The Home Workers Strategy (whilst still having a life)

A messy desk at homeA lot of people tell me that moving toward home working is easy, just decide one day that its going to happen and there you go…………..right? Without a plan and thinking thoroughly about your run and jump into home working you might want to think again. Interested well read on.

Many organisations for lots of different reasons close offices and decide that the workforce can work from a home base. Generally there is a shrug of the collective shoulders, you pick up your laptop, a phone and off you go. No planning, no discussions at home of what it may mean to the family or how you will manage the available space.

Mum’s and Dad’s going back to work after a baby might not want to be away from their precious one, so this options will help them get back to the work they love. Again jumping in with both feet might work but when you plan the home working thing with work and family in mind its potentially a win win situation.

Here is a quick check list of things I use to help business and individuals move positively toward home working bliss.

  • Get the right technology and support for technology sorted out quickly. Being on your own to sort out broken computers, sufficient broadband, mobile phone signal etc can be challenging. Make sure you have a back up system for both files and hardware , so the stress of things going pop is reduced.
  • Talk to the family. Ensure that families and especially children understand what is happening. Let them have their input into the transitional process.
  • Decide on where you will situate your office space. This goes back to families once more, as excess clutter and paper work can cause quite a lot of stress and conflict. A corner of a living room is fine but what disturbance will you get and what hours will you be able to work most productively without being bothered?
  • If you are lucky you can convert a bedroom or garage. Again spend time planning and setting this out so you feel you are at work and away from home.
  • Commute to work. Yes I know you are working at home but a trip to the newsagents or bakers in the morning helps you get your head in the right space for work.
  • Decide upon how to maintain your social connections. Meet colleagues at the many hotels with lobbies that have coffee shops and catch up with friends when you can.
  • Do not get dragged into working too long – presenteeism is a serious problem for home based working.
  • Keep technology away from the bedroom and yes I mean phones, TV’s and computers. You need your sleep to be effective at work and yes that means home based workers too.
  • Start a homeworkers coffee morning or lunch club. Great for small business owners to mix, get ideas & network.
  • Most of all enjoy the home working experience. Enjoy the flexibility and the chance for a better lifestyle for you and your family. Plus with planning get a great deal of work done whilst sitting at home.

So all is not lost for home based working just needs a bit of careful planning and bit of negotiation and most of all commitment to make it work. Good luck and most of all have fun with the change to more flexible working.

Call or email me for details of my strategies for successful home working and my upcoming book “How to Work at Home & Stay Sane”

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Work Place Psycho(babble)(madeup)ology

images (33)Love it or hate it psychology in the workplace has an impact on all or working lives. From applying for a job and taking a psychometric test, an interview that is semi structured or structured toward having to attend an assessment centre etc. When you attend a training/L&D programme hopefully your learning transfer is measured and an assessment will be conducted over time to ensure a good return on investment for the business. Research & models of leadership, management,groups/team function, H&S, HR, culture, behaviour etc etc, Notwithstanding the burgeoning area of coaching psychology that helps numerous people in and out of the workplace daily. Now I could go on and discuss every area that work psychology gets its sticky little fingers into, but this will probably start the collective yawn that work place psychology can evoke.

Psychology has physics envy, there I have said it. An ex-colleague and good chum who is a physicist & statistician takes a dim view of this adolescent science of psychology. Our conversations go like this – psychology is madeupology and just a load of psychobabble that doesn’t make any sense. After all you do is confirm the bleeding obvious, its all common sense! I won’t go into my reply as it is unprintable. So why does psychology have this problem and sometimes negative perception in the workplace? Why is it some businesses and individual see us as just confirming what they already know or perhaps think they know.

Well firstly the thing about common sense it ain’t that common. We generally see the world though a perceptual lens that suits our beliefs and values. Therefore it may be that psychology at work is of little value due to the seemly obvious nature of the results. However, without all the research behind the theories and models of the workplace and facets within the organisation, how can we ever confirm the bleeding obvious as it stays as perceived common sense? This is where the issues exists as a lack of understanding of the years of work on theory and modelling on so many different areas of the workplace that sometimes it just gets overlooked as business white noise. Perhaps then its down to us to make psychology more understandable and more applicable to everyone’s working life? Something I believe should be the case.

