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Avoiding the Pitfalls of Working from Home

As someone who spends a large proportion of time working from home –I have given a lot of thought of how to be as productive as possible whilst not being tempted by the biscuit tin, Jeremy Kyle or even the odd spot of cleaning!


As you can see from the picture of my office at home the cleaning wouldn’t go amiss – although participants on my HRP Programme may recognise some of the components of Workshop 8 ready for the session this week.



On the plus side – working from home has a lot to recommend it – no travel, no smart work clothes required and best of all you can work when it suits you. On the down side there are a multitude of distractions to contend with including all the ones mentioned above but also ourselves as the bestselling author Marian Keyes puts it

“..I used to think that an integral part of bring a writer was lying around on the couch, eating chocolate raisins waiting for the muse to strike. And that if the muse hadn’t struck I might as well be watching Jerry Springer whilst I was waiting. So it came as a nasty shock to discover that if I was waiting for the muse to come calling, it would take several decades to write a book. So now muse or no muse I work eight hours a day Monday to Friday...” [1]

Although I am not a bestselling author I do think much of what I do is creative – designing and preparing for training sessions, putting together proposals for management development programmes etc and often I would wait for the muse to strike resulting in many lost hours and many weekends wrecked.

So with this in mind I have adopted strategies to help me achieve what I need to as effectively as efficiently as possible as have many other creative types which are outlined in the Guardian article Daily Rituals of Creative Minds . Below I have outlined some top tips

  • Have a structure – Work in hourly blocks but don’t  make these rigid if an hour is up but I am in the middle of a piece of work that does not have a natural break I will carry on
  • Take regular      breaks – Try and take a break of between 15 – 30 minutes between each period of work.      Often I will try and do something else instead and yes, that does sometimes include cleaning!
  • Work in a way that suits you - Think about how your mind works – do you like to spend a large amount of      time concentrating on one topic? Or you do prefer to flit from one to another? And then construct your day accordingly – I quite often break chunks of work down into smaller tasks i.e. when marking assessments I      break these down into sections and will mark these a section at a time.
  • Have a space which is your working space – B and Q are currently encouraging us to transform our unloved rooms so why not use one of yours as working space. At one stage I even I had a small coffee machine in my office to stop me wasting time going downstairs and raiding the biscuit tin!
  • Have some noise      if it helps – Research suggest that music assists with learning – if can also help with being more productive as well. Choose something that works for you – although not so loud that it is distracting. Alternatively put on the radio – my own preference is BBC Radio 5 as it stops me checking the football news on the BBC website every 5 minutes.
  • Get some fresh air – Instead of watching Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle take a walk, go for a bike ride – this is particularly useful when you are struggling to find a solution. Often, when our mind is focused on something else – the answer pops into our head!
  • Have a change of  location – This could be working in a different location in the house or even a visit to      the local coffee shop (with wi-fi) of course! When  you are struggling to be motivated a  change of scene can be a good reason to get started out and indeed there a number of benefits to doing so outlined in Why      You Should Work from a Coffee Shop
  • Network, network, network – One of  the things I miss from having a ‘proper job’ is the ability to bounce ideas off colleagues – a strategy around this is to go to CIPD Branch events, using social media to start and engage in conversations and      setting up sharing sites such as Linoit to share ideas and collaborate

I realise these won’t necessarily work for everybody and I would be interested to hear from other people.

What do you to avoid the pitfalls of working from home?


[1] Marian Keyes Under the Duvet (Penguin : London, 2012) P. 5

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  • Hadn't thought about a chocolate bar dispenser Helen - what an excellent idea!!

    Thanks for your lovely comments as well..

  • Hi Helen, what a great blog - thanks! I can really identify with some of the issues you highlight with working from home and there are some great tips. As my back has been playing up for a while now (slowly on the mend :-)) I've looked at my work layout to check how I am sitting and also thought about how often I take breaks. I hadn't realised how long I was actually sitting at the pc without having a break until I timed an hour the other day - I couldn't believe how quickly the time went! I too find some background noise nice to have and also have some environmental sounds on my PC as well as music, I love crickets (makes me think of being somewhere hot!) although jungle sounds can be a bit distracting at times! I love the idea of a coffee machine....umm, what about a chocolate bar dispenser too? ;-). Thanks for the links, getting out to a coffee bar to work is something I've been meaning to do but not yet, so your article has spurred me on!

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