Times are changing and the concept of a “nice day at the office, dear” may soon be as dated as the typing pool and the telex machine. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2014, 4.2 million workers or nearly 14% of the UK workforce were home based. For many, particularly those with family commitments, working from home means the best of both worlds: a chance to blend family life with a rewarding career. However, the life of a remote worker is not always a bed of roses. The joy of abandoning the daily commute can be tempered by issues of isolation and a blurring of boundaries. So what can be done to ensure that remote working lives up to the expectations of both the employee and the employer?
DO arrange childcare. Most people working from home do so in order to achieve balance in their lives. However, you are not pleasing anyone, employer or family, if you try to fulfil too many roles at the same time. You will not feel you are succeeding as a parent if you have parked your toddler in front of CBeebies while you work to meet a deadline and you are hardly an effective worker if you are being distracted by demands for a biscuit or a nose wipe.
DO create a workspace. It doesn’t have to grand but having a clearly defined area where you can concentrate on your work allows you to enter into the working mind-set. Simple things such as ensuring you have suitable stationary, a comfortable chair and preferably a door that can shut you off from family life (including that mountain of ironing) will make all the difference.
DO make it clear to those around you that you are working. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you are a resource for friends and family. You are not available for a quick coffee, you can’t pick up the dry-cleaning and you certainly haven’t got the time to run your teenager and his mates into town.
DO make an effort. One of the pleasures of working from home is the fact that there is no requirement to don a smart suit and wear uncomfortable shoes but it is hard to feel like a slick professional whilst wearing a grubby dressing gown.
DON’T be a stranger: make sure to be in touch with your co-workers and boss regularly so that you keep up to date up with developments at work and they continue to see you as an active team member. You do need a proper conversation though so don’t rely on email which is all too easy to be ignored. You might not be able to hang out at the water cooler but, with a little effort, you can ensure that out of sight isn’t out of mind.
DON’T neglect your career and personal development. Working in isolation, with no one to bounce ideas off, makes it very easy to feel stale and lacking inspiration. Make use of networking opportunities, such as Obelisk’s Friday Live events and workshops; keep in touch with your professional contacts in person and online; ensure that you attend training sessions and fulfill your CPD obligations. Get out and about and meet your peers to share ideas and challenge each other.