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Home working, like a boss

Posted in: Freelance life

Due to the current global situation (let’s not mention the C word), a lot more people are having to work from home. And whilst many have been welcoming the opportunity to sit at home in pyjamas all day, it can take a little getting used to.

I’ve personally worked in all kinds of environments. I did the 9-5 Monday to Friday in an office, I’ve had my own office space, I’ve had a desk in a co-working studio for 5 years, and currently I’ve been working from home for the past 4 years.

Each of these have their own sets of challenges and pluses, but ultimately we need to remember that everyone has different ways of working. Some love the social aspect of office working, others need that separation of home and work, and others simply may not find commuting to a place of work every day the best way to do their job for a number of reasons.

I personally find office spaces distracting. Any other coder will tell you that focus is key, and I find much better focus at home. Whereas some people find the home life distracting and need a place to get away from the dirty dishes or the mounds of laundry.

But, at the moment, quite a few people have no choice but to remain at home. So, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learnt over the years to help you make the most of your new remote working environment.

Enjoy the gift of time.

I’ve known people to commute up to 4 hours a day. Think of all the amazing things you can do in that time now you don’t have to commute anymore? Spend more time on one of your hobbies, go to the gym, spend time with family, learn a new skill, or just simply get some really good shut eye. 

When I was commuting I found myself mentally exhausted; waiting around for trains that were inevitably late, or sitting in traffic for ages. Skipping that part of your day can return so much energy to you, making it easier to fit in a morning workout or do something productive after work.

Also this:



Save money.

You can save money on so many things when working from home:

  1. Travel – No more expensive commutes
  2. Clothes – I only have a few smart outfits for meetings and when I have to work in offices, but otherwise comfy joggers or pj’s are my work attire, which are inevitably cheaper, and you can save your public facing clothes for when you really need them.
  3. Makeup – I would always wear makeup when working in an office, now I very rarely need to buy anything new as it lasts so long.
  4. Food – Cooking at home can work out so much cheaper than buying meal deals or take away everyday.

Get busy in the kitchen.

One of my favourite things about working from home is the opportunity to get creative in the kitchen at lunch time. 

Not only can it be much cheaper than buying meal deals every day (it’s easy to rack up an expensive weekly lunch time deal), but it can be much healthier. 

Cooking healthy food for lunch is one of my favourite things about home working

If you’re short of time, have a Sunday afternoon batch cooking session. Or have a google for 10 minute meal recipes. One of my favourites is Joe Wick’s Lean in 15 series – Lot’s of quick and healthy recipes that don’t require an entire trolley’s worth of ingredients.

MAKE SURE TO EXERCISE

I put this in capitals because it’s the most important thing to consider for both physical and mental health.

Joining gym classes is a great way to meet new people and get moving!

When you work from home the worst case scenario looks something like: get up, go straight to your desk, sit there for 8 hours with a short lunch break, then mooch around on the sofa in the evening watching TV. To put things in perspective, the average person does 5-7k steps, and the recommended daily steps for a person staying healthy is 10k. Doing the aforementioned routine will barely get you 2k (trust me I’ve been there).

I try to make sure I leave the house every day, even if it’s just to walk to the shop and back, otherwise you can find health issues start to show themselves quite quickly (weight gain, low energy, low mood, anxiety or depression). 

Get a smart watch

It’s also a good idea to invest in a smart watch – my recommendation based on quality and price is the FitBit Versa 2. It gives me a reminder every hour to stand up and move around, and it also helps me keep tabs on how much I’ve moved (hence knowing how few steps you do on a lazy day).

Let friends motivate you

If you struggle to get the motivation to move/leave the house, see if an active friend or family member can join you in some goals to help encourage you. I find if I’ve made a commitment to meet a friend for a gym session or run I’m much more likely to do it. Those of us who have a Fitbit set a ‘workweek challenge’ in the app too, to see who can do the most steps in a week.

