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Making working from home work

Technology provided the breakthrough allowing more people to work from home a number of years ago. However, there’s not been a step change in technology over the last ten years. Although a record number of people work from home, I’d guess that the number taking days out from their normal office is not increasing that much. If you get the opportunity to do so, or want to make the case for doing so, what tips can I give you, as someone who’s worked from home for 25 years?

Firstly, try to replicate the office environment at home. The acid test is this: if I had to show a work colleague or customer where I’m working (and I might, if video calls are part of the arrangement), would it look professional? It really should, if you’re going to be productive. A separate office room, shut away from family and distractions, is essential. Your desk and computer need to be office standard. If any of that is too tall an order, you shouldn’t be working from home.

Allied to that, look the part. I don’t know how customers on the phone can tell you’re wearing pyjamas, but they can. It must be something in your tone of voice. Somehow, work clothes make you sound more professional.

Secondly, remember that working from home should not be an attempt to get away from day to day responsibilities. If people can normally approach you in the office to ask or tell you something, they need to be able to do so just as easily if you’re working at home. Otherwise, inefficiency breeds. If your phone needs to be available for customers, use online messaging: Slack is the chat/discussion system of choice for many organisations nowadays. Indeed, it’s a good idea to call or initiate online chats with colleagues, to reassure them that you’re working. It makes you feel better too. I believe that email is for people who are away from the company, not those working from home.

Finally, keep to working hours, but remember to get outside too, even if it’s just to walk round the block and post a letter. For many years, I worked eleventy-stupid hours a day at home, because I wasn’t being thrown out of the office at 5.30pm. Nobody else in the company appreciated the effort, my family life was neglected, and I didn’t get paid a penny more.

Working from home full-time isn’t for everyone, and working from home obviously isn’t possible at all for a large number of people. But for many, regular days working from home can provide a refreshing change, as well as save a lot of commuting time.