So I’ve been working from home for almost a year now, and I’ve always wanted to reflect on the experience. The reason being, is that working from home seems to be a liberty that many want to experience (being free from the reigns of corporate shackles and all that) – but it’s not until you experience it that you begin to understand that it may or may not be for you.
1 in 12 Australians currently work from home. What are some of your top tips for staying sane?
In this post I’m going to cover what I feel are the pros and cons to working from home, please bear in mind that the perspective I’m coming from here is:
- Working on my own company
- Living in Australia
- Married with 2 kids
- Wife is a SAHM
So some of the things I experience may be different than your own situation (say for example you’re a single person working at home for a corporate company). But hopefully it still translates ☺
Let’s start with the good stuff shall we. Here’s some of the things that I think make working from home awesome.
The first thing you’ll notice is how much freedom you have, even the simple things like not dreading going to work on a Monday morning or just catching up with someone for coffee when you feel like it. These small things really add up to make you feel more in control of your own destiny, liberated from the cog in the corporate wheel.
The flexibility extends beyond just the normal day to day interactions though. It opens up the possibility to travel around the world or live in a remote location to do your job.
A digital nomad is someone who uses the flexibility to travel around the world, living a cheaper more independant lifestyle – all whilst managing their business online.
This is something that I’d absolutely love to do, and maybe if I was in a similar position 10 years ago I’d already be doing it. But once you settle down, have a mortgage and kids the transition to get up and just travel becomes a lot more difficult due to all the commitments you have in place.
There’s some fantastic resources for those looking to explore the Nomadic lifestyle:
- 1 Year As A Digital Nomad by @yongfook
- Nomad List – The Best Cities To Work Remotely
- Start Planning Your Next Nomadic Adventure by @nomadicmatt
- 22 Things I’ve Learned As A Digital Nomad by @spartantravel
- Being A Digital Nomad With Your Family
No More Morning Commute
I live about an hour outside Melbourne in a suburb called Chelsea. Travelling into the city every day takes up about 3 hours of working time.
Working from home allows me to reclaim this time and put it to a different use. The key thing about this is deciding how you want to use it.
But for me it usually falls into a few buckets:
- Get up super early (6am) and work for 3 extra hours
- Sleep in until 9am and start work right away
- Look after the kids for a few hours and give the wife a sleep-in
- Get up and relax, make breakfast, shower and just chill out
I find that this extra time allows me to get all of the start of day tasks out of the way before getting into some real work. For example, I’ll normally have a lot of emails when I wake up (since we have a large proportion of customers in the USA) – this time in the morning allows me to service these customers quite a bit faster than if I’d be arriving at the office at 9am.
You Can Wear Whatever You Like
I’ve always had a strong feeling that I feel people work best when they’re comfortable. One of the advantages to working from home is that you can feel as comfortable as you like, even if this means staying in your pyjamas all day.
Some days I’ll get up and be so focused on work that I’ll forget to shower, or get changed. Other days I’ll get up and feel like I want to be fresh before sitting down to start work. This all comes back to the flexibility we talked about earlier, you have the choice to decide how you want to work that day.
No Office Politics Or Corporate Restrictions
When you work from home, office politics are a thing of the past. You don’t have to worry about people constantly interrupting you, or asking you to do things or getting dragged into unecessary meetings.
This all might be different depending on how you run your own business (and what type of business it is), but I’ve made clear decisions that I want our staff that work on Gleam to be independant, have the ability to stay focused, and most of all feel liberated to make the best decisions about their work.
Another thing I really dislike is being restricted, it was one of the things about the corporate world that I felt reduced my productivity the most.
My laptop used to be so locked down that I’d waste days trying to get permissions just to install a simple program that I needed, or there was so much corporate bloat on the machine that it was just so slow I could never get any work done.
You don’t have any of these problems when you work from home, you buy the hardware that you want to work on and that you feel most comfortable using ☺
You Can Spend More Time With Your Family & Friends
One of the biggest positive changes for me was being able to spend more time with the family. Previously I’d not usually be getting home from work until after 7pm, now I can finish anytime (usually 5pm) and I can instantly help out with dinner, play with the kids, and put them to bed every night ☺
You can also spend more time with your friends, do more lunches, and generally be more flexible to meet people whenever your schedule allows.
You Can Make Your Home Office Comfortable
I really like my creature comforts. This means having good equipment and a quiet space to get my work done. Luckily I have an office in my house that’s away from all the distraction and noise of the living area.
For a long time I had a terrible chair. I recently invested in a Herman Miller Aeron (which I didn’t like at first), but now I absolutely love sitting on it.
I have my workstation setup just the way I want it, with two large screens and some nice noise cancelling headphones to improve my focus.
I even have a mini-heater at my legs to keep me warm in the winter.
For me, comfort and being able to choose my own hardware (and software) ultimately makes me more productive. So this particular change suited me very well.
Minimal External Distractions
I discussed this a bit earlier, but when you work from home it’s much easier to shut out external distractions (ones that you can’t really control yourself).
For example, people can’t just casually walk past your desk and throw more work at you, or interrupt your flow of work.
And even if you do use something like HipChat or Slack, you can just turn them off when you want to focus. This is a real plus side of working with a remote team.
