Feel like your workplace cubicle is closing in on you? If the flexibility of working from home is taking hold of your thoughts – tracky dacks, no commute, volunteering at the kids’ school, the chance to style-up your workspace, and the option to have Rover keep your lap warm as you work …
Executive coach Kim Vella shares her dos and don’ts.
When you’re a small business owner or freelancer working from home, it’s important to define the ‘culture’ of your home workplace. For me this means two things. How I can have fun at work? How I can reward myself for achieving outcomes? Sometimes I combine the two and work from local cafes. The vibe or view helps motivate me, I am able to interact with staff, and there is free WiFi. Other times, I take long walks with my dog in the middle of the day or set aside time to listen to read a book.
Make your space stylish and functional
You don’t need to get an interior designer, just a space that reflects your style and is functional – for you. This area is a massive work-in-progress for me (think cupboards that aren’t organised and the empty space where my chaise lounge is going, when I eventually get one!). I keep my office space dedicated to work to help minimise distractions and to create a sense of not being at work when I’m not there.
This approach won’t work for everyone. For freelance graphic designer and mum, Leysa Flores, who works from home in Albury, NSW, a flexible workspace is a must.
“My space has to be portable. I chose the most comfortable area of the house where I can have my kids around me. This is the best way for me to work – the kids are happy because I’m right there, and I can still get things done,” she says.
Don’t while away your time
Time management is just as important when you’re working from home. Set up a schedule and routine, and diarise meetings with clients, meeting with self, family stuff, finances, business development – everything. If you’re keen, or if you’re finding you get to the end of the week and don’t know where your time has gone, you can also track your hours to measure your productivity. There are plenty of free-hours-tracking apps that are easy, intuitive and quick to use. You can also monitor your breaks to make sure you’re taking enough of them, and are keeping refreshed.
Keep calm and embrace technology
Technology will be your biggest office asset (unless you have a prestige chaise lounge, of course). Think web-based meeting software for group meetings, web-based scheduling software so clients can book meetings with you 24/7, scanning apps so you can keep track of receipts for expenses, a printer, if you really need one, and my personal favourite – dictation software.
Kim Tuaine, founder of SupraLegal, says investing in IT is critical. “You need to use cutting-edge technology. Our business model is about not passing on unnecessary administrative costs to clients and giving clients price certainty. They know their matter is being dealt with by a senior lawyer, not a lower level administrative staff member. We found that cloud-based technology works best for us.”
Using the cloud also allows everyone in a virtual team to access information and provides relevant access controls. With the cloud you can also take your home office on the road, which particularly handy when you’re meeting clients off-site or soaking up the ambiance at your local cafe. Smaller devices such as mini iPads or iPhone 6s are also more convenient than laptops, which can become heavy to lug around after a while.
Being connected to a tribe of like-minded professionals is valuable, whether you work from home or otherwise. I recently joined Canberra Women in Business, which is a great place to connect with and support other local women in business. You can network digitally (LinkedIn and Facebook) but I don’t like to network exclusively via social media. Stay connected to your tribe in person – working from cafes and meeting people in your network on a regular basis is a fun way to avoid the isolation.