[Photo: Rex Features]
Working from home is more popular than ever. In the UK, more than four million of us do it and with more companies offering flexible working and more people going self-employed, that number looks like it’s only going up.
But working from home is not all lay-ins and taking conference calls in your pyjamas. To earn your living from your living room, you need to be on your game, and it’s easy to get distracted when the TV is just there and no one else is around.
Here are some top tips to make you the master of the home office:
1. Dedicate some space for your home office
Not all of us who work from home have the luxury of a spare bedroom we can turn into an office, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to create a dedicated space to work in. “There are lots of great ideas for handy solutions,” says Rachel Doran, who founded artisan gift boutique Elsie & Fleur.
She suggests fitting a desk into an alcove. “If you can’t find a desk that fits, fix battens to the wall and attach a piece of wood to create the desk space you need,” she suggests. “If you have a built-in floor to ceiling cupboard that would suit, or a wardrobe, then it’s time to colonise it. It’s perfect for an office solution as you can just shut the doors on it once you’ve finished your day’s work.”
2. Create a workspace that you *actually* want to be in
The beauty of having a home office is that you are the only person that has to like it, so you can make as suited to your own tastes as you want. As Declan Curran, who runs property development company Empire Holdings, says, “Give the space what it needs to reflect your personality and make you feel welcome and at ease every time you enter – you’ll find the room much more productive.”
But when it comes to choosing furniture, go for comfort and function over style. For example, he says, pick a chair with good armrests, proper wheels, adjustable height and lumbar support. “You may not look forward to working in it, but you shouldn’t dread sitting in it.”
3. Get distractions out of the way
It’s easy to get sidetracked by household chores when you work from home. Hannah Martin, founder of the Talented Ladies Club for self-employed women, recommends doing little jobs, like putting on washing or clearing some dishes, in the morning before you start work, so it doesn’t bother you later.
“Not only will it remove any potential excuses for putting aside a tricky work task (it’s amazing how attractive washing up can suddenly become), but it’s much more pleasant to work in a clean and tidy home,” she says.
4. Behave like you would going to an office
That means dress like you would for the office, sticking to office hours, and taking a lunch break. “Always get up and dressed; don’t go straight to your desk in your PJs,” says Yorkshire-based freelance journalist Hannah Doyle. “And try to leave work at the end of the day, too (turn off the laptop, shut the office door.) I try to have a walk at the start and end of the day, and ideally at lunchtime. Get a dog.”
Kelly Rose Bradford, also a freelance journalist, says it’s important that your friends and family know to treat you like you’re at work. “And no, they can no more ‘just pop in’ than they would if they were ‘just passing’ your office block,” she says.
5. Be strict about time management
Make a plan a stick to it – might be boring, but it’s the advice that seasoned freelancers come back to again and again. “Map out your day the night before, with slots for various projects/pieces. Add in set times for checking/responding to emails and social media. Put in lunch/gym/tea/stretch breaks. Stick to religiously. Works a treat,” says Jane Alexander, journalist and author of Mindfulness & Wellbeing and The Overload Solution.
Head of content for social media agency Martis Media, Sarah Ingham says she keeps a “social list” of the friends and family that text or email non-work related stuff during the day. “I get back to them in the evening. No one gets forgotten about but also I don’t get distracted with long conversations,” she explains.
6. Accept some digital help
There are a host of apps that can help with productivity if you’re working from home. If you use Google Chrome, try the Stayfocusd plugin, which you can set to block Facebook and other distracting sites for a certain amount of time.
Other freelancers recommended Kanbanflow, a project management app that logs the time you spend on work. It’s great for keeping track of how long a project is taking you (so you can spot which jobs are more economical than others), plus it reminds you to take regular breaks to keep you sharp.
And for those who think silence is as distracting as music, check out A Soft Murmur, an app that plays generic background sounds, like rainfall or waves, to help keep you focused.
7. Set your “home time”
When you work and live in the same place, it’s so easy to keep work going late in to the evening, into your “you” time that should be spent winding down.
“Make sure you have a well-defined line between work and home life,” says freelance journalist Kate Saines. “Plan which hours you are going to work each week, and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to answer work emails in home time. I stack all my work things away in a box at the end of the day so I can’t see my notepad or diary.”
8. And don’t forget to leave the house!
Since going freelance, entire days have gone by when I haven’t left the flat, which is not good for either my physical or mental health.
“Get outside at least once per day, as close to nature as you. Leave you phone behind and have at least 15 minutes away from it so you can focus on nothing more than being outside and watching the world go by. Gardening is a great escape after having your head buried in research,” says Emily Gross, founder of groweatgift.com blog on home gardening. “Take screen breaks, and write lists that include self-care – and give it as much priority as work!”
Do you have any amazing tips for home working? Tweet us @YahooStyleUK.