In the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, working from home has become an accepted way of fulfilling your employment obligations. Some employers have included work-from-home as part of the employment contract, others leave it up to the employee to decide what is best for the business and the employee.
Is working from home right for you?
If you are considering taking up a work-from-home option, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can I deal with the social isolation of a regular home office?
- Am I a self-starter and can I work without direct supervision?
- Can I deal with the personal and family demands of working from home?
For convenience, cost, and comfort, there’s nothing quite like a home office. You avoid the challenge of having to commute to and from work every day, as well as the associated transport costs. You are free of office politics and interruptions, and you will largely be able to set your own working hours.
On the other hand, you may be tempted to snack more frequently, spend more time in the garden or just daydream your time away. If your children are at home, you may be tempted to spend more time with them.
What do you need to set up a home office?
This will depend on the type of work you do, and the level of support provided by your employer. At the most basic level, you will need an office space, a workstation and chair, a laptop with a built-in camera, and a strong internet connection.
Even when working from home, you must be as professional as you would be in the office. So, it’s important to have a dedicated, interruption-free space, preferably a separate room, with a door, for you to work.
Inside your office space, you should have a serviceable workstation, such as a desk, as well as a comfortable and sturdy chair. You are going to be spending a great deal of time in this room so make it pleasant with pictures and plants. Pay attention to the space behind you as this will be visible in online meetings. Make sure it is neat and professional, in keeping with your role.
You may have to install additional electrical power points to run your laptop and other peripherals. You may require a printer and scanner. It goes without saying that you will require suitable online meeting application software on your device. You may have your own preference in this regard, or your company may have standardised on a specific application.
Depending on how many online meetings or training events you participate in, you may require headphones, a microphone and even a separate high-resolution camera. A dependable mobile phone is an essential requirement, but you would have this anyway.
Many government tax agencies allow you to deduct certain expenses, such as your data connection, your bond repayments, and your utility expenses, connected to the running of your home office. The specifics vary from country to country but usually require that you have a dedicated office that is used solely for the production of income. Consult your financial adviser in this regard.
This is often the most difficult aspect of working from home. It is so easy to slip into the kitchen for an extra cup of coffee, take a stroll in the garden, or tidy up the living room. And then there is the curse, or delight, of daytime television!
It is essential to have inviolable, set office hours for doing the work required of you. You may have some flexibility as to when in the day you do the work. Some folks take a two-hour lunch break to collect their children from school, but then catch up again later when they have gone to bed. Organise your time and stick to the schedule.
If you’ve tended to stay at the office until the work is done, operating from home is a workaholic’s dream come true. There’s always the temptation to write one more email, complete that report, or fill in your expense spreadsheet. It’s also enticing to sneak back into your home office after supper, to catch up on any late emails doing the rounds.
It’s important to be professional about your business but it’s also important you don’t let the office become your new home. Set your hours. Work a bit extra if you must. But then shut the door and put up the Closed sign.
Don’t isolate yourself
It’s easy to slip into a detached relationship with your fellow employees, where you communicate by impersonal texts or mail. You may develop a tendency to isolate yourself there or to avoid reaching out, which can be unhealthy.
Working for a business should give you plenty of opportunities to break away from the office, to meet other people socially and professionally, even if much of your business is conducted by phone and computer. Keeping in touch with others will keep you connected, bringing new ideas and generating lots of personal energy into things you value when working alone.
Working from home can make you more productive and improve your work-life balance. But you must set up your office correctly, impose suitable working hours and stick to them. Working from home can result in happier employees and raised productivity. It’s up to you to make it work for you.