Because all of the tools to work at home efficiently are at your disposal… but all you want to do is watch TV in your PJs, with a bag of crisps in hand. Here’s everything you need to know so that doesn’t happen… and so that you can work from home like a boss.
What does a typical working day look like, these days? Meetings via Skype. Managing your colleagues’ workload over Trello or Asana. Slacking… with other clients and companies.
And typing out your super-important presentation while wearing fluffy slippers and a dressing gown. No doubt, technology has revolutionised the way we work – and where we can work from. Now that the local Starbucks can double as a casual interview/meeting spot, there’s no limit to the possibilities of a more relaxed-looking work life. From home.
Which is why the nook in our kitchen, the shed in the backyard or the attic loft has become our ideal home office, at least for the roughly six million remote workers in the UK (according to the Government Business website).
While working from home sounds like a dream, those who do it knows it requires some serious discipline. And no, watching half a series of Stranger Things because you’re the only person on Earth who hasn’t seen it yet and then doing 20 minutes of Internet surfing doesn’t count as a morning well spent. It’s also essential to teach yourself how to switch off from all things domestic – or get yourself to a coffee shop with great Wi-Fi, stat. Do not let yourself get distracted by that towering pile of dishes you can spot out of the corner of your eye while typing away. Do. Not. Do. It.
With a few tips, the right apps and a multi-tasking home communications hub at your fingertips (i.e. your smartphone), working from home has never been easier. Here’s what you need to know so that you need never set foot in an office again. Unless you want to.
Stick to a schedule
The first rule when it comes to working from home? Pretend you’re going to (actual) work. Get up at a good time, have your shower, get dressed for the day ahead, eat breakfast and do whatever else you would do if you were about to hop on a train to the office.
But instead of opening the front door, just head upstairs and settle down at your computer to start the workday like a real person. It’s so easy to get distracted by anything and everything in your home – TV, books, laundry, organising drawers as a procrastination tactic – and with no one looking over your shoulder, you’re the one holding yourself accountable.
Adopting office hours and setting goals for what you need to achieve that day and week will help you maintain discipline – a tricky thing when you’re managing yourself. And don’t forget to plan some breaks and think ahead: don’t spend three hours making a lasagna for lunch when you could have reheated that soup you made yesterday that’s in the fridge.
Apps like Asana and Trello, a real-time bulletin board of sorts, can help you manage your workload and prioritise your projects so you have a game plan of what you need to get done… so that you can find a spare 30 mins in the afternoon to devote to watching videos of baby sloths on replay.
Get a home-fi box
Once upon a time, every single freelancer and work-from-homer who had the good fortune (or misfortune, depending on the circs) to move would spend a restless three-to-six week period waiting desperately for a broadband connection to be installed so they could work again.
As we all know, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A HOME OFFICE WITHOUT AN INTERNET CONNECTION. Dongles were bought, you probably sat on a street corner desperately trying to pick up signal as you frantically typed an article that was due in the next 20 minutes. And, of course, as you despaired, you drank about 4,000 Frappuccinos in Starbucks so that you could use the Wi-Fi there…
Just us, then?
No longer will this be an issue for the telecommuter: with our Home-Fi box, you don’t need a fixed phone line to get a quick and functional broadband connection. You don’t even need wires: just plug in the box and you’re connected. It couldn’t be easier.
And it’s ideal for lots of people: those living somewhere remote, those renting a space for a short time, people who have just moved somewhere new, or anyone who’s dealing with patchy Internet and needs it not to be. So, all work-from-homers, then. Buy the box, plug it in, get connected – it doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Never drop a call again
The whole problem with working from home is that you want to convey an air of professionalism, but simultaneously sit in your PJs eating Quavers as you type. So long as you deliver, no one needs to know that you’re sitting on the couch dressed as Olaf while your four-year-old prances around you in a Princess Elsa costume.
However, when you do need to interact with other people – say, on the phone – you’ll want to keep background noise to a minimum (yes, you are allowed to turn on the TV for your child – it might be your only hope of getting five uninterrupted minutes).
You’ll also want to make sure that your phone line isn’t fuzzy or that you don’t sound like you’re somewhere in Siberia when you’re really just in Kent. Enter 4G Super-Voice.
At Three, we believe in giving all our customers our low-frequency 4G Super-Voice (available in areas with 4G coverage) and in making indoor blackspots a thing of the past, we’ve even put together our favourite reasons to fall in love with Super-Voice. So no matter where you’re working from, if you’re in a 4G-connected area, you’ll get 4G signal so you can make calls, and not worry about dropping the other person on the line. We’ve currently got 84% of the UK population covered indoors, and we’re continuing to roll out this blackspot-busting feature to more places across the country this year.
Not in a 4G-friendly zone? No problem. The Three inTouch app (embedded on Three handsets, or you can download it from the App Store), allows your smartphone to use your Wi-Fi hotspot as a network mast, so you have signal wherever you need it.
To achieve the optimal work-from-home situation, you’ll want a phone contract that lets you do everything you need it to, from texting your colleagues to organise meet-ups, to a personal hotspot allowance so you can keep working in transit, as well as no roaming costs abroad if your work takes you from your UK home to an Airbnb in Australia for a week.
Check out our Contract SIM plans – currently available with double data (4GB for the price of 2GB, or 8GB for the price of 4GB on 12-month SIMs) so that your phone can be what you need it to be: an uber-reliable personal assistant.
Embrace the man cave
Or the she-shed. Or a room of one’s own, to borrow from Virginia Woolf. But frankly, if you don’t have a room, then a tidy desk will do. Or even working from home in your bed if that’s the space in your house that isn’t overflowing with plastic tat (otherwise known as your children’s toys) and piles of dirty shoes. Really, any place you won’t be tempted to faff will do.
Having a space to call your own (even when you don’t have the luxury of much space), where you feel at ease and calm, is essential when trying to work from home. Add background music, mood lighting, and whatever else it takes to get you into “work mode.”
Top tip: Noisli provides background noises to help you maximize productivity and bring some soothing nature sounds to your workspace.
One of the things you might miss when you start working from home is the camaraderie and buzz of an office environment. You might be more productive when no one’s around, but you’ll also be lonelier, and you won’t have someone sitting next to you to bounce ideas off of or look over your email before you send it to that important client.
Enter Slack, the messaging platform that is all about fluid and creative communication (in lieu of the more formal and time-consuming email), which lets you chat and message in a casual water-cooler way, wherever you are. Or get on group-messaging app Group Me to communicate with your team, ideal for when you’re all in different places (or countries).
While you don’t want to feel like a hermit, you also don’t want to lose yourself in a Facebook-stalking spiral for three hours. Avoid the myriad distractions on your computer when trying to work with the SelfControl app, which will block social networking sites and other potential time-wasters.
Main pic: Pexels via Stokpic