Think of working from home and you might conjure up a hedonist vision of leisurely lie-ins, loungewear as workwear and Netflix instead of colleagues. And while this might work for some people, if my four years of freelancing have taught me anything it's this: I need a decent, hard-soled slipper to get any work done. Or to put it another way, I need some semblance of structure if I'm going to be productive. Here's seven do's and don'ts that allow me to get work done while working from home…
Don't allow distractions
If you didn't used to allow yourself workday access to Instagram / Keeping Up with the Kardashians / insert your weakness here, don't give in now you work from home. Distractions are still distractions no matter your location, so I've found it's a good idea to set some workday boundaries to keep procrastination at bay. For me that means leaving my phone downstairs on silent while I work as I can't resist a ding or shiny new notification.
Don't limit yourself to 9-5
This one depends on if you are working remotely or working for yourself, but if you're in the latter situation, don't feel constrained by 'normal' office hours. Instead, make the most of your natural ebb and flow of energy. For example, I'm on it in the morning but pretty much useless for an hour or so after lunch. So instead of sitting at my desk willing myself to work, that's my designated errand running spot.
Don't wear your PJs to work
Occasionally in the morning I'll get an exciting email on my phone and because I want to get to it right away, I'll go up to the office to reply. I can guarantee I'll be sat there two hours later, still festering in my pyjamas and feeling 0% the pulled-together freelancer. I'm not saying you need to don a three-piece suit, but I get eminently more done when I'm wearing proper clothes. And, oddly enough, a decent pair of slippers.
Do take regular breaks
If you love what you do - or are just a plain old-fashioned workaholic - it can be easy to neglect breaks in favour of ploughing on. But whenever I skip lunch or forgo my afternoon dog walk, I find myself feeling sluggish and off-kilter. Yet if I make time to decompress, eat properly and get some fresh air, I'm irritatingly peppy all afternoon long. So, schedule in some downtime, whether that's coffee with a friend or a sweaty gym sesh. You'll return feeling reenergised and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Do have a dedicated work space
Some people can work effectively from their sofa - or even, gasp(!), their bed - but I turn into a slug if I attempt to work from such a set-up. To get my best work done, not to mention to be able to effectively switch off at the end of the day, I need a separate work area. I'm fortunate enough to have a home office, but even a dedicated space in another room would work. I'd go one step further and say make your workplace inviting, too.
My office is full of my favourite art, plants and an outrageous pink chair that makes me smile and lures my cat into spending time with me. We tend to spend a fair chunk of our lives working, so it's worth making your environment as pleasant as possible. Left to my own devices, I could easily turn into a hermit; a strange freelance recluse only leaving the house when the coffee beans run out.
But one day, after a lengthy small talk session with the supermarket shopping delivery driver, I realised if I was going to stay sane while working from home, I'd need to make sure I got out enough and saw Other People. So now I occasionally work from a coffee shop, plus I carve out space each week to spend time with friends and family.
7. Do make the most of the flexibility
Rules are made to be broken and ultimately you know how you work best, so pick and choose guidelines that suit you and your lifestyle. And along the way, I urge you to make the most of your newfound freedom. That looks different to me on different days - sometimes it means putting on a lunchtime load of laundry (wild, I know) and other times it means scheduling an afternoon off because the sun's out and the dog is in the mood for a long beach walk.
The writer is a freelancer