I’ve been working from home for a while and it is truly my favourite way to work. But, I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are working from home challenges to consider.
I love many things about my day now, there is no commute (1 hour to drive 6 miles is not my idea of fun!). I’m my own boss too so no unreasonable behaviour from someone on a power trip. I pick what time I have lunch and I get to move around more. But, it’s not all easy, there are some challenges that come with working from home too.
It’s of note that some of the benefits of working from home have been reported as being:
Using my own experience, conversations with friends and family and of course the many statistics and reports there is a clear pattern of the biggest issues. Here they are:
Not switching off, the great working from home challenge
Surprisingly to me many people I know who had to work from home hadn’t been allowed to before. Convinced they would become lazy or slack off, bosses were reluctant to allow it.
Interestingly, the opposite seems to be true. With many businesses noting an increase in productivity and it seems that remote workers not only boss the workload, they in fact seem to overwork too.
When your office is just in the other room it can be hard to switch off. There is no definitive line, no physical difference between work time and home time and this can become a problem and lead to burnout.
What you can do to avoid overworking
Take regular breaks (schedule them if necessary by setting alarms or reminders)
Physically leave the house at the end of your day. Going for a walk after you’ve finished can help create a boundary
Make plans with your friends or family (even if it is a Zoom call)
Have a separate workspace if you can
Do not check work emails/texts on your phone out of hours
I consider myself an introvert and though this makes working from home a glorious thing it can mean I find it difficult, awkward or uncomfortable to reach out without reason. Whereas in an office environment you may find it more ‘natural’ to come upon a conversation oftentimes, working from home means you need to start that chat.
If not you may feel disconnected from any others that you’re working with. Your team, boss, staff or even clients.
Here is my advice for feeling connected
Communicate often, yes about projects or jobs but in general too
Make sure it’s clear amongst you all how to communicate. There are great tools that can help keep communication quick and easy. I prefer to use Slack for it’s chat room, direct message and groups/topic functions
Lack of motivation – working from home challenges 101
Although productivity appears to be higher, being self motivated and self disciplined can be really difficult.
Time management is key to successfully navigating the working from home challenges but it’s hard. It’s easy to put an extra load of laundry on or sofa surf whilst watching Netflix for an extra decadent lunch break!
How to make sure you get motivated and get work done
Work when your energy is high and schedule rest time for when it’s not. If you have a monthly cycle you’ll understand this, if not then just think of it as working at your optimum time to achieve the best results
Get better at to-do lists, make sure your top 3 priorities are there and then just a handful of smaller tasks too
Get the most important most crappy job done first and you can feel satisfied knowing it’s done and this will boost your motivation
Whilst you will notice the fewer distractions simply by not being in an office environment (no boss sitting on the edge of your desk or a nosy well-meaning co-worker trying to catch up) there are a whole load of other interruptions to your day that will become a challenge of it’s own.
I’m talking about people knocking at the door, salesmen, delivery drivers, friends who are in the area. It will happen more than you realise and every time it does you will be thrown off your game. Or there’s the well meaning relatives that think since you’re working from home they can pop by and keep you company for a while.
Don’t even get me started on the dog!
How to manage interruptions
Be honest with the people in your home about when you’re working and explain what this means
Be firm but fair with your friends and family. It’s OK to turn people away if you’re busy
Don’t let yourself become the neighbourhood parcel taker in. This is an easy habit to fall into but can be avoided
Stick to your workspace if you can (I also sometimes wear noise cancelling headphones, no music just quiet)
Isolation a sometimes crippling working from home challenge
I must admit I don’t generally experience loneliness yet, it’s arguably one of the biggest issues raised. I wrote a little about it in an earlier blog pot. Read it here.
According to that Finder, working from home statistics report I mentioned earlier, 5% of Brits can be categorised as ‘chronically lonely’ (this is specifically related to lock-down too) with, I think somewhat understandably, most of these falling into the living alone category.
Here are a few top tips to reduce loneliness and isolation
Make a point of scheduling time to meet with people. Friends/family/colleagues on a social basis. Even if this is via face time or in a socially distanced way.
Join groups that relate to your hobbies and interests. At the moment with the pandemic raging, many have gone online and become virtual so you still can.
Talk to people. Share your feelings. You would be surprised how many people feel exactly the same but don’t want to burden you
What do you thing? What challenges have you experienced?
If like me you’re running a business, working, building a family, running a home, dating, trying to stay fit and healthy and loving on your fur baby then you my friend are probably sick of calendars and diaries and trying to fit it all in.
I hate being over scheduled. Whilst I love organisation I feel utterly hemmed in when I have a rigorous itinerary or routine each day. Personally, I think it’s one of the reasons running my own business is the best option for me.
That being said, I also hate trying to cram everything in or realising I’ve forgotten something essential (like scheduling my content before going on a ‘disconnected’ holiday or arranging some jabs for my son)
It will probably come as no surprise then, that I’m a firm believer in flexible scheduling using an old tried and tested method called time blocking. I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before and it’s just not your thing. That’s ok, firstly you don’t have to read on if you really don’t think it’s for you but if you’re not sure and wonder whether it’s worth a retry then this is a great way to do it.
