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Working from home – what I’ve learnt over the last 15 years of doing this

May 19, 2020 | Posted in: Articles & News, Flex Marketing news, Marketing pow wow, Uncategorized

Working from home is something I began in 2005 when a progressive company I was working for in the UK relocated from a 30-minute drive from home to a 2-hour train commute away (yes, each way!). I’ll post more about that in another article, however, my point is, this working from home thing is not a new gig for me as it started well before Covid-19 raised its ugly little head.

I briefly toyed with writing a ‘tips for working from home’ article, however, after seeing so many of those articles published online, covering the same old tired topics, I decided against that idea. Ultimately everyone figures out what works for them over time, and it is such an individual thing anyway. By now, you would have worked through many of your initial challenges such as handling interruptions and making sure that you feel like you have left work ‘behind you’ at the end of the day so that you can relax in your home surroundings.

Instead, I have decided to share with you some of my personal discoveries that have evolved over these 15 years – because it takes time to get to know yourself better and experiment with what does or doesn’t work. Hopefully, this will provide some useful insight for those that have just embarked on the ‘working from home journey’. For me, it has been an amusing reflection on how much has changed over that time and what a different world we live in now, vs then…we are so fortunate to have the technological advances that make working remotely so much easier than it was! 

THEN: I hired a cleaner

NOW: I remove myself from the mess

The first thing I did when I started working from home was hire a cleaner. I knew that the risk of distraction from ensuring the environment was tidy was too great and I wanted to be as productive as possible because I was super motivated to make working from home, work. Looking back, the space to keep clean was about 1/5th of what I have to maintain these days, being just a small 2-bedroom apartment just outside of London…but I justified the extra expense because of my extra income in my new role! The cleaning company probably took more work to manage than the time they saved me in cleaning because of having to chase up cleaners that didn’t turn up when they should or didn’t do the job properly! Anyway, fast forward to now, I am lucky to have a dedicated office space external to the house, so I feel like I am ‘going’ to work and I can leave the mess behind me! Problem solved.

THEN: I paid for self-storage

NOW: I try to cut down on clutter

In 2005, to free up space for our second bedroom (also known as ‘junk room’) to become a home office, we moved the Xmas tree, decorations, tennis rackets and everything else that was in storage to a self-storage unit…my first introduction to those eerily deserted self-storage facilities – a perfect setting for a horror movie! Over time I have learnt more about the benefits of minimalism and whilst this is still something I am steadily working on, I am making good progress on cutting down on clutter…which means I no longer have to pay for storage space and work in a relatively ‘everything is in its place’ office!

THEN: I used CITRIX to connect to the company server remotely

NOW: I access a lot of what I need in the cloud 

Back then I used a device with passwords that regularly changed to login to the company server via a Citrix secure connection on my laptop. Luckily the UK had unlimited broadband as standard back then (New Zealand has taken all this time to catch up in that regard!), so while I was living in the UK, this was not too much of an issue. When I continued working remotely for the same company when I relocated back to New Zealand it was a bit of a nightmare because domestic internet did not have enough bandwidth to make the connection.

This meant that I had to work ‘offline’ as much as possible and anytime I needed to upload or download particular files from the server in the UK, I had to go to a café that had the right commercial grade internet and use their wi-fi! These days with cloud computing and particularly Office 365, all that sort of thing is a breeze. One thing to be aware of though, and I am not sure if this is the case in New Zealand because ‘touch wood’, I haven’t had any major issues…in the UK internet providers have different ‘service levels’ for domestic vs commercial customers (it would have been prohibitively expensive for most self-employed people to pay for a commercial contract)…this meant that when my broadband went down, they had something like a 72-hour window in which to fix it! Obviously, that could be a major disruption for anyone trying to work from home. If I lose connection for any reason these days, usually just a temporary power cut, I just hop along to work from a café that hasn’t been affected!

THEN: Felt I had to be ‘at home’ when working from home

NOW: Change up my working environment to feel connected

Anyone that knows me knows that I like my coffee a lot – particularly cappuccinos, a drink that is harder to perfect on a basic home coffee machine. This alone is a drawcard for me working out of a café, however, I realise that my preference to move around while I work started long before the café culture really took off. At university, I used to have around 4-5 different locations that I would rotate between when trying to study. I felt that sitting in the same place for 2 hours here and there were little milestones that broke the big workload into more achievable chunks as I would ‘reward’ myself with a change of scene after a certain number of tasks had been completed!

When I first started working from home, I felt that I needed to be ‘at home’ to demonstrate my serious commitment to work and would feel guilty about walking up to the nearby shops at any time that wouldn’t be considered a lunch break, even if that trip involved time sitting somewhere to scribble notes to do with work etc. Part of that was because I knew that unless my laptop was connected to the internet, I was effectively ‘offline’. In 2005 I had a ‘dumb’ mobile phone, so no data to connect to my emails. These days I can check and reply to my emails, anywhere, any time. This luxury has freed me up to be even more flexible with how I work, meaning I can attend a school assembly completed guilt-free! I also acknowledge and honour my enjoyment of changing up my work environment, so when I’m not in my dedicated home office or in a café, other places you might find me are on the deck enjoying the sunshine with my laptop or inside the house at my second desk (I found that I needed a backup desk so that when my son was sick and home from school, I could be close by to keep an eye on him).

THEN: I made the most of travel time by studying and gaining a qualification

NOW: I make the most of travel time by listening to podcasts and audiobooks

In 2005 my deal was to be able to work from home three days a week, however the other 2 days a week I had to travel four hours a day to the company’s head office. I decided from the outset that I would put those 8 hours a week to good use, so decided to use my travel time to study for a Diploma in Reflexology. I spent many a train ride pouring over my anatomy & physiology books and even though I no longer do reflexology as a professional sideline, I do not regret feeling like I achieved something with those hours and the modality of reflexology has opened my mind to a lot of other natural health practices as well as given me the opportunity to connect with some amazing people.

I don’t spend much time commuting these days, however, when I do, I employ a similar approach to using this time in traffic jams wisely by listening to podcasts. Mostly I listen to material on health & wellness as well as personal growth and I have a long list of recommendations if anyone is interested!

I could go on, however, hopefully this has given you a peep into my world of working from home and how things have changed over the years to a point that they fit like a snuggly, well-worn jumper!

Stay safe, keep well!

Flex Marketing