One of the major flexible working debates within recent years was Yahoo preventing employees from working in the home office. BestBuy followed suit shortly after, but many prominent figures and companies, such as Richard Branson and Vodafone, spoke out against the decision. This article will show you how you can effectively work from a home office, and more importantly, the essential tools that you need.

Can you work from a Home Office?

Is your job one that can be done remotely? Do you have the facilities to work from home? Every job needs the right equipment; working from home unfortunately doesn’t allow you to cut any corners here. Are there any specific pieces of equipment that you rely on which can only be found at the office? If there are, and if they are needed on a daily basis, then you may struggle to work from outside the office. However, if it is a “now and then” case, there may still be the possibility of working from home. The home office equipment needs to be at a standard similar to that of the office; do you have a reliable internet connection? A capable desktop or laptop to run any resource intensive software that you use? Do you have a phone where people can easily contact you, or a good quality webcam to make face to face presence that little bit easier?

Tools of the Web, not the Hardware Store

Remote Access – We’ve all forgotten to rent that book from the library when an assignment was due; it’s an annoying feeling. The development of networking and dependence on the internet cause for the rise of remote access software. These programs, such as LogMeIn and GoToMyPc, allow you to access networks and other computers from a separate location. Don’t worry about backing up work onto a USB drive and then forgetting which one of seven versions you last edited; remote access allows you to access files from anywhere. If you only work with traditional Microsoft Office products, then Google Docs could be an alternative for you.

Face to Face – Despite the introduction of instant messaging, SMS, e-mailing and telephoning, nothing has triumphed face to face interaction. This allows your colleagues to remember who you are, lets your bosses see that you are awake and not still in bed, and helps to add a more personal touch to your daily routine. A few years ago, the only recommendable contender was Skype, and while it is still the kingmaker in the market, Google Hangouts is taking the market by storm, allowing up to 10 users to simultaneously partake in a conference, free of charge.

What? When? How much more? – Keeping on top of projects can be daunting, even when you’re in the office. Take the office out of the equation, and your left with an employee who isn’t really sure where their colleagues are in terms of progress. Time tracking software such as TimeTac allows you to keep on top of your workload by recording working times on specific projects and tasks. Progress and budgets are kept within grasp; you can also see when colleagues are going to be absent from the office, thanks to the leave planner. All recorded times are automatically transferred to a timesheet for your and your managers use. Never worry about filling out, scanning and e-mailing handwritten timesheets again, not to mention their inaccuracies! Let software automate the whole process for you!

Tools such as TimeTac help to

Tools such as TimeTac help to plan, organise and track your projects and tasks.

Make a Habit of it

Your home and home office are the same building, but don’t let the boundaries cross each other. Following these simple tips will ensure you can work productively in the home office, while being able to relax in the home.

  • Dress for it – resist the temptation to start right away in your pyjamas. Getting dressed after a shower in the morning puts you in the mindset to work. Your boss wants to see your working; not worrying about you falling back to sleep.
  • Shut them out – that means children, loved ones, pets and other distractions. They need to learn the boundaries that you have set out. Constant distractions will only lengthen your working day, decrease productivity, and result in strained relations. If you have the space, maybe a utility room or unused bedroom, think about converting it into an office. You will then have stricter control of your working life, and the commute will last less than 10 seconds!
  • Clean it – Don’t work in a messy or dirty home office. You will only get distracted, those via video conferencing will think you live on a farm or can’t organize yourself, and you will only use cleaning during the day to procrastinate!
  • Escape! – Don’t eat your lunch at the computer and don’t be afraid to go downstairs to make a coffee. A little break from the computer helps to maintain your working drive. Additionally, know when to shut down. Working from home allows flexibility; you can attend that conference call at 6 or 7pm easier than from the office, or you can visit the doctor at 10am without worrying, but don’t bring work into your personal life. Don’t pressure yourself into finishing a task that lasts until midnight; and on the other hand, don’t think it’s acceptable to start every day at midday!

What the Experts say

John and Sherry Petersik, happily married and co-authors of their self-founded site Young House Love, disclosed to the BBC the key factors in a successful work/life balance. (If they’re married and can survive, you have nothing to worry about!) Their advice consisted of creating a working day schedule, as you would at work, and making sure you stick to it in the home office. They also labelled the ability to distinguish between work and play, whilst remembering to close the door on work at the end of the day; which can often be hard when a child dictates your working hours. Most inspiration of all is their new year’s resolution technique; the ability to evaluate the work/life balance on an annual basis, and decide where to make alterations, often quite strict, but with the intention of preserving the best balance in life.

In our next article, we will discuss the idea of the home office from the point of view of a manager, and how you can convince them to allow working from a home office.