It’s a fairly simple tool. I simply block off chunks of each day and assign a main goal to each chunk, I don’t complicate it more than that. If necessary, I will list the things a few things it’s essential for me to do in that time related to that goal i.e. Money making activities – [send new invoices and chase up unpaid invoices]. I also do my level best to stick to those times like glue. When that slot is up I stop.
It can take a bit of getting used to but once I know that timer is set I find my momentum (I also do this for household chores – don’t judge me)
The best thing is that everyday I schedule an unplanned slot for me to do whatever the hell I feel like. It’s crazy how effective this is. I remember the August bank holiday weekend I used this unplanned slot to nap and have a bath it was 10am -12 noon! I had been to see Ed Sheeran the day before and had worked from 7am till 10am when I realised I was knackered and hot. I got so much done in the later time blocks because I had just refreshed myself by doing exactly what I fancied.
I also score through a day each week to not work at all. I might jot down notes or thoughts but they are dealt with the day after. Doing this makes me feel like I have permission to have time away from the business too which reduces the guilt.
If you’re unsure about time blocking my 5 top tips are:
Use a tool that works for you. If you are glued to your mobile – use your calendar on your phone / if you love a bit of paper and a pen use an actual calendar or a diary
Time block for work according to your mental energy levels – if you work best first thing then this is when you should put in your business blocks, if you are a night owl then this is where they should be
Make sure you have accounted for things like birthdays and events so don’t time block for more than a week in advance, do a quick once over on a Friday and check the plans for the week to come. What day can you have off? What things are occurring and when – I’m talking about the things that you MUST do? All of these will have a baring on when you time block for the week ahead.
Cluster like for like tasks – I always time block 2 x 3 hour blocks for content each month. This allows me to write all my blog posts and outline my newsletters for the month to follow. 6 hours in a month blocked out means that’s exactly how long it takes me to write 3 x blog posts a week, draft 1 x newsletter a week, script 1 x audio a week and 1-2 videos a month. 6 hours and I get it done because I know that’s all the time I have.
Eat the frog. When you’re time blocking make sure you’re addressing the stuff you don’t enjoy or stress out about the most as your first tasks. They take up a lot of mental and physical energy and will hamper your productivity all round. Getting them dealt with sooner rather than later will mean it’s off your plate and you can focus on the other stuff.
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I was supporting a wonderful man today to find some clarity in his own business. If you ever met him you might think of him as old school. Not particularly comfortable with technology and truly focused on the outcome for his clientele.
He is beloved by his colleagues and his clients alike and I always get a blast when I wok with him.
The thing is, he wants so badly to do hings the right way that he often ends up procrastinating and then cancelling meetings or feeling overwhelmed with everything he has to do.
He came to me because he wanted to work on his workload management but chatting with him I suggested that his issue is simpler than that – when it comes to organising his workload, he is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Have you ever found yourself doing that?
Bristling at a change you have tried to make or a new habit you’ve tried to form, finding it really blooming hard to make it stick? Good examples of these sorts of ‘square peg, round hole’ scenarios are…
Trying to get up an hour earlier (but ALWAYS hitting snooze)
Deciding to meal plan but finding yourself running around Sainsburys at 9.59pm every other night like a mad woman
Planning on hitting the gym 3 times a week but realising its been 3 months since you did
Getting excited about sending out your invoices regularly every month (and chasing them) but finding yourself with a stockpile of unpaid invoices and ever increasing bills every.damn.time.
Together we work-shopped for just 30 minutes on managing his workload and the key to successfully achieving anything for him is to work to his strengths. His process is (to the rest of us) chaotic but to him it’s passionate, caring and overwhelmingly person centred. The reason being more organised hadn’t stuck was because he was trying to be organised in a way that suited other people.
He loves an old school diary (pen and paper for the win!) and if it’s in there he is committed. So why on earth would we set him up on Asana or focus on his outlook calendar and use that to block out workload management time?
My first port of call is always to get clear on what is already on your plate. So that’s what we did today – we broke down all of his work and built a narrative around why he does the things he does. We chose that turn of phrase as it’s one of the ways he works with his own clients, it sits well with him and something using his language and his skill set.
In his business, he’s trained to look for changes in his clients lives and work so he’s great at spotting patterns, negative triggers and building in strategies that provide positive support using their own strengths. We decided that this is exactly what he needs to do for himself.
Playing to those strengths, we broke down his current workload, used his paper diary to block out small bite-size chunks for reflective workload management (30 minutes every week which he will do at home in the evening with a nice glass of red wine). We also created a simple printable template of his workload as at today where he can simply note any significant changes during this reflective time.
I gave him 3 key questions that I am going to work on him with during our next 30 minute workshop next month and he will use his printable, notes and reflective time to draw up a narrative response to each.
There are a number of reasons why this ‘bite-size person centred method’ works for him
He gets to jot things down in his diary and on the template
He is aware of the three questions that I will ask him so he feels less pressured to be perfect (there are no right or wrong answers)
It’s a short burst of time when he feels he is the most reflective on his day which works particularly well with his chaotically creative mind.
Importantly, he can connect with the way we are doing it because he works in the same way when he’s focused on his clients.
Last but not least he can have some fun whilst doing it (hence his choice of a glass of red wine) this makes it something he associates with a positive feeling.
I’m looking forward to sharing how we get on with operation ‘organised chaos’!
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