Cabinet minister Liz Truss has called for flexible working to become the norm. The...read more
Louise Goss, founder and editor of The Homeworker magazine, shares her expert knowledge
When Louise Goss founded The Homeworker magazine she knew it was a growing trend. But she can’t have foreseen just how many more people would be working from home by 2021!
She shared her story of why she started the magazine plus some of the tips and advice she’s gathered in her years running it.
Flexibility! I’m sure that is the first thing which many parents appreciate.
Working from home allows you to better work around the demands of your life, rather than live around the demands of your work. It provides more opportunity for family time and for all parents to be more involved in the lives of their children. In this way, the ability to work from home, helps to level the gender inequality in the workplace where women have traditionally sacrificed their careers to raise children, and dads have taken a back seat in parenting.
I think it’s wonderful to see more dads being able to take an active role in family life and for everybody to strike a more harmonious balance. It helps to erase the perception that mums are the only ones who can or should do the childcare, although I know there is a way to go for that to filter through to all sectors and in all businesses.
What has been nice to see in our home, is how our children have started to see what our work involves. My daughter is four and is starting to think about what businesses she could create! Having that exposure to running a business or seeing how hard we work, actually gives them a better appreciation of what we do and what ‘going to work’ really means.
Arguably, it can boost productivity, but that very much depends on your work and your home setup.
It certainly saves a lot of time in commuting and travelling for meetings, which we now know can take place virtually, and in that way, it also has benefits for the environment.
Some people really dislike working from home. If you’re having to make do with a kitchen table, poor equipment, a slow wifi connection, and a small space, then it is not ideal.
I think the other issue is the isolation and lack of social interaction. I’m sure as we start to return to the workplace, we will begin to see a more hybrid approach with people combining working from home with a couple of days in the office for face-to-face connection and collaboration.
I should say, some people find proximity to the fridge and biscuit cupboard a big drawback! (But I’d argue that the constant stream of birthday cakes and cookies that seemed to fill the office was just as bad!)
My main three tips are:
Develop a good routine at the start and end of the day.
A day that starts well generally continues well. In fact, I’d say a productive day starts the night before. Get your clothes out, your to-do list written, and your workspace tidy in the evening. Then when you wake up, you can start work without wasting time hunting for the missing pen and wondering which task you have to get on with.
If you can get up before the kids, I find this really helps with feeling you’re starting the day on your terms. If it gives you a chance to have a workout or do something for yourself, I find you’re much less stressed by all the other demands that pull on your time.
It is equally important to have a good end of work-day routine or ritual. This helps you to switch off – a big challenge with homeworking. I often suggest saving a certain task to do at the end of each day that signals you are finished: whether it’s an inbox tidy up or a final ten-minute zoom call or phone call with your team. Some people like to change clothes, or have an evening ‘commute’ such as a quick walk outside to help shift the energy and mind from work and back to home.
This is really important, especially because we no longer have the multitude of reasons to get up from our desks when we are home. No photocopier runs, no colleagues to pop and chat to, no commute, or even a walk down the corridor to the toilet.
Try to move at least every hour. You can incorporate stretches or even mini workout breaks such as squats or dancing! (Nobody can see you after all!) If you don’t have the perfect ergonomic set up, this helps prevent all the aches and pains associated with poor posture and being hunched over a laptop for hours.
I could expand hugely on this tip but communication is key for successful home working. Make sure everyone in your household understands your working hours and when you are and are not available as this helps you focus without constant interruptions. It’s important the conversations happen regularly and you understand their needs and frustrations too. Nobody wants to feel as if they live in an office.
If you’re a remote worker, make sure you are also in touch regularly with your colleagues and your boss. This isn’t just for social interaction, but to make sure you are comfortable reaching out for help and can be transparent about any challenges you might be facing.
An ergonomic chair is going to help you. You will be sitting a lot and it will give you the support you need to prevent longer term pain and injury. If I were to invest in something, a good chair would probably be it.
A secure and fast broadband connection is almost certainly essential these days. There are only so many buffering zoom calls and frozen screens you can put up with!
Any equipment that helps you work pain free is also going to help you be more productive so I have a footrest and a standing desk. These kinds of things aren’t vital but I do think they help.
Absolutely. I don’t think we’ll see it stay at the scale we are currently experiencing but I am sure it will continue. Businesses which have had to adapt quickly have seen that it is possible. From what I see and hear, I am sure a lot will adopt a blended model with colleagues mixing up their week with some days at home, and some in the office.
I think (and hope) there’ll be less stigma around working from home or requesting to do so. I believe we have seen that it doesn’t have to mean we are taking a day off, or waiting for a boiler repair – but equally, if we need to be around for these things, then it allows us to do so without worrying about it.
I think so, yes, certainly since the pandemic. Just from The Homeworker perspective, I’ve seen more men start to subscribe to the magazine.
In our own household, my husband is a big advocate for working from home now, and that has been a shift from his initial reaction, where he didn’t really enjoy it. It does take some time to adapt to it, but long-term, I think if more dads work from home, it will help create a more harmonious family life.
There has been a lot of talk about how women, particularly working mums, have borne the brunt of the lockdown as they have had to do the majority of homeschooling and more household chores, so I realise there are issues there. But long-term, I think with more dads working at home, it will help with the division of labour, and allow men to have a more active role in their children’s lives.
It also gives you more time for yourself. You can use the time that was spent commuting to go for a run, or do something mindful to help start your day with less stress.
I hope that most people understand that we are not experiencing working from home as we would normally. Homeschooling is not a usual part of the requirements! I stress often that the current situation is not a fair reflection of homeworking. It will make a huge difference to working parents when the schools are back open. It is probably showing us how productive we can be in the very limited time we have but having to schedule business calls in between maths lessons, and trying to reply to emails while your child is learning phonics on your laptop is not homeworking!
In many ways I started The Homeworker after being involved in a tech startup! As part of that role, I had been interviewing a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners. It opened my eyes up to how many people were doing such a wide variety of interesting things – and the hidden economy taking place behind so many front doors.
After we moved back to the UK from Australia with two small children I found myself looking at options for work and at that familiar crossroads that many parents reach after having children. I decided it was a good opportunity to develop my ‘homeworker’ idea.
It evolved into looking at working from home in general as there are so many elements to it and a magazine seemed like the perfect vehicle to address all the issues.
I’d worked from home for a number of years and could relate to many of the challenges remote workers and freelancers face. I could also see things shifting; more people were going self-employed, the demand for flexible working was increasing, I could see that working from home was a growing area (although I could never have predicted how quickly and how soon)!
The Homeworker takes a very holistic view of working from home. The articles cover topics to help your mindset, your physical and mental health, your home work environment, your business and productivity. To me it’s a fusion of a wellness, lifestyle, business and interiors magazine but that is because working from home really is an integration of all these things.
I interview people who work from home and explore how they do it and share their tips. I also interview experts from psychologists and ergonomists to mindset coaches, and health professionals. Articles range from looking at how to be more creative, or how to balance different types of tasks, to how to develop a more positive outlook or a growth mindset while at home. There are also good exercises to do at the desk, home office tips and inspiration, and features on staying engaged and connected and protecting your mental health.
You can get a digital subscription on the website or order a hard copy of one of our annual printed work from home guides. For any US residents, the print issues are stocked at some Barnes & Noble stores.