Many of us spend two or three hours of our day every day on the same commute, to the same dull office and the same routine. When we get there, managers and bosses seem to run our lives and dictate our time, blaming us when things go wrong, then taking all the credit when things go right. If this sounds all too familiar, striking out solo and working from home might seem like a fantastic alternative.
However, if you are not careful, you can end up feeling as trapped and stressed as you were at work, with both your physical and mental health suffering. But don’t let that put you off from taking the leap, as there is plenty you can do to make homeworking work.
Time and Space
Even though you may have started working for yourself to get away from the rules, you need to set some rules for yourself if you want to manage your work-life balance efficiently. Firstly, you need to establish your working space. Unless you create a separate working space, you will, inevitably, blur the lines between work and home.
Ideally, you need to have a spare room or home office, but if this isn’t possible, you should at least have a desk or table reserved only for work. That way, you know when you are “in work mode’ and when you have finished for the day.
That leads us to work hours. The myth of homeworkers sleeping late and working in their pajamas isn’t true. Indeed, you will probably work longer hours for yourself than you ever did for your old boss. But it is critical to remember that this is still your job and not your life, and thus, you need to keep the two separated.
As a freelancer, you can set yourself working hours that suit you, but you need to stick to them. Otherwise, you will always be tempted to keep working. Remember, no one ever got to their death bed and wished they had worked more, so make sure you keep a balance of work and free time.
With no walk to the bus stop, no stairs in the office block and no trip out to the deli at lunchtime, homeworkers can become dangerously sedentary, which has a serious impact on your health. It is up to you to find the time and try to move through the day.
Get yourself a step counter or a smartwatch to monitor your activity levels and keep you moving. Some will even nudge you to move if you have been still for a while. Better still, get yourself a dog, and you will have to get out and walk at least once a day. Dogs are also excellent company when you work alone, which brings us to the most important factor of homeworking: your mental health.
When you first start working for yourself, you will probably love the peace and quiet and the focus that comes with it. You won’t have to waste time talking about last night’s game or the latest reality TV show, as there’s no office gossip or rumors spread around, and you won’t have to listen to everyone else’s problems.
However, the novelty can soon wear off, leaving you feeling quite isolated. Depression is a common problem for freelancers because they have no one to talk to throughout the day. But you are not alone: there are loads of other freelancers in your area in the same position.
Look for networking groups, or even social groups of freelancers who meet for a drink from time to time, where you can get together, share your experiences and get some help and support.
Through the day, you can keep in touch with the outside world by challenging your friends to games like Wordfeud, chatting on Facebook or Twitter or playing a few hands of poker and sharing your best moves via Twitch.
Even a few lines of conversation in the chat section can make all the difference and help you to feel more connected. Who knows, you might even make a valuable business contact.
Don’t Lose Your Dream
At the end of the day, it is critical to remember why you went freelance in the first place: for the freedom, autonomy and convenience you never had at work. So, don’t let working from home become another job where that has you tied to your desk with terrible hours, huge amounts of stress and no one to talk to about it.
Look after yourself and your mental and physical health, and you can enjoy all the benefits of homeworking, without any of the problems.