanagement is not really an option when you work remotely and so you have to work in a more entrepreneurial way and be more proactive.

There’s definitely not one way to organise yourself and everyone has what works for them, personally I like to use Trello boards to organise all the different short and long terms tasks across various projects but then on a daily basis have a handwritten list of what I want to get through that day. Other people I know use Evernote which has a great seamless journey between your different devices, and a lot of people I know do everything with handwritten notes. What I would advise though is whatever you choose to use, stick to it, and make sure you always have access to it, because having multiple different ways of organising yourself can just end up being more confusing and balls get dropped!

7. Set yourself small achievable goals

Wading through never ending to-do’s on your own can get pretty tiresome, if you have a long task to do it’s worth breaking it into chunks so you feel you’re getting somewhere. If our consultants are working through a list of new business contacts for example they might break it into reaching out to three contacts at a time before taking a break.

8. Reward yourself and give yourself a break every now and then

Once you’ve achieved one of your small goals give yourself a reward, even a little one like getting up to make a cup of tea. But also remember that working remotely can be quite intense so if there’s something you want to do in the middle of the day like take a walk, meet a friend for a coffee or go to the gym, allow yourself a bit of time off and you’ll come back to your desk with a renewed sense of energy.

9. Make sure you have the infrastructure to work effectively

Realistically long term it’s not feasible to work anywhere without good WiFi. That said some tasks can benefit from being cut off from the world, if you need to review or write a lengthy document then a plane or a train can provide the perfect environment. Generally though we need to be connected to others to work effectively so if you don’t have a good connection or signal on your phone invest in getting this resolved before you commit to working from home.

10. Physically as well as mentally separate your work and home space

The loss of physical separation between work and home life can also promote the need to be constantly working. Kate Jones documented how when working from home “everyday activities were plagued with crippling guilt: playing with my son, relaxing on the couch, eating, showering — I was constantly plagued with the feeling I should have been working.”

Working from home can be a wonderful thing but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to be a walk in the park. Take our advice and be aware of the pitfalls to ensure you embark on it with the best chance of success. And if you’re interested in a flexible career opportunity with us get in touch.

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