The Smart Guide to Working from Home

by Suzanne Shaw  

5 minutes read

Update March 2021:  This post was written prior to the pandemic, back when working from home was the result of agile work conditions, a good employer/employee relationship or a lifestyle choice for a freelance consultant (me) or a ‘would-be’ entrepreneur starting at the kitchen table. Now of course millions of office workers find themselves forced to work from home. It’s far from ideal but we are all doing our best – often juggling home and work life in an environment wholly unsuited for the multiple work stations required for home working and schooling. Hopefully, you can still benefit from the tips in this article and for good measure, I have included links under ‘further reading’ which offer guidance on maintaining mental and physical well-being while working from home. Keep the faith and roll on the vaccine. It’s all going to be okay! – Suzanne

There are many advantages to working from home.  You can usually dictate your own schedule and there are lots of ways in which you can dramatically lower your outgoings with regard to rent, transport, communications and even your working wardrobe.

However, working from home does not suit everyone.  You need to be a self-starter with buckets of discipline, resilience and motivation.

You will find yourself wearing many hats; juggling time between clients and suppliers; actually doing the work; and, then there is the admin side to consider.

Still yearning for that lifestyle change?  Here are my top tips for anyone considering starting a business/working from home.

Adopt the right mind-set

Get the mind-set right from the beginning.  You may be working from home but it does help to behave each day as if you are ‘going to the office’.  Recreate an office atmosphere and invest in comfortable, professional equipment and furniture.  Remember that expenses with regard to utilities, fixtures and fittings are tax deductible and a good accountant should be able to advise you in this regard.

Be your own supervisor

Establish designated work hours and try to stick to them.  Set yourself a daily work schedule; a regular start time, breaks, and ‘home-time’.  It’s common to find yourself working late, encroaching on home life and upsetting that hard won balance.  It is vital to separate the two.  At ‘home time’, switch off your laptop and close the door. Tomorrow is another day.

Plan regular breaks

Just as you would at the office, take regular breaks to make coffee, have a snack or grab some fresh air with a quick walk around the block. Stay social. Have virtual coffee breaks via video call with your colleagues where you can chat about things other than work for a few minutes. Breaks are not only important for your mental health,  you can use colleagues as a oundig board for oany working from home issues you are having. they might have a smart workaround. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Communications on the move

Work is an activity not a location. By leveraging the latest mobile technology, it is easy enough to set up low cost, smart communications system that works for you, allowing you to flit from home to meetings and still keep an eye on calls and emails.  You will quickly develop a mental list of your favourite coffee shops that offer free Wi-Fi  (Do buy a coffee or two, give them a shout on social media or post a google review – remember they are small businesses too!)  Check out low-cost or no-cost voice-over-IP tools such as Skype, WhatsApp,  MS Teams, Zoom, Google Meet etc to conference call or message clients.

Stay connected

For those accustomed to a busy working environment, there is the risk of feeling isolated.  Avoid this by taking advantage of every networking opportunity.  Building and maintaining a professional network will take more effort now.  Plan calls with  your colleagues. Look for local business organisations and events that could present networking, training and promotional opportunities as well as a valuable social outlet. Check in with your Local Enterprise Office or Chamber of Commerce for online meet ups and training opportunities. Join online networks such as LinkedIn and make sure you are making the most of your profile. Now of course networking is virtual.  Check out this useful article:  RTE – Business Network to Lean on During These Uncertain Times

Find a mentor

A good mentor can add immeasurable value in terms of advice on areas such as strategy, financial planning, marketing and distribution. Better still; identify someone with specific experience in your sector or area of expertise.  To ensure that you get the relationship right from the start, check that they have time available, agree objectives and establish an engagement process that works for both of you.

Keep on top of the paperwork

Paperwork can quickly become a mountain. Before becoming self-employed, you will need to consider issues such as insurance including professional indemnity, company registration and tax status.  Find yourself a good accountant and they will inform you of all your responsibilities with regard to tax compliance and allowable expenses.

Making the decision to start your own business can be scary and challenging.  However, if you are up to the challenge and confident that you can be your own boss; starting your own business from home can be a rewarding and viable option. You will never know if you don’t take the leap!

Kindness is the byword during these strangest of times. Remember to look after yourself and your mental health while working at home. We are naturally social beings. Check in with your colleagues regularly and stay connected. Take regular breaks and make sure to get some fresh air.  For reference, see additional resources below.

Further Reading

About the author:  Suzanne Shaw started working from home in 2015.  An independent marketing professional with 20 years’ experience she provides advice and guidance on aspects of marketing, communications and business development strategies to range of sectors and businesses, from start-ups to SMEs to not-for-profits. Having picked up lots of useful hints and tips along the way, Suzanne is happy to share her insights.