Working from home: heaven or hell?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Civil servants will be allowed to work from home for seven weeks this summer, in order to ease pressure on the public transport system during the London 2012 Olympics.

Predictably, given the glorious weather and the fact that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is but days away, Whitehall’s decision has induced envy amongst other office based Londoners who will still have to take the Tube to work over the next couple of months.

Yet while many of my friends and co-workers’ outrage is understandable, I would argue that it’s most definitely misplaced.

Whenever and wherever I worked in an office – be it on the 16th floor of a windowless building in Beijing, in Dubai where the traffic was so insane as to render travelling to the office a daily dread or the Cayman Islands, where the company had simply outgrown the small working space – I dreamt of the day when I would finally be able to work from home.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out why. No commute! No need to wear a suit! Breakfast at my ‘desk’ with the BBC’s Bill and Susannah on in the background! No boss/authority figure peering over my shoulder making unreasonable copy demands! Yes it’s safe to say that I was seriously seduced by the idea of freelancing from home and made up when, in 2009, I finally managed to exit the office and make my dream a reality.

For the first month, I was ecstatic: no commute! No need to wear a suit! Breakfast at my ‘desk’ with the BBC’s Bill and Susannah on in the background! No authority figures! However it wasn’t long before my dream became a nightmare… Working from home may sound like heaven but in reality it can be hell, turning you into a chubby, poorly dressed, socially inept shadow of your former self whose home offers no respite from work.
So if, like Whitehall workers, you have been granted permission to work from home this summer, you’ll need a good degree of self control and discipline to guarantee you meet your deadlines. Here are six suggestions to help ensure a good day at the (h)office…

1. There’s no harm in setting the alarm
Just because you no longer need to be in the office at 9am sharp, doesn’t mean you should sleep the morning away. Allow yourself an extra 45 minutes in bed (the average Londoner’s commute from door to desk), but be in front of your laptop ready to work at the normal time.

2. Get dressed
Tempting as it is to veg out in your PJs or favourite tracksuit bottoms, resist the urge. It’s still a working day, not the weekend, and you never know when your boss or a client will request a conference call via Skype with a second’s notice (coffee stained pyjamas will not seal the deal)

3. Breakfast like a king
Remember the saying “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper”? Yep, your mum really was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day – especially when working from home. Eating a good breakfast will stop you from scoffing an entire packet of hob nobs on the sofa at 11am and help you eat healthily the rest of the day. Make no mistake: working from a home that has a well stocked fridge, does your wasitline no favours.

4. Work it
Space is a luxury that few Londoners have but try to find somewhere to work that isn’t your bedroom/living room/kitchen. Otherwise the temptation to spend the day sleeping/watching dodgy soap operas on Channel 5/making yet another cup of tea is too hard to fight.

5. Take it outside
When it’s time to take your lunch break, go outside and grab a bite to eat from a nearby shop or, even better, a cafe. Yes this might sound a tad indulgent but don’t forget not only are you saving money on train/bus fares to the office but interacting with another human being is essential for your social skills. But while a lunch hour spent in the local shop/restaurant is acceptable, an afternoon trawling the avenues and aisles of a shopping mall is not.

6. Put it away
At the end of the working day, pack your laptop away. Leave it out and there’s always the temptation to return to uncompleted tasks – something office workers aren’t able to do once they have ‘left the building’. It’s a cliche we know, and easier said than done when in the midst of a double dip recession, but no one ever died saying they wish they had spent more hours working.

Any advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of working from home? Let us know by posting a comment below!


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