Working from Home
Why the Change
Being employed in a traditional sense was rather challenging for us for a number of reasons. At this stage, we have been working from home for such a long time that the traditional working environment seems like a distant memory. I don’t necessarily want to damper on the idea of working in an office or simply having a job that requires you to be on-site and available. It has more to do with the fact that while we may like the idea of going to the office it is not a routine suited to everyone, for reasons including physical and mental health. I personally struggled for years in various jobs trying to keep within the guidelines of the position. It was taxing and left little time for me to focus on my wellbeing. This fact is true for my colleagues and many of my peers.
Upon going down this path of figuring out a stable and properly balanced routine it dawned upon us that trying to fit ourselves in or fighting the system was not the answer. Rather observing from a distance and creating a way of life that is both congruent with your overall health and the society in which you stay. This doesn’t mean that you will always see eye to eye with everyone but instead establishing a new way of thinking and doing business which will benefit you and perhaps even future business enthusiasts.
Having said this I think it is also important to point out that those of us who have highly demanding jobs and manage well have incredible stamina and devotion to their jobs. It is always enduring to see someone succeed at work and progress in life.
Make the change
Making the change is probably the first very hard step you have to face in your journey to working from home successfully. It is not always possible to make a gradual change such as working full time then part-time and jumping over to fully working for yourself or perhaps working from home one day a week and escalating from there. Often it is a quick change over that is generally difficult to navigate. Charl and I decided to take the plunge in 2016 and begin working entirely for ourselves. This decision was taken with the aim of permanently working from home as both us were not equipped to handle the bureaucracy of office life and daily traffic. We had a dream of being at home more regularly, setting up a home office and taking care of our health. It seems a simple dream but like any dream, it has unknown challenges waiting just for you.
At first, we stumble a little trying to get to grasps with advertising and how to sell yourself as a brand. We were functioning in a space that was somewhere between freelancing and small business.
I had taken some part time work which allowed me to predominantly work from home though I did travel within the city. Charl took up the leading role in getting our brand name out into the world. We initially relied heavily on our networks and gaining work via word of mouth. We also focused entirely on design work and many times free work to gain brand recognition. A decision we both later regretted. Once you begin marketing yourself to the world as a professional you have to be very selective of which project you will take on out of the kindness of your heart. Free publicity tends to attract an audience that is not suited to what you offer. This was a hard-learnt lesson but a necessary one for sure.
Things seemed to be a scramble the better part of the time which led to some confusion during projects, especially since we did not always have the equipment or resources required in that very moment. Once I stopped working and began full time at our company, we were so busy all the time we hardly found time for each other and to even consider what it meant to be so isolated from the rest of the community. At the same time, we weren’t making any money either. We were actually just surviving. We took a deep breath and slowed down, evaluated where we were with the company and where we wanted to be operating. This is when we learnt the importance of a clear company directive. What is your mission? Our way of making our dream tangible was to get some clarity in our vision and implement it with decisive actions. Part of what that meant was to stop trying to sound the way we thought we needed to and allow our voices to come through. Sincerity, transparency, and knowledge you will be able to connect with your audience.
By putting proper processes and being disciplined you can accomplish a great lifestyle that makes you happy and still allows you to connect with the local and global community.
Spend some time deciding exactly when you are going to work, this is my advice to you as someone looking to work from home. Our office hours are from 9 to 4, Monday to Friday. During those times I am in the office working and taking standard office breaks throughout the day. The rest of the time belongs to the house and family. Just this division alone has created a fantastic flow that gives me a good amount of time to work and get chores done. I also do not eat at the desk unless it absolutely necessary. This means that taking a break for lunch is a requirement, but the lunch must not go over the standard hour if possible. Sometimes I a more tired than I would like and take extra lunch with my phone set to available, on those days I will work that extra time in the afternoon. Not every day is going to perfect however, these guidelines are some of the parameters that help to keep me in a good routine and motivated to get the work done. I find myself looking forward to lunch and that afternoon coffee on the veranda once the office is essentially closed. Plus being able to wear comfortable clothes throughout the day makes it even better.
Pros and Cons of the Change
It may sound somewhat romantic to be able to work from home and live a happy life with the family. In some regards, it does have an appeal that seems rose-coloured.
