For many people the ultimate dream is to escape from the rat race and work from home. To some people who have achieved this dream it has turned into the ultimate nightmare!
With the every day stresses of life, work and commuting, working from home can appear to be the way out, but it is not as easy and idyllic as it sounds. If you are seriously thinking about setting up in business on your own and working from home, what are the pitfalls and what can you do to avoid them?
Understanding Your Motivation
It can be too tempting to stay in bed for ‘a little longer’ when you are working at home. The need to get up and beat the early morning traffic or to be at your desk by 8.30am is missing when you only have a short walk to your new place of work.
If you are to be effective in your new work environment you have to find a motivator which is sufficiently strong enough to get you up and about and at your desk by your appointed time. To find out what your motivator is cast your mind back to why you wanted to work from home in the first place. Was it to spend more time with the family? Was it to give you freedom to pursue other interests?
If you don’t find these strong enough to get you out of bed, find a financial reason. Visualise you and your family being thrown out of your house because you couldn’t up the mortgage payment! Keep this image in mind and the next time you find yourself staring at the bedroom ceiling raise this image and you’ll quickly find yourself at your desk!
Establish a Routine
We are all creatures of habit and a set routine can help keep us motivated and focused on the job in hand. Set yourself a starting time, a tea break and lunch break etc. A set routine can help you settle into your new role much more quickly than a ‘let’s see what happens today’ approach. Without a working schedule, which includes a finite finishing time to the day, your working day will be unfocused and could stretch late into the night, ending what ever social life you may have.
You’re All Alone
Working from home can be a lonely existence. As human beings we are born to seek out contact with other humans. In an office environment there is daily contact, quick 10 minute chats at the coffee machine finding out what colleagues did the night before, and someone to celebrate a big sale with. All of this is essential to making our lives feel complete and yet this is missing from a home-based business.
To overcome this feeling of isolation, which will be especially pronounced during your early months, you must establish a network of people who are in the same position as you. Agree that you will talk on the phone at least twice a week, and arrange to have lunch or a quick coffee once every 2 weeks. Your family may not be the right people to talk over a business problem with, so you have to find someone who can relate to your successes and problems.
Get Out of The House
Staying in the house Monday to Friday without seeing the light of day is certainly not good for your health or state of mind. You may be so focused on your work that you convince yourself you cannot afford the time to leave the house. But this is a false economy. You have to schedule time to move out and experience a different environment.
As well meeting your fellow home workers for a regular get together, join a health club, go for a swim once or twice a week, go to the cinema, check out your local Business Link to see what seminars they are running – anything to get you out of the house! Don’t get trapped into only working, eating and sleeping in your home.
These days you can do most work-related tasks away from your home desk. Once your business is established invest in a laptop, PDA and a good mobile phone. Armed with these devices you can take your office with you and work from your garden, the local park, or even the library. It doesn’t matter where, just as long as you are out of the house and being around the rest of the human race.
Create an Office
If you have been used to working in a formal office environment all your working life, then switching to the kitchen table or the spare room can be an unwelcome distraction. To give you that discipline and focus designate a part of the house as your office. If you have a spare room or study then even better. Buy a desk and office chair, filing cabinets and other office-style stationery. Remove all family and home-related items so this tells your mind that you are at work and not home.
In any office you have too many colleagues and clients visiting you to allow your work area to get cluttered. At home it’s different. Unless you are expecting clients on a regular basis then it’s too easy to allow your paperwork and filing to get out of hand. The saying that a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind is true. Your efficiency and productivity will suffer unless you are organised. Buy filing cabinets, box files, waste paper bin, put up shelves, so that everything is in place.
Getting organised and being efficient also includes setting the ground rules with the family. They need to understand that you are at work and not at their beck and call for every little job that needs doing. Be firm and say no unless it is very urgent and requires immediate attention. Allow nothing to get in the way of your business.
Working from home can be a liberating experience, yet at the same time it can be dangerous unless properly handled. Before embarking on your home business, take time to plan and prepare how you are going to deal with the transition. Done correctly, working from home can be a very attractive alternative to the daily grind of the office.