Many financial advisers that I speak to these days have discovered a new lease of life in working from home. They love saving the commuting time and the flexibility offered in working from home. I’ve also never had as many questions about my own garden office, as many consider a more permanent shift to home working, at least on a part-time basis.
However working from home comes with challenges, not least those posed by an unsuitable working environment or by family distractions – topics that I’ve covered previously. There is another challenge that quite a number of rookie remote workers face and one that I struggled with myself when I started working from home – finishing work. People jump to the conclusion that actually getting started in the morning will be a challenge – it rarely is. Finishing in the evening is another matter though. Suddenly it can be 8pm and you’re still at the desk, or instead the laptop never leaves your side and you never turn off.
So what can you do?
Set your work times
While you will of course argue that you didn’t have set hours when you went to the office every day, in reality most people had a routine – some were very early starters, others began a bit later and worked on at the end of the day.
These routines are now gone by the wayside, it’s time for new ones. Now that you are working remotely, what hours work best for you, your business and your family? These don’t have to be timed down to the minute, but having a broad routine creates a useful expectation for yourself, your colleagues and your family as to when you are in work… and when you are not.
Have a finishing ritual
When you went to the office every day, you had a ritual to finish work. It might have been locking the office, starting the car engine or even putting the key into the hall door at home. When you did this, your workday was over and family time began. But now you’re not doing these anymore, so you need a new ritual. For me, it’s locking my office in the garden – even though I can see it when relaxing after work, it’s pretty much out of bounds to me in the evenings!
You need a similar ritual that you then carry out every day, and you then must respect the ritual. So whether it’s closing the door of the home office, turning off the PC or laptop at the end of the day or something else that you will do every day, have a ritual and stick to it.
This is really important, not just for you, but for your family. Your kids need to know that you’re finished working and now it’s their turn for your attention!
Educate your colleagues
Rituals are great because you’re in control of them. But that doesn’t mean others will respect your time. Because your colleagues may be working from home too, they may be working to a different schedule to you. While you might be finishing at 5.30 / 6pm each day, maybe they are doing more work in the evenings. This can mean emails are pinging in to you at night, trying to gain your attention.
There are two ways you can deal with these. First of all, you can simply ignore them or turn off your email notifications in the evening. Not easy to do for some people, and you may want to keep an eye out for any client emails that are landing in the evenings. An alternative might be to ask your colleagues to “schedule send” non-urgent emails to you for early the next morning. This way, they get them off their own desk while they are working, but they only land on yours when you are in work mode.
From time to time an issue will arise where a colleague needs your immediate attention and engagement. Agree a process for this – maybe they phone you first? Of course, when this is respected, it will be the exception rather than the rule.
The key to working remotely in a way that suits you, your colleagues and your family is to get work done while at work, and not just let the lines blur between work and your home life. It takes a level of structure and some tweaking but it’s worth it – get it right and your quality of life increases immeasurably.