Working from home might seem like a dream to workers that need to commute but it can also come with its own set of issues.
Calls from friends and family assuming you are always available to chat, and dirty dishes in the sink taunting you are just the start of the many little distractions a home-based worker encounters on a daily basis. Adding a home renovation to the mix can quickly turn that dream into a nightmare making you question if peak-hour traffic is preferable.
A renovation is a tiresome process but you can lessen the headache of managing it while working from home by following 3 simple rules:
Set a schedule and stick to it
Trying to find reliable contractors can be a difficult process as they are often the ones most in-demand. This can make it tempting to drastically change your schedule to suit theirs; however, doing so on more than the odd occasion can be disastrous in the long term.
Setting a schedule when you begin working from home can be a difficult task that is often only perfected over time through trial and error. Allowing constant changes to this schedule – even for what may seem to be a short time – can disrupt it for good.
For example, to allow time for quotes small adjustments can be made without too much disruption, such as:
- Starting your workday an hour later, or ending it an hour earlier, or
- Selecting a set day of the week to book all appointments.
- Scheduling appointments directly before or after your regular lunch break, essentially planning a long lunch.
The key point is not to allow yourself to be drawn into making appointments any time or day of the week. Creating a sort of ‘mini-schedule’ that works around your tried and tested schedule is less disruptive in the long run. It also forces you to limit the amount of time you are giving over to the renovation. This keeps you in control rather than the other way around.
Work deadlines still need to be met and work quality maintained. This simply will not happen if you fail to respect the importance of your own time and schedule.
Maintain a functional work area
Creating a functional home office is yet another big challenge to the work-from-home puzzle. Without proper planning, having to suddenly move it to another area of the home can wreak havoc.
Initially, a simple solution such as moving your laptop to different areas of the house as needed might feel like it will do the trick. This will probably be okay if the disruption to your workspace will only be for a few days or a week. Even so, you may find yourself distracted and less productive over that time. Imagine that situation dragging on for weeks, or even months!
Taking the time to plan ahead for a longer move will save a lot of headaches over what can potentially end up being an extended period.
When selecting your temporary space it is best to try and find an area away from common areas or thoroughfares. Spare bedrooms are ideal but if you do not have a spare bedroom even a corner of your own room will be a better pick than a dining room table next to a busy kitchen.
Unfortunately for some of us, part of planning ahead means having to sort through dusty old files and tidying up messy desks. Here are some quick and easy tips to start the process:
- Archive non-essential and non-current documents. If you can, this is a great time to scan and file them electronically, and recycle those dust-collecting papers!
- Box and clearly label any hard copy documents you must keep. Try and keep them in similar subject groups if you can: separate personal and work-related documents.
- Sell or donate any old equipment you no longer use. For example, an old fax machine is unlikely to be used again and probably deserves a new home at your nearest electronic recycling center and better use online fax services for a more convenient way.
- Box any rarely used equipment or store them together in a cupboard where they will not be in the way.
- If it will make your new workspace feel cramped, larger equipment such as a printer can be set up in a different area.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the new work area is temporary and therefore it does not need to look perfect. It is enough to simply ensure it meets the minimum requirements needed for a functional home office:
- Ergonomics – make sure you keep your comfortable chair and set the desk at the correct height; and
- Tidiness – keep your desk area tidy; and
- Systems – stick to the filing systems you already had in place.
Meeting these elements should be enough to stave off the frustration for a while at least!
Use regular breaks to check progress
Many at-home workers struggle with either one or both of the following issues on a daily basis: ignoring constant distractions, and taking regular breaks.
The inevitable commotion that comes with having contractors in your home definitely causes further distraction. Some days it might seem like work will never be started, much less finished.
Taking proper and regular breaks are a no-brainer for any desk-bound worker when it comes to looking after their health. Getting up from the desk and moving around long enough to clear your mind and get the blood flowing properly to tightened muscles can also help reduce energy slumps. It is hard to stick to regular breaks when you are constantly being interrupted.
Using something as simple as a kitchen timer can help you navigate these seemingly constant interruptions and use them to your advantage:
- Instead of running back and forth and allowing continual disruptions, make it clear to your contractors you will check in with them at regular intervals. Ask them to withhold unimportant questions until you are available.
- If you feel you need to keep a closer eye on one of the contractors, you can set your timer for irregular rather than regular breaks. This should help make sure they do not waste time when they think you will not notice. It can be helpful in situations where contractors are on an hourly rate and you are not quite sure they are trustworthy.
Although these options are not quite as enticing as sitting outside on a beautiful day and enjoying a nice coffee, they can help you feel more in control. An advantage is you are at least walking around and creating a fantastic habit of taking regular breaks.
It is also not a bad idea to offer contractors a hot beverage or a piece of cake every so often – most will definitely appreciate the gesture. Unfortunately, it probably won’t come with a discount but perhaps they will take greater care to do a good job for you.
Trying to navigate the craziness of a renovation without losing yourself in it is a tough ask of anyone – having to work through it is a whole other ball game. Regardless of how well you plan, it is not going to be easy. There will be days you will wonder what on earth you were thinking. The key to managing working at home during this time is to recognize your needs are just as important. Hopefully, it will all be over soon!