One of the unfortunate aspects of working from home is the lack of people. I haven’t always felt the need to constantly be surrounded by people, but I get lonely just like any other person out there. Working with Charl is a delight as we make a fantastic team and in the same light, we are the only two people we see for days, sometimes weeks at a time. We take time to stay connected with our families and friends via phones or social media. We also use this to connect with other people around the world which helps to keep the conversation interesting. Being a little pickier about the outings we go on also increases the whole experience. Use what you have at hand to connect with people. Make videos, send pictures of what you are up to in your free time and asking people to give you a call are just some of the ways to keep yourself a part of the community.
Another downside is getting somewhat bored with your surroundings. This can play a massive role in keeping you motivated. I have found that picking up some new hobbies assisted a lot in slowing down the boredom. Keeping myself busy, constantly tinkering with new projects, was the best way to stop my mind wondering into the state of boredom that happens when you have no purpose. Reading also takes up a good deal of time and gets you to learn something or drift away into a world that has nothing to do with yours. Of course, movies, series, and documentaries are also good ways of keeping the mind fresh.
These have become more manageable as I am able to go lie down when I have a headache or I can stay that extra hour in bed because I am totally responsible for the work I produce and offer to our clients. I know when I can take such liberties and when it is best to buck up and deal with work first. Knowing the pros of working from home has lightened the negatives for me. This does require you to be very disciplined which is sometimes a downer because you have to hold yourself accountable.
Some great things about working from home are not dealing with traffic, unhappy people, and exposing yourself to constant smog. For mental and physical health this is great because now that time you spend in a car or public transport you can spend having a proper breakfast and getting some decent exercise into your day. Sure, you might dislike exercise, but everyone loves food and being healthy so just a walk or a few stretches makes a world of difference. Having this time to care for your needs gives you the opportunity to jump into work with a positive mindset which I believe helps us get work done more efficiently.
Another strong pro is being able to visit friends or family in hours that are generally reserved for the office. On certain days I can take a few hours off to go see my grandparents and make sure they are well or if a niece is having a sports day then an arrangement can be made to be there. Sometimes just being available to take a call is enough to put a smile on someone’s face. The joy I get from being available to friends and family is priceless.
I have found that with this sense of relaxation and positive thinking that comes with a properly balanced life has lent itself to be a useful tool in harnessing good and long-lasting relationships with our clients. There are certainly more pros to having a home office over going to an office. Many professions really do not require offices and can be entirely based from home. We have limited space and leaving that limited space to businesses that really require the space and nature we will likely find a good balance of architecture and trees.
Tips from Us
Well, where to start really depends on what the circumstances are in terms of working from home. What I mean is; are you employed, are you a freelancer or are you starting your own business?
I worked as a TEFL teacher for some time which included both employed and freelance teacher. I later worked in offices which included full-time office employment, full-time employment but working from home with local travel, and freelance working. Without a doubt, I found freelancing to be a very useful tool and skill to have yet a difficult stage to try and move on to better pastures. Freelancing has limitations, I think it works well as a filler and a way of getting on your feet but if you do want to succeed beyond your own availability then don’t let yourself get stuck there.
If you are still currently employed and working from home, then it really comes down to getting your routine down. I would suggest creating a space that is a dedicated work environment. Ideally having an extra room to make an office would solve the problem. However, not everyone has an extra room in their home. So, take a space that you can either quickly convert into a workspace each day or a part of a room that can function as your dedicated workspace. Give yourself a deadline of when to begin as well. If your normal work hours are 9-5 then stick to it with the general 1 hour for lunch. Once you end your day, close all your work-related windows and step away from your workspace. Go do something in your home and/or garden if you are able. Spend time with family, call a friend or make something scrumptious for dinner. Think of it as a reward for completing your work for the day.
If you are looking to freelance or begin a business, you likely will have to take a bit of time to get familiar with marketing strategies as well as sales directives. A bit of research and speaking to professionals should help you get on your way. Freelancing tends to focus greatly on the person doing the work. A one-man-show if you will. This will require seeking out potential clients, doing the sales pitch and delivering results all by yourself. An achievable task an essential first step in starting your own company. Once you have a clear idea of what you offer and what clientele you are looking to attract, you can then begin to put your brand together. This is where you begin to seek out other avenues for gaining clients and perhaps employing the odd person. An exciting time.
Stick to a daily routine and processes as you would in a normal office environment. This will help you keep focused on achieving your goals as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.