On this site, we provide a huge amount of practical advice about home working – but we don’t always celebrate it enough.
With that in mind, I thought it was high time I wrote something about how to make the most of working from home.
Being based in your own home brings many benefits – not least the fact you don’t have to waste a HUGE amount of time commuting. A recent study showed that the average American spends the equivalent of 19 full work days in traffic each year. Think what you can do with that time in ONE year – let alone when you extrapolate it over your working life.
I’m writing this just as summer has started. This is the time of year when I most appreciate working from home. I’m able to adapt my schedule so that I can make the most of the weather, do some of my work outside, and be spontaneous about changing my plans. I can no longer imagine a working life that’s not like that.
Strangely, however, I encounter plenty of home workers who don’t make the most of working from home. They somehow morph into their own “mean bosses.” One of the objectives of this article is to remind people that there are many ways to tackle a work day. None of them are “wrong,” even if you’ve been conditioned to feel guilty for not sticking to “traditional” hours and working practices.
So have a read and see what YOU could do to enhance your quality of life with home working.
Remote Working or Freelancing?
Just before we begin, I should point out that I do appreciate that there are different types of home working (check out my remote working vs freelancing podcast here). Not every home worker has same amount of freedom. I love the freelance lifestyle because I answer to NOBODY regarding how I structure my days.
Remote jobs aren’t quite the same, but progressive employers are increasingly judging staff on output, and allowing considerable flexibility. Check out our list of remote first companies for some examples.
I mention this distinction because you may not have full freedom to implement every strategy I suggest. If freelancing is of interest to you, check out my Freelance Kickstarter course.
How to Make the Most of Working from Home
1. Tweak your Hours
Everybody has different times of the day when they’re most productive, and times when it’s practical to get more done – for example around childcare and other commitments.
Some people like to rise really early and get things done without disturbances. I’m currently aiming to get “finished” by mid afternoon most days, in order to get out and enjoy the sunshine. I then do a couple of hours (of not particularly taxing tasks) in the evening, after the children are in bed.
Sticking to a rigid nine to five may be the best thing for you, and it broadly works for me. However, it’s always worth tweaking things to suit you even better. Admittedly, this could be easier for freelancers than remote workers, but most bosses are open to such tweaks if you can justify them, and provide reassurance that the work will still be done well.
2. Broaden your Musical Horizons
When you work from home, there’s nothing to stop you having a little music while you work.
Although I’m a huge music fan (and a bit of an amateur DJ!), I can only do some of my work with music on. I find it too distracting when writing, for example.
But I’m still able to consume a huge amount of music during the working week. I listen to DJ sets on Twitch, work through my “Weekly Discovery” and “Release Radar” playlists on Spotify, and check out new albums.
How much you can incorporate music into your working life will depend a lot on what you do, and how easily you’re distracted. One tip I’ve learned is that instrumental music is way more compatible with concentration – it does seem to be lyrics that make my mind drift.
Here’s a little DJ set of my own if you want something to get you started 🙂
3. Switch Up your Workspace
I’m very much in favour of having a dedicated workspace, and have a fantastic office in my garden. However, I also like to switch things up from time to time. As well as working in my office, I occasionally like to opt for the armchair, the dining table and – yes, I’ll admit it – sometimes reclining on the bed!
If you work from home, you’ve been freed from the cubicle, so there’s no need to restrict yourself to a new one of your own making.
4. Take it Outside
I recently wrote a whole article about how to work outside.
It’s not entirely straightforward, but it’s well worth making the effort to make it work. It’s not a good feeling watching a beautiful day slip though your fingers from your office window (especially if you live where I do, and every sunny day is precious!)
Office workers don’t have this option, so if you can crack a way to do even some of your work outside, it’s a great way to make the most of working from home.
5. Dress for the (Home) Office
The image of home workers slobbing around in sweatpants (and even pyjamas) is a bit of a tired stereotype – but if it works for you, I’m not judging!
However, I get much more pleasure from the freedom to wear nice clothes while I’m working from home: soft hoodies in the winter, and comfortable shorts and a crisp, ironed T-shirt in the summer. I recently bought some incredibly soft shorts from Abercrombie and Fitch – totally inappropriate for office use, but SO comfortable for home working!
As a home worker, you’re very fortunate to not have to spend money on “office wear” – so why not spend a little on “home office wear” that makes you feel productive and comfortable?
6. Eat Well!
Working from home releases you from the drudgery of floppy sandwiches and takeaway coffees. With your own kitchen at your disposal, you can eat well and cheaply every day. This is definitely one of the ways that I make the most of working from home.
My wife works from home as well, and we always eat well at lunchtime. Sometimes it’s leftovers from the previous night’s meal, and often it’s a mixed plate of “deli” type items and fruit. I’ve put a picture of today’s below.
It wouldn’t be that practical to put something like this together in an office (and you’d have to worry about co-workers stealing the ingredients!) But at home it only takes a few minutes, and a handful of well-chosen ingredients can give you an interesting plate every day of the week.
A “grab and go” sandwich or a sushi box is a fun novelty if I’m ever working away from home, but nothing compares to having your own kitchen right there. Try to make the most of it!
6. Be Spontaneous
This particular point is probably more relevant to freelancers. Remote workers may not have the freedom to just drop everything at will.
But as a freelancer – within reason – you can. When we get our first “shorts and flip-flops” day each year, I WILL be out in it. The to-do list gets shuffled around and I truly make the most of working from home. Being honest, it’s not usually only the first day either – after all, what’s the point of freedom if you don’t take advantage?!
This is a good example of where some freelancers can be their own horrible bosses. YOU are in charge, and by choosing freelancing you have to shoulder lots of risk and uncertainty. As such, you really should make the most of the flip-side, which is that you CAN “go out and play” or decide to catch up with a friend who’d passing through – and do it without guilt.
Just don’t miss any deadlines – freedom and irresponsibility are NOT the same thing!
How do YOU make the most of working from home? Let us know in the comments.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.