The Truth About Working Remotely

I recently read that there is a 13% productivity increase for people who work from home. I am not surprised! I am an entrepreneur who has worked from home for many years. The main attraction was really the opportunity to control my own diary, and the freedom to flex my ‘rubber arm’ when friends invited me for an impromptu coffee.

Working from home definitely has its benefits. I save on commuter time, work a flexible day and still have time to run chores, read, meet with friends and ride my mountain bike.

We are entrenched in the digital age, and savvy employers understand the benefits of work-life balance and where possible remote working may contribute in part to this balance. Mothers with children may use remote work as a way of being available for their children. In many ways, this prevents the need to choose between having a career and being there for a child. Research shows that fathers are also choosing a deeper sense of work-life balance as well, with many choosing to co-parent or become more involved as fathers.

Alongside flexible hours, remote work offers opportunities for companies to offer up new means of providing a work-life balance. When managed well this means increased productivity and a reduction in staff turnover. Companies that excel in creating work-life balance will also become known as companies of choice amongst new graduates from the millennial generation. However, many given the choice may still elect to continue going in to work as usual or decide upon a hybrid solution, certain days in the office and other days working remotely. This would be especially important for employees who work best in a highly structured environment with its clearly defined working times and physical space, or those that enjoy face-to-face brainstorming or social interaction. When offering flexible- remote working employers would be wise to consider that for many working from home is not an option, the lack of space, a quiet environment and the availability of Fibre or Wi-fi can make it impossible for some.

 As an entrepreneur who works from home, my situation is different. I have been working at home for a number of years, and I have to say there can be some very real disadvantages. Over time I’ve found ways to navigate through the pitfalls. I’ve learned to put my phone aside and stay off social media during my working time. I have a specified workplace and have to constantly exercise discipline to achieve my daily To-do list without rolling it on to the next day simply because I can and have no higher line-manager to hold me accountable. There may also be some personal quirks or distractions to navigate for instance mine is my insatiable need for a hot cup of tea, I broke the umbilical cord to the kettle by buying a thermos style teapot that keeps tea warm for 2 hours. Some solutions can be that simple.

I also find that dressing well and putting on makeup helps me to feel ready for work. I understand that looking the part helps you act the part even when no one can see you.

Many feel working from home can be lonely. I don’t experience this but for those that do the ‘working from a coffee bar,’ culture may be the solution. The biggest pitfall for me is not having a group of people to bounce ideas around, get a different perspective or simply generate energetic ‘fizz’ to keep me going. Over the years good quality networking groups and like-minded entrepreneurial friends have helped me bridge this gap.

Working from home prevents the distractions and interruptions of open-plan offices. It helps to reduce traffic and helps to create that elusive work-life balance. It can also be unstructured and chaotic if you don’t organize both your time and space. By organizing your office, keeping what you need well within reach and refusing to isolate yourself, you can enjoy the time you spend working from home.

If you are new to remote work, have set up a new business or you’re struggling with your time spent out of office, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your day:

  • Find or create a space that is conducive to the way you work. For some, this is quiet for others the background noise of a busy coffee shop may be perfect.
  • Set goals and structure your day so that you achieve focused work.
  • Remember to network. People who you can bounce ideas off or discuss your industry with can provide invaluable support.
  • Dress for work. This will help you to feel prepared, competent and professional.
  • Enjoy your time out of the office. Run some of your errands during the week to free up your weekend time.
  • Work with your natural rhythms. If you enjoy working early on in the day, make the most of traffic-free time and start working. If the midafternoon slump prevents you from working well, pick this time to give yourself a break and do something else.
  • Break free from the concept that work has to be done 8 am-5 pm. Your new workday maybe 5 am-11 am with an hour if needed in the afternoon. Think productivity and accomplishment rather than time at the desk. The big benefit of working remotely for me is the opportunity for flexibility and with Eskom turning our power off on a regular basis the ability to work outside the ‘so-called normal’ hours is going to become a necessary skill for most South Africans.
  • When at work be at work, body, and mind, when in leisure/family time be there and nowhere else. Don’t let your work mind run around your head like a misbehaved two-year-old constantly demanding your attention. You may believe controlling your thoughts in this age of busyness is a modern dilemma but in an insightful letter to his son Lord Chesterfield addressed this very issue by urging him to ‘Do what you are about, be that what it will; and do nothing else at the same time’. This sage advice was written on 14th April 1747! Lord Chesterfields Letter IX

As an entrepreneur I love the work that takes me out and about presenting my business etiquette workshops or personal styling services, I also love my time spent working from home. I enjoy my focused mornings with a hot pot of tea and a podcast or music playing in the background.  I can achieve in 4 hours what many would take the entire day to do with a lengthy commute and an office full of interruptions. When my eyes start going skew or my head into overload I know it’s time to kick back, have another pot of tea, maybe this time with a slice of cake, after all, what is the point of having cake if you can’t eat it too?

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