Taking phone calls in your pyjamas and no noisy co-workers to contend with; working from home may sound idyllic, but the reality can be very different.
My first home office looked out on the garden. It was green, leafy, and a fair size for London, but not inspiring. Now, though, since we moved to the south coast, I work looking out at the sea. Our house is ten feet from the beach, and as I write I can watch the tide come in and out. This sounds idyllic, and in many ways it is, but there are some compromises I make with this choice.
I have three kids, and in choosing to work at the front of the house, I can’t avoid the fact that I’m next to the main room where they play. It might have been more practical to work in the basement, looking out onto the back garden, and I tried that for a while. However the plus points of being more tucked away didn’t balance out the lack of a view. Over the time I’ve lived in this house I’ve worked out that the view is important to me, it inspires and motivates me, so I’ve learned to live with the noise of family life.
Feel at home
When you consider your own home office, how do you feel about it? Does it inspire you? Is it a nurturing and creative place, somewhere with all the tools that you need at your fingertips? Or is your workspace crammed into a corner of the house? The place you work in can change the way you feel about working from home all together. A cluttered messy corner can put you off getting started, so it is worth investing in creating and inspiring place to work.
Try it out
Maybe you’re just thinking about starting a business, or you’ve made the first steps. By starting from home or trading online, you can begin with very little or no investment.
Take a look at your home: do you have a choice of places that you could site a desk? What are the pros and cons of each one? Is the current layout using the house to best advantage? Think about factors such as noise and light, and practicalities like whether there are enough sockets near to where you might work. Changing the location of your home office may seem disruptive in the short term, but it can also make every day a little more pleasant and encourage you to get down to work too.
Not everyone can move their workspace, and many of us with home offices have to fit in with the rest of family life. I’ve worked from the dining table in the past, but it is frustrating to have to clear away your work every mealtime. Try to find at least a corner where you can keep your papers or tools.
Think about what you can do to make this corner your own: could a set of shelves divide it from the living space, or a couple of well-placed plants? Put up a pin board and add images that inspire you and relate to your work. Treat your workspace well and it will be a pleasure to retreat to it.
A clear space, a clear mind
It isn’t always necessary to have extensive storage when working from home. Think about exactly what you need to in the home office, and just keep the minimum that you need to be easily accessible. Extensive files and boxes can clutter up your space and make it hard to get down to work. Look at alternatives: if you also have an office, can you keep most files there? Is there a cupboard that you can designate for work? Or, if space is a real issue, can you rent storage space elsewhere?
Nowadays, as I sit, working in front of my sea view, I’ve made my work space my own. I have a big handmade wood desk, just the right height for me, and a custom chair that, while expensive, means sitting at my desk is incredibly comfortable. Those are two key investments that make it a pleasure to sit down to work.
I also make a point of clearing my desk each day, filing away paperwork and my laptop, so I don’t feel work is intruding on my home. I have art and photos and gifts from the children around me, and a green leafy plant. I love my home office, and enjoy being in it. Do you?