“I spent three years trying to adapt to the whole office and commuting thing and quickly realised that it wasn’t for me,” Helen Lewis, successful publicist and entrepreneur, tells us. “And honestly? I’ve never looked back.”
Helen is one of the growing numbers of business-women who are choosing to shun office-culture and set up an enterprise from the comfort of their own homes. It can offer flexibility, creativity and the tantalising promise of a more balanced work-life distribution. And yet, for many who take the leap into working from home, adjusting to a new work-pattern and lifestyle can come with its fair share of challenges.
Whether it’s finding the right space to set up your office, ring-fencing the time you spend on- and off-duty, or maintaining your mental health — we’ve compiled advice for making working from home, work for you. With insights from Helen and practical advice from psychologist Gail Kinman, let us help you on your way to starting a business from your bedroom.
1. Love what you do, but not too much
One of the problems for those that work from home, Gail explains, is “a lack of physical and psychological boundaries between work and personal life.”
Naturally, to start your own business you must have a passion for what you do and the drive to be successful. But — especially when you’re working out of your own living space — it be hard to know when to turn off and focus on something other than work.
Although it’s often easier said than done, Gail says it’s possible by laying down a few ground-rules with yourself: “Don’t take on too much. Make sure that you set firm boundaries and work set hours. Switch off your email and other technology when you’re not working and have a regular digital detox.”
2. Create a space for work alone
It should come as no surprise to those of you who dream of escaping the uniformity of an office that your environment can have a profound effect on your mental state. So, when you’re working from home, create a space that encourages focus, productivity, and perhaps most importantly, is distinct from the rest of your home.
Gail recommends your dedicated workspace is somewhere quiet and peaceful, designed to minimise distractions and stress. “Lighting and interiors have a strong impact on mood” she explains, “Colour can impact on people’s arousal in terms of their level of activity and feelings of calmness.”
If you’ve got a spare room to use as an office — perfect. Calming colours, natural light (or at least a dimmer switch) and a tidy desk will help get you into the right mindset. But for those of us with less square-footage, try and find an unused corner in another room. Hiring a carpenter, or even installing a fold-down desk will help you maximise space, while also forging out a dedicated spot for getting down to business.
3. Healthy body, healthy mind
Sitting is the new smoking, and if you’re working from home, the chances that you won’t move further than your own front door during the work week is higher than most of us would like to accept. This lack of movement can wreak havoc on our physical health, so make sure you get out of the house and incorporate exercise into your schedule.
Taking steps to maintain your mental wellbeing is equally important. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are increasingly common among home-workers; because although peace and quiet may help productivity, human contact is equally vital.
“Lack of social contact is a real problem for people who work from home” Gail confirms. “Schedule in lunch meetings with friends, Skype or at least have a phone call. Get a dog and take it for a walk! Keep in mind, however, that it’s important to do something different to what you do in your job. So if you’ve been talking all morning, a session of mindfulness or another form of relaxation might be helpful.”
When you start your own company, it can feel as though it takes over your life. But living and breathing business (even if it’s your own) isn’t always the healthiest way to build your future. While it can be the opportunity of a lifetime, those who’ve made a success of it know that balance is key. “I honestly think because I’ve done it for so long I’ve mastered it,”Helen exclaims. And her advice for other budding entrepreneurs working from home? “Love what you do. I love my work, but I still do my absolute best not to work Friday nights or weekends —set yourself time pressures and don’t allow work to ‘drag on’.”