I have worked from home 4 out of 5 days since 2004. This was the ideal solution after I moved to the Kent coast and didn’t fancy re-training as a fish gutter! Working from home has enabled me to have the perfect work/ life balance – taking my children to school and avoiding a really long commute, whilst continuing to do the job I love.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds though! When you tell people that you work from home, their immediate reaction is often that you sit around all day in your dressing gown, drinking gin and watching Loose Women on TV. Sometimes people feel that they are disturbing you if they phone you at home and that somehow you aren’t really working. I know that there are still some companies who won’t consider allowing staff to work from home for these very reasons.
Working from home takes quite a lot of getting used to, especially if you have always worked in a bustling, noisy office with fun colleagues and interesting places to go at lunchtime and for after work drinks. Being at home is just so quiet – no-one to chat to or to do a tea round, no-one to support you on a bad day or help you celebrate success on a good day. Making your own sandwich isn’t as fun as a walk to Pret or M&S and there are no sneaky sauvignons in the local bar on the way home. It is also very difficult to switch off completely when your office is in your home and also hard to justify a day off sick when you are already effectively at work and you can only pass on germs to yourself.
My advice to anyone considering working from home is to trial it for a week and see how you cope. I have a colleague who has occasionally worked from home and she says it drives her insane as it is so lonely and she has no idea how I cope doing it 4 days a week – it definitely wouldn’t work for her.
I enjoy working from home now but I’ve had to adapt to a new working style. I have a tiny room in my house designated for work and I lock myself away in there to focus – I couldn’t work at the kitchen table as there are too many distractions – the washing up, the TV, the pile of ironing lurking in the corner willing me to tackle it. I also have to make myself take a lunch break as it is far too easy to just work through – there is nothing fun or social about making a lonely sandwich in your empty kitchen. I have had to stop buying biscuits too as a whole packet can disappear quickly without colleagues to share them!
It is also really important to communicate often with the office so that you stay part of the team, rather than a stranger who comes in once a week. It is particularly tricky when new people join the team but that’s up to me to make it work. Luckily, at Hasson Associates we have a very close team and with two of us working from home on a regular basis, our working pattern has become part of the norm. I have to admit though that my one day in the London office is the highlight of my week!