Have you ever dreamt about working from home, wearing comfy slippers all day and saving yourself hours of travel to and from the office? Such is the life of Amanda Aitken, Actuarial Educator at the Actuaries Institute. Amanda works from home 2½ days a week. She is an actuary and mother to two teenagers with a husband who works full time in a city based office. In this article, Amanda shares some of her top tips to make working from home a success for both you and your employer.
Working from home offers both rewards and challenges. On the one hand, working from home avoids the normal office distractions, allowing you to concentrate for long stretches. This is particularly important when you’re using the creative part of your brain (such as when writing Fellowship subjects!). Working from home also cuts out travel time and gives you almost complete flexibility over what to wear in the “office”. On the other hand, working from home makes it harder to develop relationships with your colleagues. Also, while traditional office distractions are avoided, your home has its own distractions and interruptions:
People choose to work from home for a variety of reasons. Some need time away from the office to catch up on their to-do list. Many business owners choose to establish their businesses from home to lower their overhead costs. Others, including me, work from home because their company is based in another city.
Whatever your reason for working from home, there are a number of steps you can take to make the most of this working arrangement and overcome some of its challenges.
Tip #1 – Work hard on relationship building
This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Good relationships with your fellow workers make your job more enjoyable and satisfying. They also help you stay up to date on the wider business context, which is important in ensuring your work is effective and relevant for your organisation.
When working from home, you need to make a concerted effort to build relationships. For a start, use technology to your advantage.
With software such as LifeSize, Zoom and Skype, it’s becoming more affordable and easier to have virtual “face to face” discussions in the workplace.
You should make enquiries about video conference options for your work meetings and make sure these are a common part of your working week. Even if videoconferencing isn’t an option for you, frequent phone calls with your immediate team members are a necessity.
Working from home can make you feel isolated from the rest of your team and the wider organisation. To avoid this in my role at the Actuaries Institute, I’ve really enjoyed lunchtime yoga sessions and monthly book club discussions via videoconferencing. These have helped me get to know my colleagues in a less formal setting.
You should also be on the lookout for opportunities to learn what your colleagues do and find ways to work together on projects.
Our Actuaries Institute receptionist, Linda, writes a weekly “Friyay!” newsletter, containing news of upcoming annual leave, birthdays and other celebrations. I find this a great way to learn more about my colleagues. Perhaps this is something you could initiate in your workplace.
Tip #2 – Set up your work area well
Working from home provides an opportunity to choose where and how you’ll set up your home office. It’s a good idea to set your office up in a room where you can separate yourself from other family members. Having my office set up away from my kitchen also means I’m not constantly raiding the fridge!
It’s also important to ensure you’re set up ergonomically. Ergonomic consultants are available to check your office set up, helping to ensure you’re comfortable, especially if you spend long hours in front of a computer. I’m a big fan of using a sit down/stand up desk to help me move my body position at regular intervals and avoid back and shoulder pain. Ergonomic consultants can also advise on optimal lighting for your office and positioning of your computer to avoid glare on the screen. If you can’t afford a consultant, there’s also a lot of free ergonomic advice online.
Tip #3 – Make daily and weekly plans
Having a plan for what you want to achieve each day, including the hours you will be working, helps keep you focussed on your priorities. It also helps to share a weekly summary of your plan with your manager, giving them greater confidence that you’re working efficiently and effectively.
Tip #4 – Plan ahead for school holidays
If you have kids, it can be tempting to try to “wing it” over the school holidays and hope they’ll keep themselves busy while you get your work done. This rarely works for me, even though my kids are teenagers and capable of entertaining themselves.
I find it much more useful to plan activities for them such as going to see a movie with their friends or visiting family members. This avoids them spending all their holidays on their screens or fighting, although I’m sure they still do both at my mum’s house! You could also investigate holiday child care options, particularly for younger children, such as school holiday programs or employing a nanny.
Tip #5 – Be confident when telling others you work from home
I used to feel quite awkward about revealing that I worked from home. I felt this made me seem less professional. I don’t feel that way anymore. This is partly because society has become more accepting of this as a viable work option.
In fact, the ABS reported in 2017 that almost a third of all employed Australians usually work from home in their main job or business.
I’ve also now worked from home for many years and feel quite comfortable and confident explaining this to others, knowing that I’m an effective and productive worker. So, own your working from home status confidently!
Tip # 6 – Sell the benefits to your employer
Finally, if you want to have a conversation with your employer about working from home, it’s useful to point out some of the benefits of this arrangement for them. Some of these benefits include increased efficiency and productivity, higher morale of workers and reduced office rental and other overhead costs.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. Please share your own tips via the comments section under this article.
 source: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6333.0
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