My experience of working from home, what’s yours? – tips on how to stay happy and healthy
Lots of us are working from home these days, attracted by the greater flexibility. In the UK there are 4.8 million freelancers, mostly home-based workers, making up a significant 15% of the workforce, and it’s more and more common for companies to allow their employees to work remotely.
I love working from home. I value how flexible I can be around the children. It’s less of a bother when one of them is ill, or I need to pop into school for an hour to watch an assembly. I can literally drop the baby at the childminder at five minutes later, I’m in the studio, welcoming a customer through the door. I can fit in so much more. I am also extremely proud to be my own boss and wouldn’t change it for anything.
However, is there a downside of working from home? Yes, apparently so, and recently I really felt this. The main problem which arises from this way of life is isolation. You can end up feeling quite cut off and disconnected from the world out there. Interactions with colleagues, around the coffee machine or boardroom table, is something which people might take for granted, but you certainly realise how integral they are to your confidence and development when you don’t have them.
Working from home can be lonely. I’d never noticed it so much as I did this Winter just gone. January and February is always quieter on the photography front for me. It’s a welcome relief from the Christmas rush and I try to embrace it, rather than worry about it. I use the time to develop my website, bring my accounts up to date, do some online training…but every year I struggle, flounder slightly. I miss the stimulation which a mum & baby brings to my working day and there’s no replacement for this, no manager to check in with, no colleague to brainstorm with. Sure, I’m communicating with potential clients and taking bookings but let’s face it, nobody picks up the phone anymore, do they? The days would slip by and I’d barely talk to a soul. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the school run, I wouldn’t have left the house all week.
I was also experiencing somewhat of a crisis in my photography career at this time, I wasn’t sure I was heading in the right direction and I felt a bit lost and overwhelmed. That’s the thing you really miss when you’re home alone, someone to give you perspective when things aren’t going to plan. That’s why appraisals are so important. I would have given anything for an appraisal at that point.
So that’s what I did. One of the most helpful things I became involved with was a Facebook community called This Mum Thing Means Business which is exactly what it sounds like: a positive online environment conducive to helping mums with the various challenges of running their businesses. There was a lot of helpful chat on the forum and I invested in a 1-2-1 mentoring session with the group’s founder, Rachel Murphy. A fellow photographer and mum-of-three, she assumed the role of my managing director, my colleague, and with just a little bit of guidance and encouragement, I retrieved some of that motivation and passion which I lost earlier on in the year. Finding a like-minded person who has been through a similar experience to you can make a world of difference.
In addition to bagging myself an awesome mentor to keep me focussed, there are, other everyday disciplines I try and implement to help me stay healthy and happy at home. Small things, but they can make a world of difference, for example:
LIGHT: I sit in front of a window, the daylight is good for me. I look out onto a main road, I like hearing the traffic rush past and seeing Mr Jones walk his St Bernards at 11am, it makes me feel connected with the outside world, much less isolated.
MUSIC: I listen to music, I find this uplifting, or current affairs like the Jeremy Vine show on Radio2 which again, makes me feel more connected with the outside world; after all, I don’t have colleagues with which I can discuss Brexit or why does Megan Markle rub her bump so much.
FOCUS: I don’t do chores during my working hours because it’s WORK TIME. I try and get the laundry on and dishwasher loaded before work time starts and if I don’t, then it just has to wait. I make sure there is a very clearly defined work and house time, and I don’t get distracted by mum jobs.
BREAK: No chores during work time, but I will allow myself a walk or quick jog if I’m in a bit of a slump. There’s no point sitting and battling with a blog post or client gallery if it’s not going to plan. Getting out for 20 minutes can be very reviving and often inspiring. This is the advantage of working from home, I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to nip out for a bit.
What have I missed out? I’d love to know what helps you stay focussed and motivated at home. Have you ever struggled? Do you love it or hate it? What’s the best and worst thing about it?