As new research highlights the pitfalls of home working, Anjula Mutanda offers her top tips for success
Working from home is as contentious an issue as ever. Supporters say it makes them more productive, while detractors argue the opposite. A new survey of 1,000 workers commissioned by office technology specialist Altodigital gives ammunition to both sides, with 40% of respondents claiming their productivity more than doubles when working from home and a similar number admitting that their motivation tails off after just four hours. Working from Home – A productivity report by psychotherapist Anjula Mutanda also reveals that 41% of home workers regularly skive, for example by watching TV (24%), doing household chores (27%) or playing with their children (26%). More than one third (35%) prefer to work in their pyjamas or dressing gown.
If you are one of those who finds it hard to focus when working from home, Anjula Mutanda has the following advice:
Birthday suit or work suit?
For some, the ritual of getting formally dressed for work and ‘commuting’ to a designated work space is needed to prepare mentally for work. For others, it is less important. The key is to focus on what works for you and the type of work you do. Whatever you choose, it is important to be aware that how you dress may subtly affect your attitude. You may enjoy wearing a dressing-gown all day, but doing so could sub-consciously put you in a relaxed mood and slow you down.
When working alone, it is crucial to have reminders that keep you in work mode, whether that is wearing business-like clothing or remembering to adjust your body language when taking business calls, for example by standing up or sitting up and smiling.
Neutralise your work space
This is almost the opposite of what we do when we work in an office. There, people have photos of family and other personal knick-knacks to personalise their space. At home, the challenge is to create an environment that enhances work productivity and helps you focus. Whatever the size of your work space, dress it for work by having work materials to hand like a printer, laptop, post-its or a pin board. De-cluttering home distractions and adding workplace props will help to create a more productive working environment.
Understand your work pattern. Doggedly sitting at your desk until 5pm, just to feel that you’ve been ‘at work’ for eight hours can be counterproductive. You’ll know when you’ve hit that turning point, when you move from being in the flow of work to simply twiddling your thumbs. Identify when you are most productive and achieve optimum results. The beauty of being in charge of your own work schedule is that you can set your targets, decide what you need to achieve for the day, and work towards those goals.
Working from home can be isolating, and the sense of being cut off from others for long periods can negatively affect your mood. If you are working remotely, build-in time to make contact with your office. If possible, schedule time to go into the office, as this will act as a physical and psychological reminder that you are still very much connected.Being self-employed can add an extra challenge. Consider building up a network with others in a similar position in your local community or joining a social media community.
Avoid the procrastination demon
This begins with the words “I’ll just….”. You can fill in the blanks with: take a bath, vacuum the house, update my status on Facebook or watch that box-set everyone’s talking about!One of the most effective ways to combat this temptation is to make a list of what you need to accomplish and a time frame in which to do it. Once you achieve one task, tick it off your list and move on to the next. This approach will give you structure, keep you on task and help you stay focused. If you are simply too distracted by the comforts of home, then consider swapping your workspace for another, like the local library.
Don’t be the gopher
Be careful that you don’t become the ‘go to’ person for running other peoples’ errands. Working from home can be interpreted by family and friends as a licence to ask for multiple favours, from picking up the kids or doing the shopping to taking a relative out for the day. Having boundaries and being strict about your time management will stop others from taking advantage of you.
Sometimes known as the ‘graveyard session’, the post-lunch slump between 1 and 3pm is the time of day when our energy levels, mood and alertness tend to be at their lowest and when we may feel a very strong urge to take a nap. In order to combat this, try to avoid eating heavily at lunch and find time for a brisk 10-minute walk. Save the most mentally demanding tasks for periods when you are at peak alertness.
When IT glitches occur, such as emails not connecting with the company server, internet problems or crashes, we react emotionally. However, frustration, blind panic and anger lead to poor decision-making. The key is to wait a few minutes and see if the problem resolves itself. Taking a deep breath and cooling down gives you the opportunity to think logically and consider alternative solutions.
Don’t over-personalise the event by declaring ‘why does this always happen to me?’. This type of thinking can cause you to feel totally helpless, so don’t do it! Don’t get upset about what you can’t control. Instead, look at what is possible: contact technical support, take a walk around the block or have a break.