To use psychology in the workplace is a valuable tool that is excluded at the detriment of any organisation. Many guru’s are employed to cast upon the masses their pet understanding of how things work with people and groups. Thing is it is just one person’s one eyed view without any commitment to ongoing development of their subject, organisation or clients. Though I do understand you pays your money your takes your choice with all things. However, without any background in the subject apart for a nice certificate and a great chat up line where is the substance of the offering?

So as a geeky psychologist who cares about the profession, I see physics envy is a positive thing as it make us work harder to find answers to the big organisational questions. We are all psychologists, we love people watching and making broad generalisations about groups and their views. So why not find out about the science of the bleeding obvious and how uncommon common sense actually is. Its not that bad you know and we might be able to make some sense of how you and your organisation ticks.

At Home at Work (and how to stay sane!)

images (27)Having worked from a home-base whilst employed and now working at home working for myself, I do thoroughly understand what it takes to stay sane working at home. Having said that I am sure my friends and family may doubt my sanity, let alone the home working part. Less said about that the better.

Now according to the Office of National Statistics report (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/index.html accessed 5/06/2014) here in the UK 58% of self employed people rely on working from a home base on a day-to-day basis  By June 2012 there were an estimated 4.2 million people in the UK who regarded themselves as self employed, compared to 3.8 million just before the start of the recession in 2008.

The detailed figures are –

  • 15% = 630,000 people work from home
  • 5% = 210,000 worked on the same grounds as their home (office in the garden)
  • 38% = 1,600,000 of self employed used their home as a base.

Delving a little deeper into the figures, self employed people work longer hours than employed people. Indeed a third of people stated they are working more than 45 hours per week, compared to just over a fifth of employed people. Needless to say there are some extremes in the hours worked, both of which show it is not easy to find a happy medium when self employed whist working at home.  At one end of the spectrum, 10.8% said they wanted to do more hours. At the other end of the scale, 22% are working more than 45 hours per week. So longer hours and a reliance of working in the place that they call home. Probably not a great combination if there is a family involved that may need the attention of the home worker involved.

So with the growth of home based working for a number of different jobs (farmers, plumbers & builders occupy largest proportion), how can we manage our working week successfully and stay sane? Here are a few tips to help you focus upon getting the job done whilst balancing your home-work life.

  • Try an independent co-working or hot-desking – Co-working will give you the opportunity to meet new people, work and talk about issues rather than mull over a problem or isolate yourself. Hot-desking is generally a desk or two kept clear in your organisation so you can attend the office during the week.
  • Socialise – try not to isolate yourself during your working week. Meeting people or even popping to the shops to clear your mind and help you to refocus on your work and help you keep connected to the face-to-face world.
  • Maintain your wellbeing – do some exercise and eat well. Avoid going to bed with your smart phone – you will not sleep well with technology in the room. Nothing more miserable than not sleeping well.
  • Find a workspace at home – sometimes harder said than done. Some lucky souls have a bespoke office at the end of the garden, plumbed in and powered up. Most of us make use of a spare bedroom or even a corner of a living room. Help your family manage the space so you can feel as though you are at work.
  • Commute to “work” – this may mean walking the dog, going for a run or buying a paper. Helps move you from home mindset to work mindset and vice versa. May help manage the separation between your home and work life as well.
  • Trial working from home before committing – not sure working from home is for you – trial it first. Give yourself a chance to experience it before committing. You will need a number of skills including, great time management, support from your organisation, dedication and commitment from your family to make it work.
  • Risk Assess your work space – make sure you are safe in your home office & comply with Health & Safety (H&S) policies and procedures.
  • Get some training in H&S – your line manager can help you out here
  • Get appropriate insurance – working at home may effect your home insurance (refer to previous point).
  • Eyesight Tests – if you use a computer or use display screen equipment get an eye test to make sure you can concentrate properly.

