Kate Warren is the founder of Brightlife. She is a leader in the field of personal and professional development, and is a sought-after speaker, teacher, and coach.
Kate is passionate about helping people to unlock their personal and professional potential. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, a Certified NLP Coach, a Master of Group Leadership Dynamics, and the U.K.’s first certified WealthyMind trainer.
In 2008 her business success was recognised when she was invited to join “Courvoisier the Future 500”, an elite group of the 500 rising stars of British business.
One way or another, I’ve been working from home for 13 years. In January 1997 I went to work for the National Trust caring for one of its country houses. A key benefit – and curse – of the role was that I was required to live full time in a flat in the house, just a few flights of stairs above the office where I worked with my colleagues. This was my introduction to not leaving home to go to work. It’s also where I began to explore the complexities of home life and working life being inextricably tied together.
Flash forward to 2010 and my working life is no more conventional, although many more of you reading this will identify with it. I own my own company these days. We’re a virtual team – all home based – with a network of key suppliers and partners who are also working from home. To go to work, I simply go upstairs. Sometimes I go to my clients; they rarely need or want to come to me. And I wouldn’t always want them to see how I look when I’m working!
Whether you work from home a day per week or every day, I hope that you’ll relate to the working life that I’m describing. If you’ve experienced it, then you’ll know that it’s great; except for all the times when it’s not. Here are six steps to help you make the most of it, and the best of it.
1. Incorporate structure and rituals into your day. When you stop working in a conventional office, your routine goes out of the window. While this has undoubted benefits (doing the laundry while working) it can also be disorienting and stressful. I vividly remember my first day of working for myself. 9am rolled around, and I felt lost. All day. For many days. What’s the solution? Create predictable routines, even if you don’t think you’ll enjoy them. Set a fixed time for lunch and stick to it. Create rituals for beginning and ending the working day. Structure and organise your time. Get the right balance in your working day and week. Then relax about it and be flexible. Nobody knows if you don’t get dressed!
2. Look after your need to belong. Working in an office provides social structure, regular interaction, and a professional community. How will you replace this? Some people make sure to socialise more in the evenings. Others spend time at business breakfast and other networking events. Neither of these strategies has ever worked for me, so here’s mine, in case it helps: find a couple of friends/colleagues in the same boat, and speak to at least one of them daily. Yes, every day. My friend and fellow coach Jane is my morning coffee break, and a lifesaver!
3. Have a GOOTH strategy. What does GOOTH stand for? Get Out Of The House! It’s easy to spend way too much time at home alone when it’s also where you work. This is not psychologically healthy, especially for extroverts. Organise your working week so that you plan ‘expeditions’ into the big wide world. What will you do on your expeditions? Well, exercising is good, as is making contact with other human beings. I treat myself to regular mental health days where I spend time with friends and colleagues connecting, sharing, and doing fun activities. It’s always restorative and good for morale.
4. Develop a weather policy. You’re working from home, and it’s a fantastic sunny day. Will you sit outside and enjoy it? It’s the height of the Protestant work ethic to sit indoors slaving away when you could do the same work sitting outside in the sunshine. Give yourself permission to at least eat your lunch outside. I operate a winter weather policy too. If it’s snowing, I allow myself time off. I either walk my dogs in it, enjoying it, or I curl up indoors in front of the fire. What will your weather policy be?
5. Get help with anything that makes you feel inadequate. There’s nothing worse than being home alone feeling incompetent. My experience of working from home was transformed when I found a great bookkeeper. It’s gone up several notches again since I found someone to help me run my business. Don’t waste time feeling bad about yourself – get help. Remember, at work you were part of a team and had support. You will need to create that support for yourself now.
6. Pay attention to communication. When you spend time with people every day at work it’s easy to maintain rapport. You’ll know reasonably quickly if problems are developing in your relationship, and you’ll be on the spot to rectify things. None of this is true when you work at home. Pay attention during phone calls, and utilise active listening techniques. Ask for feedback. When you do meet in person, take the opportunity to develop your relationships. Remember that when you’re working remotely, the conversation is the relationship, so take good care of it.
So there you have it – six steps for making your home-working life better. Why not choose one per week as a focus for each of the next six weeks? Good luck!