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The Flexible Working Survival Kit

Okay, let’s say you may be floating somewhere on cloud nine by securing perhaps a new flexible working job, as a freelancer or starting your own business. All this allows you to work flexibly from or at home. If this is the case many congratulations.

Working flexibly from or at home is one of those odd concepts to wrap your head around. A bit like eating a large choc ice on a very hot day that always sounds great in theory. However, by taking on a large choc ice in 35° heat, it has to approached carefully, methodically and industriously. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a bit of a “two and eight” (rhyming slang for “state”) and quite possibly very sticky.

Making the case for Flexible Home Working

Though let’s be positive for a minute. Working flexibly from home – whether it’s a day out of the office every now and again, working for yourself or just something that you do because you just don’t have an office can be fun. You might have an actual boss somewhere, you can start early or late, have a leisurely breakfast and then, of course, start work in your pyjamas. Just as I am writing this article in my Jim jams (cosy Winceyette pyjamas and smoking jacket I hasten to add). Perhaps you take two and a half hours for lunch and watch a bit of daytime TV……right? Well along with the positives there are a few things from psychology that the home-based flexible worker may need to be aware of and plan for.

Making the Transition

Many H.R organisations underestimate the transitions toward flexible home-based working. Sometimes just thrusting a shiny laptop and smartphone in your hand and ushered away to get on with it. Not the most “person-centred” of strategies as I am sure you can appreciate.

Clearly as with most things in life and home-based working is no exception, it’s all about preparation, planning and discipline. You need to plan for regular breaks for example, as home-based workers generally underestimate the need for breaks. Its more ecologically friendly of course (lack of a commute) are all positive aspects of flexible home-based working though be prepared for the psychological fallout too.

Make Home Working – work

As mentioned before it’s all about planning and preparation. All parties involved with the transition may need to understand that you are at home and at work. What are the expectations of your line manager and or your clients/customers? Are you planning to see clients/line manager in your home office? If so how is that going to work if your workspace is in your bedroom or a corner of your front room? How are you going to manage children coming home from school whilst on an important call? They don’t know how these things work so perhaps some tricky negotiations with them may need to take place.

What about distractions i.e. daytime telly or household tasks? How will you stay on track with your goals and targets if no one if monitoring your progress? What about motivation with all those pesky I’m at home cues all around you. I am sure your house looks nothing like an office………… our’s certainty isn’t! Especially with a 10-year-old boy messing things up for me.

Clearly, it’s not all “what about” or “what if” questions, of course, it’s all about getting it right for you and your work. So hopefully this article will point you in the right direction and get you started working better from home.

Psychological Fallout

Studies into home-based working show it may be fraught with psychological pitfalls, as found by both my research and many others. The findings fall into a number of specific categories that tend to rear their heads on numerous occasions. So here just a few issues from research that may be worth thinking about before you dive in working from home.

All that aside here is a short checklist to consider before and after you start to work from or at home.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Your wellbeing is important – try not to become isolated staring at the same four walls at home day-in-day-out. Get out and meet people and colleagues regularly to help stave off stress and depression. Exercise is vitally important to stay focused and motivated. Walking is a great way to figure out those problems and issues in your work. So don’t neglect your wellbeing build it into a daily schedule.
  • Manage the stressors. Stress comes in many forms and can be relieved by the wellbeing strategies mentioned above. However, if we don’t have much control over workspace choice or there is noise around you or perhaps you feel you have become invisible to the business or your clients. Then things can be tough. All of those aspects can create stress that can leak out in different ways and behaviours. Start to gain control of the controllable. Make your workspace work friendly and figure out deadlines with your boss or clients that are stretching but achievable. Make sure your IT is up to the job, as research shows that having tech that lets you down without support really grinds our gears. Be honest with yourself and if you need help & support ask for it quickly.
  • Make sure you boss technology and it doesn’t boss you. Try not to take your smartphone or computer to bed just to be contactable by customers or the boss. It is clear that technology can be great but can have a detrimental effect on our relationships, health and sleep patterns. Make sure that when you are not at work you take a break from your tech when you can.
  • Think about how your home and workspace is going to function & flow. It’s tricky to sometimes think of your home as a place that you work in. We have distinct cognitive constructs and behaviours for both. So perhaps a morning commute may help you get you ready to work and back to family life again? Commuting can mean walking the dog or popping out for milk or just walking around the block. When you get back you will have a clear head and you are ready for work or get back to friends and family.
  • Be prepared for tricky negotiations with family members – ensure that the workstation/spaces are respected as just that. Can be awkward if children want to play and you are on the phone for example. So prepare the ground beforehand to create the boundaries.

These are just a few of the issues presented to a new home worker. Needless to say, there are many more depending upon your situation. This may depend on if you are a man or a woman, the type of flexible working arrangements and or the type of property you live in & work in. A large sprawling country estate may offer you the opportunity to spread out with a lovely office in your garden. Whereas a small inner city flat may present space challenges.

Lastly……….

So forearmed is forewarned and with some careful planning and discipline your flexible home and work life can be a great compromise for a lot of employees, freelancers and self-employed people. Get out and network, go along to work in a co-working space for a day or just meet colleagues. Just to have a cup of coffee and chat about your work and problems. Try not to become an island on your own.

Think about your workspace and how that is going to work. Avoid working on your laptop in front of the telly or having paperwork strewn over the kitchen table for the kids to scribble on. It will never end well.

Last but by no means least, plan your transition toward flexible home working. Make sure you take advice and guidance from anyone and everyone who can help you to be happy and successful working flexibly from or at home. Remember that lovely choc ice and how you need to manage it in the heat? Enjoy your ice cream and enjoy your time working at home – it’s the future don’t you know.

Drop us a line if you would like to hear more about our professional home-based working coaching strategies or perhaps just to ask a question about your home working experiences.

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