Vastly Increased Productivity
Working from home has vastly increased my productivity, I find myself able to focus on tasks and get them done much faster.
This also means that I need to do a lot more planning, so I don’t find myself without anything to do. I just use Github to keep a running task list of everything I’m working on, plus all the ideas of things I’d like to get done. I’ll keep a list of micro tasks, then a list of macro tasks that I’m working towards (which might be a product release).
You Save Money
Working from home has a lot of financial advantages that you often overlook. When working in the corporate world, I used to love going out for a nice lunch every day – which could cost anywhere up to $20/day. Now I just cook my own lunch, and it costs me nowhere near as much. There’s also less after work drinks, and any other snacks that usually get bought during the course of a work day.
The second part, which is probably more significant is that you can claim back a lot of the expenses that you incur when working from home.
- I can write off any equipment I buy against company tax, this includes hardware and office equipment (like the Herman Miller chair).
- I can write off heating, phone, internet based on the percentage I use for business
This ends up providing a significant benefit when working from home, I can easily afford to have the best equipment to ensure I’m doing my work effectively.
It’s not all roses and buttercups, there’s are significant challenges to overcome when you work from home. Almost every upside mentioned above has a downside, and it all depends how you personally manage it.
Loved Ones Start To Rely On You More
Probably the most signifcant change is how working from home can impact your family life. All of a sudden you’re around more, you’re more reliable, and soon people will start to take that for granted.
A few examples:
- Your partner starts to ask you for more help with things around the house (when you’re supposed to be working).
- You may take on more responsibilities for looking after the kids, or picking them up.
- Commute time can turn into family time, even if you plan to do work before the normal working day starts.
- Your kids may constantly pester you for time
All of this can be managed if you set some ground rules and try to be strict about how your family is allowed to interact with you during work time. I’ve found that there’s a happy medium here of helping out whilst also maintaining a good work balance (YMMV depending on the relationship with your family).
You may also find that you have pets like Charlie Murphy (above), who sit and give you looks all day long in an attempt to get you to take them for a walk.
You Miss The Banter Of The Office
There are downsides to not working in an office. You don’t get the same level of social interaction with people every day, you might not talk to anyone, or you might only talk to your colleagues on Slack. You don’t get to experience the same close friendships that you might form with others in the office, or get invited to after work drinks.
You Will Need To Work On Self Discipline & Focus
As they say: With great power comes great responsibility. Now that you’re a free agent you could just choose to bum around and not do much work at all, you could browse Reddit all day, or play computer games – and there’s no-one to tell you otherwise.
Here’s a great video to help you put things into perspective.
Lunchtime Becomes Boring
Remember all that fancy food you used to eat out every day in the city? Well now you’ll be cooking your own lunches, and unless you can put in the time to make them scrumptious you may find yourself just eating boring (and possibly unhealthly foods each day).
You Can Easily Become Overworked
This one in particular is a huge negative, depending on how you manage it.
When you work from home, there’s much less separation between working and not working. Before, you weren’t working until you got to the office, and also after you left the office. But, when you work from home the lines blur quite significantly until you might find yourself working for 12+ hours per day, even skipping meals because you’re so focused on work work work.
You Can Become Too Comfortable
Working from home can put you in a state of disconnect. Being at home allows you to get extremely comfortable with your surroundings, to the point where you end up leaving them less, and less.
It’s important to manage this, to save your own sanity and that of those around you (some tips on this below).
Some Of My Top Tips For Working From Home
Here’s some of the things that I’ve found work really well for me, they might work well for you too!
Sleep Early & Get Up Early
I work best when I’m well rested and free from distractions. If I can get to bed by 9 or 10PM this allows me to easily get up at 6AM and have a good few hours of work completed before the family wakes up.
Spend A Few Days Per Week In A Co-working Space
It really does pay to get out of the house, for your own sanity. I try to do this on Mondays and Fridays.
Find a few nice local co-working spaces and just work out of there for the day. But make sure you do other things that make use of your time in the city:
- Treat yourself to a nice cooked breakfast
- Go out and have lunch
- Attend any events or meetups that might be on
- Meet up with friends or ex-collegues
- Join up with friends for after work drinks on a Friday
- Hang out in co-working spaces trying to make friends or help others out
When I was working in Melbourne, I’d probably walk anywhere up to 5km every day during my commute. Now the most I walk is from my office up to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, which is bad.
It’s important to stay fit and to set aside time each day to look after yourself. I’ve found a few things have really helped me out here:
- Get yourself a set of resistance bands, they are awesome
- If you have a pet, take them out for a walk as often as possible
- I play a little game where I do 10 pushups and situps every time I make a cup of tea
- Get up and walk around every hour or so if you’re sitting down
- Check out a local gym and work a session into your schedule 3 times a week (after all you have the time for it now)
Create A Music Playlist That Helps You Focus
I use YouTube to create a playlist of music that helps me focus. I then put the playlist on shuffle, put my headphones on and get to work.
Get Shit Done
There’s lots of facets to the working from home equation. But we mostly do it for one reason, to grow our business. Whether you’re working on amazing content, hustling to get those first clients or putting together your next email newsletter there is no doubt that working from home gives you the ideal platform to maximize your efficiency.
Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things
We hope you’ve found these tips useful! If you have any of your own just leave them in the comments.