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Are you the poor, distracted home-worker? Here’s how to not go crazy

If your home is also your office, here’s how you can make it work for you.

brunch Updated: Feb 28, 2016 01:10 IST
Office,Home worker,Internet
Set boundaries: Don’t always be on call. The same rules that apply to office workers apply to you. Just because you work out of your home, doesn’t mean you don’t need downtime like everyone else. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Everyone who has ever worked out of home will recognise the panic that kicks in around 4 pm. That’s when you realise that you have spent far too much time a) pottering in the kitchen, fixing lunch, a snack, endless cups of tea/coffee b) surfing aimlessly on the Internet, checking out gossip sites, Googling yourself, stalking your ex c) chatting with your friends on the phone or on Snapchat, depending on which generation you belong to.

Then begins the mad rush to finish in a couple of hours that which should realistically take a day. And before you know it, the evening has come and gone and you are still stuck at work (even though, technically, you are at home).

So, what is the poor, distracted home-worker to do? Well, here are a few tips from someone who’s been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.

* Establish a routine. When you are working at home, with no office to punch into, or a boss to report to, the temptation to slack off can often overwhelm. What is the harm, you ask yourself, in getting up an hour later? Or even taking a long break in the middle of the day?

Don’t fall into this trap. When there is no routine imposed on your workday, it is imperative that you create one — and stick to it. Get up at a certain time. Carve out a finite amount of time for lunch or tea breaks. And stop working at a certain hour.

*Have a clear demarcation between your workday and your leisure time. Don’t start the day by checking mails over breakfast. And don’t take your smartphone to bed with you. Create a ritual that indicates that you are ready to start/stop working. It could be fixing yourself one last cup of coffee before you get down to business. Or taking the dog for a walk when you are done, or even hitting the gym. But unless it is an emergency, don’t let your workday bleed into your time off — and vice versa.

* Don’t neglect to get dressed. No, I am not for a moment suggesting that you are into Naked Typing. Just that when one works out of home, it often seems pointless to get dressed as you would if you were setting out for work. Believe me, it’s not. Just the act of getting out of your pajamas/shorts/sweats and wearing proper going-out clothes will make you feel more professional and put together. You will feel that you are working, rather than just faffing around at home.

*Carve out a space in your home that you treat as your workplace. It doesn’t have to be a room, even a small area in it will do. At a crunch, even a work desk will suffice. But having a specific place within the home where you do your office work is a good aid to concentration. Sitting down there, in front of your computer and surrounded by your work products, is a handy way of proclaiming to yourself that you are now at work.

* Don’t always be on call. When you don’t work at an office, those who deal with you professionally tend to think that ‘office hours’ don’t apply to you. They expect you to take calls, answer mails, be available around the clock. Make it clear that this is not acceptable. The same rules that apply to office workers apply to you. Just because you work out of your home, doesn’t mean you don’t need downtime like everyone else.

* No daytime television ever. It doesn’t matter what is on. It may be the finale of Downton Abbey or Modern Family that you missed the night before. There may be a great news story breaking (journalists get a pass on this one). Or you may crave a half hour of entertainment while you eat lunch. But whatever the justifications jostling in your head, don’t switch the TV on. Or, before you know it, you will be neck-deep in reruns of Friends, and half the workday will be over.

* Get out of the house at least once a day. Those who work at home, with no social interaction with co-workers, can often go stir-crazy. That’s when the temptation to check your Twitter feed, update your Facebook status, glance through Instagram, kicks in. One way of dealing with this is to leave the house at least once during the day. Go grocery shopping. Get a cup of coffee at the neighbourhood cafe. Or just go for a walk. That is often the best way of clearing your head and going back to work afresh.

Plan short breaks: Those who work at home with no social interaction with co-workers can often go stir-crazy. One way of dealing with this is to leave the house at least once during the day. Go grocery shopping. Or just go for a walk. (Photo: Shutterstock)

* Stay offline unless you need to use the Internet for your work. If you don’t trust yourself, use a laptop that is not connected to your Wi-Fi network or chose a spot in your house where the network doesn’t work (shouldn’t be too difficult given the quality of broadband available to us). That way, the distractions available to you via the Internet will be reduced, if not entirely removed.

From HT Brunch, February 28, 2016

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First Published: Feb 28, 2016 00:19 IST