Working (job searching) from home

About 15% of the UK workforce works from home according to the Office of National Statistics. In addition, all those searching for a job are also doing so from home. I have been based from home now for over 15 years so I thought it was a good moment to share my learnings and see if you have any other hints and tips to share from your own experience.

First of all, let’s be clear. If are you looking for a job from home, then you ARE working. This is your job at present, to find another job. Often, clients will tell me how difficult they are finding being out of the office structure and routine; missing the support and interaction with colleagues as well as the sharing of information and advice. These are some of the obvious down-sides for us home-workers that we need to find ways around.

So, here are some suggestions for working effectively from home:

Structure and routine
I’m starting with the one I find hardest to do myself! Introduce some structure to the week rather than just jumping into action in response to very first email you read. If you are job searching, think about having a one-hour routine in the morning to review job site searches and create a quality CV and cover email to apply for just one role. Use a different hour for making phone calls to recruiters or take some time for a networking coffee with a former colleague.

I tend to work in one hour blocks and really focus on what I want to achieve in that period. Then I take a quick break, let the dog out into the garden, stretch and walk around. Try not to get drawn into house-work at that point. When I do, it often means I’m putting off confronting a more challenging piece of work or making a difficult phone call.

If you have children coming home from school before the end of your work day, agree with them when and if they can interrupt you. Even have a sign you put on the door to let them know!
I aim to work part-time but when you are self-employed that can be a challenge. You want to be as flexible as possible for your clients. I aim to keep one day completely free each week of work commitments. It might help you to plan ahead something for that day which is sociable or fun.

Working from home should release you from a long commute. Identify certain days of the week when you can add one or two bits of exercise into your routine. The only way I can seem to make this work is if I do exercise at the beginning of the work day. I see clients normally from 9.30am onwards so that after school bus drop off I can swim or do an hour’s cycle.

Meet other people
I’m lucky to have a job where I’m meeting clients face to face or via Skype on a daily basis, so I do get my “fix” of human interaction. If you’re job searching or working from home without that possibility you will need to deliberately organise some face to face time with others. For job searchers this means networking..asking former colleagues, suppliers or managers for a coffee or lunch, for others going out and meeting clients rather than relying on email all the time.

If you get distracted at home or low on energy at home, consider going down to your local cafe to work or job search. I love the white noise buzz around me and find it a surprisingly creative place to write and research. Nice to feel part of the community too. Stop, smile and chat with others – it can brighten up a home-worker’s day.

Have lunch
When you are concentrating hard on a piece of work whether in the office or at home it’s hard to stop for lunch. At home there’s no one to tap you on the shoulder to head to the canteen together. Try to put an hour’s break into your routine. I walk the dog and eat an apple at the same time. You might choose to fit in an exercise class, a gym session or a mindful walk in the park. Make sure you eat healthily. It’s tempting at home to get drawn to snacking – the kitchen is close by. Now we are into the Autumn I am going to try making a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week for my lunch. I’m getting sick of apples!

Enjoy ANY good weather
I’m writing this in the garden at present, on possibly the last sunny afternoon of the year. This really is one of the benefits of being home-based. You have the opportunity to make the most of any good weather. Of course voices do carry so avoid client calls that can be heard from the neighbour’s garden.

Manage your own learning
If you are looking for a new job, why not assign a few hours per week to following an online training course. It keeps your business knowledge up to date and shows future employers that you are being proactive. Take a look at the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which are often free and delivered by leading universities:

If you work from home or are self-employed identify how you want to develop during the coming year. Again there are lots of free or very reasonably priced courses to plug gaps. Alternatively, you could aim to listen to an interesting podcast or TED talk per week to gain new ideas and inspiration.

Find a networking group in your local area. Join your function’s Professional Body and aim to attend one meeting per month to deepen your network, build your confidence and expand your knowledge. Come and join me at CIPD events in the north west of England in the coming months. Check out Eventbrite for a full listing of UK business and professionally related events.

Set goals. Find a mentor
Whether you are job searching or self-employed no one is setting you any targets. If you are looking for a job, it often helps to be held accountable to someone else. Seek out a mentor – a former manager whose opinion you respect for example – or a career coach to help you identify and stick to milestones.

I love the autonomy and flexibility that working from home gives me but it is amazing how quickly the weeks whizz by. I need a mentor to help me focus on my business goals. It is just like having a personal trainer. You may need help to challenge yourself and commit to developing your business further.

Get in touch if I can help you address the challenges of working from home on