Running your business from home? Here’s how to make it work
The digital age means it’s possible to fire up your laptop and work from just about anywhere these days. But that convenience doesn’t mean working from home is without challenges.
“Although flexibility can be advantageous, it’s often all too easy to answer those emails during home or family time. Not only does this challenge one’s attention, it creates expectations of availability. It can also be harder to switch off and reduce stress,” says Dr Hannah Blakely, a clinical psychologist based in Blenheim.
So, how can you avoid all this? Here’s how these business owners are doing it.
Create a space that you want to work in
Dawn Fryer runs her eco body and homewares business Dirty Hippie from her home in Waipu. Her best working from home tip is to separate your work and home spaces.
A different room or space dedicated only to work is critical, she says, as creating physical distance can lead to mental distance, meaning it’s easier to switch off at the day’s end.
You don’t want to be balancing your laptop on your knee while you work on the couch or hunched over the coffee table while you’re working. Getting a desk, appropriate office chair and storage system will set you up for success.
Fryer also suggests taking the time to make your space feel nice. And research suggests personalising your workspace is a great way to boost productivity.
“I have a huge cabin with a kitchen that has room for my products and supplies. It’s my little sanctuary. It smells amazing and I have full rights over the music!”
Bringing a little creativity into your workspace is something Theresa Murphy, Creative Director of Event Flair, also advocates for.
“I’ve tried to make my office space one that I like being in. There’s a string of bright, red roses around the board behind my computer. I hang all our big feather costumes out in the open so I can see them and have a quilted blanket my mum made for me on my chair.”
When you’re working from home in the midst of a pandemic, these little creature comforts can make all the difference.
Put clear boundaries in place
While some people might let work bleed into their home life a little, Fryer is strict about not letting this happen. That means no laptop on the kitchen bench and no packing of orders from the living room, she says.
Sarah Davies – owner and director of the Auckland-based business Sweet Spots Business Coaching – finds having boundaries in place helps her to get the most out of her day when working from home.
She believes we should mimic the boundaries that we’d have in our normal workplace. For example, you wouldn’t have email notifications popping up if you were in a face-to-face meeting with a client or employee, so you shouldn’t do it in a Zoom meeting.
When working from home, it can be tempting to attend to every ping of your phone or email notification immediately but getting into this habit isn’t going to help in the long run.
“Turn off your email notifications so you can concentrate on the task at hand without distraction,” she suggests. “Then only check your inbox every hour or two.”
Establish a work routine
Blakey emphasises the importance of creating a routine when working from home.
“A regular start time, breaks for physical movement during the work day and a regular time that work finishes, are all very important,” she says.
Andrea Richey is a seasoned expert when it comes to working from home. She has been running her business, Andrea Richey Massage Therapy, from her home in Christchurch for 13 years now.
So, what are her learnings from over a decade of working from home? Sticking to a routine and putting structure around your tasks for the day.
“If I have three massages booked in, I will block them one after the other,” she says. “I will also keep a set schedule with time for coffee breaks, lunch and other tasks.”
Davies’ finds a morning routine is best for her.
“I have my morning mindset routine that I share with my clients, called ‘Daily Morning Focus,’ which ensures you can identify the top tasks you need to get done on that day. ”
Each morning, she asks herself important questions such as, “What are the goals or milestones I need to achieve today?” and “What’s on my mind right now?”.
Next, she goes into manifestation mode, asking herself to imagine her milestone has already been achieved and consider what that might feel like. She ends on a five-minute meditation to calm her mind for the day ahead.
Murphy says she craves routine and finds practicing daily gratitude tasks to be beneficial.
“I write down three things I’m grateful for [each day]. I usually try and write my to-do list either the night before or as soon as I start work. It gets me in a good head space and makes me feel at ease. I used to write impossibly long to-do lists, but now that I know what I can and can’t fit into a day, I feel calm while working through my list.”
Prioritise your own mental health
When you’re working from home, you can go the whole day without seeing anyone else, so you have to learn how to become an advocate for your own mental health by practicing self-care.
“Be realistic about what you can get done, especially if you are home schooling kids and have proper breaks to re-energise,” says Davies.
Studies showed that following the SARS quarantine period, people showed signs of psychological distress, so taking the time to check in with your family, friends and clients is important.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health right now, you can visit the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 resource page for helpful advice. For more immediate help, you can call Lifeline NZ’s crisis line on 0800 543 354.
Do you need to upgrade your office to set yourself up for success? Talk to one of Prospa’s small business lending specialists on 0800 005 797 about whether a small business loan is right for you.
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