When becoming a freelance HR consultant, working from home can give you the freedom that you crave and allow you to be your own boss but it’s not without its drawbacks. You get freedom, you get flexibility, you get to choose the hours you work. But you also lose the camaraderie of the office, it’s sometimes hard to motivate yourself and it’s easy to get distracted by chores, friends and family.
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to keep on track and make sure working from home is productive rather than prohibitive.
It sounds silly, but getting dressed as if you were actually going to work can make a big difference to your mindset. The temptation to stay in your PJs and dressing gown is always there and after all, you’re working from home, no clients will see you so what’s the problem? While it’s true you won’t be seen, getting dressed for business gets you into the right mindset. This will also increase your productivity and creates a positive routine. Slobbing around in your comfy clothes will lead to underachievement and procrastination.
Don’t let your friends drop by constantly
When you switch to working from home as an HR consultant you’ll be amazed by the number of friends who wish to come round and see you during the day. It’s great if it’s a rest day, not so great if you’re in the throes of work and don’t wish to be disturbed. You end up being polite, having a coffee and two hours have passed by before you realise. Your friend may be happy, but that’s two hours of work you’ve lost and now you’ll have to work in the evening to catch up.
Try to socialise with your friends on your days off, politely remind them that when you’re working from home this doesn’t also mean you’re running an open door policy.
Be clear about your working hours
It’s all too easy to let the working day bleed into the evening. Rather than switching off at night, you feel compelled to answer an 11pm email or a client call which interrupts dinner with your family. You wouldn’t be expected to do it when you worked for someone else so don’t do it to yourself.
That delineation between work and home is important, even when you work from home. So make sure you set yourself working hours, such as 9-5, then shut down your phone and laptop after that.
Don’t work with the kids at home
If you have children, one of the attractions of working from home is reduced childcare costs and greater flexibility when it comes to looking after them. Initially it can feel like a win win, there’s less need for nursery or after school clubs to cover your working hours and you get to spend more quality time with them.
However, working when the kids are home can dramatically reduce your productivity not to mention raise your stress levels. Children, particularly if they’re younger, simply don’t understand that you have to work. In fact they really don’t care at all! It’s also not very professional if your clients can hear a crying child in the background when you're talking to them.
Ensure you have a dedicated place to work
If you have the space, clear the spare room and turn it into your office. This is where you can shut yourself away and dedicate yourself to your work. There’s no chance of your work space being moved around by family members if it’s completely separate. If you don’t have the luxury of a separate room, carve out some space for yourself elsewhere. This can be a small desk in the corner or a recess under the stairs, be sure to tell your family to leave it alone.
Get out of the house every day
When you work at home your world can quickly become much smaller, before you know it you’ve not seen another person for an entire week. This is fine if you like your own company, but even the most introverted among us need human interaction from time to time.
Make sure you leave the house every day, even if it’s just to pop to the local shop. Better still, make it a networking event or meet up group where you can meet other freelance consultants.
When you work from home, that pile of ironing or dirty dishes can suddenly look very tempting. But it’s just a form of procrastination, stopping you from doing your job. Just because you’re at home this doesn’t mean you’re there to do chores. You’re there to work, treat it this way and save the dishes for when the day is over.
Set goals and limits
The initial enthusiasm of working from home can quickly lose its sparkle as the reality sets in. You’re not sure where you’re going to get your next business from, or the office banter to bounce off and lift your spirits. It’s why setting goals is really important. Have an idea of what you want to achieve, in a week, in a month, in a year, and write it down. Remember to check back regularly to make sure you’re sticking to your plan – you’ll be surprised to see how much you’ve achieved.
Manage food and drink – don’t become a grazer
When you work from home the fridge is easily accessible, the kettle is just a short walk away and the temptation to snack is almost overwhelming. But again, it’s just another form of procrastination, distracting you from your job, not to mention increasing your weight. Stick to set breaks – you could take a 15 minute break in the morning, an hour for lunch then another break in the afternoon.
Keep your weekends free
Because your consultancy is your baby and you want to drive it forward, you can be tempted to work the weekends but this can be counterproductive. Initially, you might find it increases your productivity, but inevitably it will start to eat into your free time and you’ll come to resent it. Working weekends won’t end up making you more productive either, ironically it can have the opposite effect. When you start again on a Monday you will feel like you’ve not had a break.
Occasional weekend work is unavoidable, but generally, it’s far better to down tools on a Friday. Use your weekend to do the things you enjoy, ensuring you come back refreshed and energised at the start of the week.