Coping with loneliness

This can be the toughest one, especially if you live by yourself. There are a few things you can do to keep you socialising:

  • Hot-desking. Co-working studios, and some agencies with spare desks, offer hot-desking. It’s a great way to meet other freelancers too.
  • Coffee shop working. Grab your laptop and go to a coffee shop for a couple of hours, you’ll get a bit of exercise, see some human faces, and have a lovely coffee!
  • Attend a local networking event. It can take a couple of visits to really get to know people but it’s so worth it. Not only will you be making new work contacts, but more importantly you’ll be making new friends.
  • Start a networking event. If there’s not one in your area, start one! Pick a theme such as freelancing, web design, supporting women in tech, then pick a date and a place to meet and start tweeting/Facebooking about it. It’ll gain momentum before you know it.
  • Join gym / sports classes. I attend the same gym classes every week and have made friends through just going regularly. It’s also just nice to be around other people and get moving!
  • Join Slack communities. I’ve found this to be one of the biggest benefits. There are slack communities for freelancers out there where you can ask for advice, help each other with coding / design problems, and just simply feel like you have a nice team around to chat with during your work day.
  • Meet clients for lunch. It can be easy to do everything over a video call, but if the opportunity presents itself where face to face meeting would be beneficial, see if you can arrange a cheeky lunchtime get together.
  • Meet other freelancers. I’ve occasionally got in touch with freelancers I’ve either worked with, or would like to skill share with and met up for a coffee or a drink just to put a face to a name. (Obviously make sure you do so safely in a public place!)
  • Attend conferences/talks. A great way to learn at the same time as meeting new people. They often have networking events afterwards.
  • Go to hack events, or start one! Even if you just organise an evening hack with friends or other freelancers, it’s a fun way to spend some time and potentially create something new.
Informal networking events are the best way to get out of the house and meet new friends/potential clients

You’re helping save the environment

Just by working from home, you’re helping save the environment by not commuting every day (unless you cycle of course). That’s always a bonus 🙂

Think about getting a cleaner

If you can afford it, hire a cleaner. A messy workspace can be very unproductive, and when you’re entire house is your workspace, it can be ten times worse. I can’t concentrate when it’s messy, so it’d be easy to spend the afternoon cleaning, or doing a few loads of washing instead of doing valuable work. I find a Monday morning is great for getting you set up for the week, or Friday afternoon works best. That way you can concentrate on your work day and not worry about getting the house tidy for the weekend.

If having a cleaner for 2 hours saves you from 5 hours of procrastination, then in my opinion, that’s money well spent.

Create a separate work space

When you work from home, it’s really easy to just grab a cosy blanket, put your laptop in your lap and sit binging Netflix all day whilst you work. 

While this is fine every now and again (why else would you work from home?) it’s not a great way to work every single day. Doing that can make it hard to separate your work and home life.

Always make sure you have a space, whether that’s a desk in the lounge, or a completely separate home office where you can really make it your own. It doesn’t have to cost a ton (a trip to Ikea is always worth it for good value home office stuff!), but make sure it’s comfortable and gets you excited to start work there every day.

My home office, complete with Lyra the kitten who likes to push things off my desk

Good communication is key

One of the biggest things teams may struggle with when it comes to working remotely is how best to communicate. It can be difficult to get used to the fact you can no longer wave at someone across the room to get their attention, or simply rock up at their desk to get an instant response.

What we have to remember though, is even when in office spaces, not everyone is at their desk all the time, and not everyone is available to help at that immediate moment. They may be on lunch, on a phone call, in a meeting, or out of the office for the day.

Same thing should apply when sending messages on Slack or email, don’t always expect an instant response from your team members. 

It would be helpful to some ground rules, such as only very urgent/emergency situations should require an immediate phone call, otherwise they should be scheduled. Just because your slack message wasn’t replied to 5 minutes later doesn’t mean you should pick up the phone. Give people the space they need to do their work distraction free. 

Some teams jump on Slack at the start of their working day and just quickly highlight their availability for the day i.e. “I’m at meetings until 2pm”.

Don’t forget to sing your heart out

Genuinely one of the things I love the most about working from home is being able to blast my own music out and sing along without disturbing anyone else. I don’t have much else to add on that, it’s just a very big plus for me!

Enjoy it

Working from home is a huge privilege and not all industries get to take advantage of it, so enjoy it! And remember, if you’re struggling, do reach out to your team members or look to get support from some local networking groups. I can guarantee most of us have been through what you’ve been through at some point.

I actually set up a networking group called Portsmouth Freelancers Meet for this very reason – to get to know likeminded people, share in the ups and downs that only other freelancers can know, and ended up making some amazing friends.

Portsmouth Freelancers Meet in March 2020

Finally, some handy tools

Not every company is equipped for home working, especially at short notice, so here are some tools for keeping things running smoothly.

Project management

Communication

  • Slack – for instant messaging
  • Whereby – Video/voice/screensharing. Free for upto 4 people.
  • Zoom – Conference call software, pricing starts at free

Time tracking

I’ll keep adding more tools as I discover them. Please feel free to share your thoughts, suggest any software, or simply say hey as a fellow home worker on Twitter: @jo_eyre


Posted in: Freelance life

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