March last year saw a big change in my life. I went from being a public servant to working in the private sector. I went from being a leader of a team of around 13 people to working from home by myself, with my boss working from his home and their boss working as part of a larger team in another state. I went from having structure to having freedom. It’s been great and it’s had its challenges.
I always had a dream of working from home. I never thought that it would be realised, or at least thought that I would have to work for myself to make it happened. So when the chance to switch from public sector finance to working in IT (my dream) and do it from home, I didn’t hesitate. Well, I did have to think long and hard because I was making such a big change, but the pros far outweighed any cons.
So quite some time on, I have had some great times and some challenging times with this new setup. I thought I might talk about them since I know there are others who may be considering the change of working from home. It is something to really think carefully about, as it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
Firstly, there isn’t the same sort of structure that going to work day in, day out forced me to have. There is no commute to the office to put a definite break between work and home. I have to somehow switch my brain onto work mode in order to focus on the tasks for the day. It is very easy to be sitting at the computer and think “I know, I’ll go put a load of washing on.”
Now in my view there is nothing inherently wrong with that. As long as I manage my time well and you don’t try and bill for my load of washing, it can be a great benefit. It can become a problem though if I then think “oh, I could do a little bit of washing up” or I see some rubbish on the floor and tidy the lounge room up. Soon that five minute break is up to two hours and you’ve got yourself a long night of work ahead to catch up.
Another thing I struggle with is that it can be easy to be distracted by non-work things. If the computer you use for work is also the computer you use for other things, this means you can wander off and be doing something and feeling productive, only to find you you’ve just wasted 45 minutes on a Facebook debate or something else without even realising it. Worst still is that you can be constantly available to your colleagues if you leave your instant messaging client open or outlook open. And it can be temping to finish off a little bit of work if you have left it open by accident. Now have two logins on my computer – one for my work stuff and the other for my personal stuff. There are plans for me to get a work computer in the future and I can use a KVM switch to change between the two. That will be even better.
The two login thing works on two levels. Firstly, the moment I login to my work account, I’m at work. It is a little reminder to myself that now is the time for working. At the end of the day it is awesome to logout of that account and back into my normal account and feel like I’ve left all my work behind. Secondly, having two accounts means that I have two different sets of skype and IM contacts, and so people know if I’m at work or not and how available I am. It really helps with that.
Something I’ve had to force myself to do sometimes is to remember to have breaks. I’ve also had to force myself sometimes to return from that break. But on the other hand, it can be good when work is getting the better of you to just walk out for an hour and watch some TV or go to the shops and grab a coffee, knowing that you can come back later and work on it. You aren’t restricted to the work hours that an office locks you into. If you are awake at 12am and want to get some work done, it’s great. It means I can have some time off at some other point and still be on my way to my targets for the week. If I have an appointment during the day, I can go do that and still get work done later, or get up earlier and get it done.
I still struggle with structuring my work day though I think I have improved. What I would love to know is how you go about being productive, even if you aren’t working from home? What things do you do to know that you are still on track with your work? How do you lock out distractions? Are you lucky enough to work from home and want to share your story? Please, get in touch because I’d love to hear from you.
Ultimately I love working from home. It is allowing me to move from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and not have to worry about a daily commute. It allows me flexibility and autonomy. It has challenges and responsibilities that go with it, but I think they are well worth it at the end of the day. Could you do it? Have you, or do you, work from home? Let me know below.