Many bookkeepers and accountant practitioners choose to be based at home. There are many reasons for doing so: it can make family life and childcare easier, it saves money on renting an office, avoids a daily commute and it can allow for a more flexible working environment.
If you are trading as a sole practitioner, it makes financial sense. There are pros and cons to working from a home office but here are a few helpful hints on how it can work for you.
Create a defined workspace
Setting up a ‘proper’ office space is vital in helping you work from home effectively. Balancing a laptop on a sofa with This Morning on in the background isn’t ideal and you won’t be concentrating as well as you could be in a quieter space.
Having a room designated as your office space means you will find it easier to mentally switch into work mode, as it subconsciously reinforces the notion that you are there to work. It also provides separation from the rest of your home when you have finished work for the day.
Keep to a schedule
When you are working from home, there is no one to keep an eye on what you’re doing and what time you start. It’s important to instil the discipline to stick to a regular routine, as the temptation to start work later in the day means you could soon fall into a bad routine. Yes, a lie-in may seem like a good idea, but being available early enough for clients to contact you is crucial to your business.
Scheduling early morning meetings and calls will mean that you are ready to meet work commitments, and pencilling in tasks that you tend to put off means that you can get them out of the way early in the day. Try not to alter your schedule unless it’s absolutely necessary, as these changes can become habitual meaning you are less likely to keep to a timetable.
Take a break
When you are left to your own devices, you can find yourself so engrossed in what you are doing that you can zone out and forget to take a proper break. Working in a shared office environment means you have natural interruptions going on around you, but this is far less likely if you work on your own. Building in set breaks as well as at least 30 minutes for lunch gives you the opportunity to stretch your legs and let your brain refresh.
Looking the part
You might think that you now have the freedom to dispense with a ‘working wardrobe’ and you can just wear tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt as no one will see you, but don’t become too slovenly. Again, it is about psychologically preparing yourself for a role. If you don’t dress the part, it’s more difficult to act the part. Dressing too casually can detract from your professional persona, and make you feel lazy and lethargic. Going through your usual morning routine as if you were going to an office helps put you in that work mode mentally.
Making the effort with communication
One of the main things that people say they miss when they start working from home is the company of colleagues. It might be great to get away from the office politics, but at times it can be quite isolating. In theory, people are only on the end of a phone line or email, but simple banter about last night’s football game, or a second opinion on something you are working on can be taken for granted when working within an office environment.
Sometimes, you could even go through the whole day without actually speaking to another person, so it’s up to you to make more of an effort to feel part of the working world. Instead of sending an email over to someone, pick the phone up. Try and get out every so often, and visit clients who live in the vicinity. Not only will it keep you in touch with the real world, it will improve relationships with clients as you get to know them and their businesses better.
Consider working online
Working online allows you to work across multiple devices and locations giving you the opportunity to work from the local café if you fancy a change of scene, or working onsite at your client’s business. By using accounting software that offers you flexible 24/7 customer support, for example, you can also work outside of normal working hours to give your working day even more agility.
Get rid of distractions
Clear your working space of any clutter and distractions so that you can stay focused on your workload. Start the day with a ‘to-do’ list to help you stay on track. Finally, for all the benefits there are to working from home, the most important thing to remember is this: the moment you catch yourself having a conversation with your alter ego, you know it’s time to get a dog!