These are just a few of things you will need to consider for a sane life at work at home. Its not easy, but with most things in life its all about planning, planning and more planning. Start as you mean to carry on with a structure you can work with that manages your home life and work life. Learn to balance the needs from work, your wellbeing & your family commitments. Need more support on how to make this transition then just drop me a line for an informal chat about working at home and staying sane!

References

Office of National Statistics – Self-employed Workers in the UK, February 2013

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/self-employed-workers-in-the-uk/february-2013/index.html

The Dependency of Work – work to live or live to work?

images (24)Now I have to admit the title is quite provocative but hopefully posed an interesting question for you. That question then is, are some of us dependant or even addicted to work and working? We may be perhaps but for many different reasons. Our life choices will probably mean we need to earn money to pay for a mortgage, a car, food etc, all pretty legitimate reasons to be in employment of course. Our patriotic contribution toward national taxation will support our countries economic status and services etc. So all worthy and wholesome activities to be engaged in. However, do we trade the security of paid employment for the dependency we then have on our employer?  Do we sometimes experience poor self esteem and lack of confidence that drives us toward poor mental wellbeing; as a result become addicted to the work we do?

Whist cogitating for this blog, I stumbled across a recent article by Adrian Furnham “Work Addiction” that seemed to trigger off a few more thoughts of my own. These latent thoughts had been there for some time, following my work designing & delivering employability programmes, meeting & coaching many people along the working spectrum. There is a balance between enjoying work and being enthusiastic about what you do, toward tipping over into distorted career & personal thinking, overwork, job insecurity, perfectionism and over competitiveness is difficult and may well depend upon circumstance and work culture.

The need to continually prove oneself in conjunction with an organisation that encourages rampant competition & toxic presenteeism, is likely to encourage the addictive and dependant work attitudes and beliefs. Thus a work-life balance is disapproved of and actively discouraged by the organisation and group culture. As Mr Furnham suggests ‘Studies on workaholics showed they held various beliefs. Work is about win-lose not win-win’. ‘ nice guys finish last’; ‘you prove yourself at work’. They strive against others and certain targets”. Easy to then imagine the link between poor organisational culture and addictive & dependant behaviours for the employee.

So the workaholic may well be addicted to work or more to the point the bolster it gives the poor confidence and self-esteem, job insecurity, competitiveness, control freakery and other distinct issues. Work over 50/60 hours per week these days suggests then there may well be addictive or dependant tendencies, but how can anyone recognise the signs.

  • Perhaps find it difficult to switch off and give more time to work than is necessary
  • Needing approval and the constant need for affirmation, power and position
  • Mobile devices on all day & night for the fear of missing out (FOMO) on important news or information
  • Compelled to “work to finish” regardless of the work/life consequences
  • Poor family & personal relationships
  • Stress and other health related conditions

Many symptoms that we all recognise at one point or another I am sure. Question is what do we do about it now that we are embedded in the highly pressurised work environments today. Primarily, knowing thy self can help. Take the cognitive behavioural models that help individuals recognise the events or the work is having an effect upon negative thinking styles (catastrophising), how you feel (stressed, anxious), the physical changes (feeling sick, headaches and nauseous) and behavioural ramifications to the environment. Indeed, the behaviour change can emanate its self in unhealthy self medication with drink or smoking. Though more to the point be able to recognise the toxic events and take action to mediate them with positive and active problem solving and actions.

With our coaching support or self-help, this model will help you understand the reason for the work dependency and either support a transition toward healthier work/life balance or coming to terms with the work you do and managing it accordingly. Also consider mindfulness, stress relieving exercise, socialising with friends and family and any other activities that can help regain a sense of perspective between the work and life balance.

Of course no one size fits all, though it is clear enjoyable and fulfilling work, whatever you do is beneficial for wellbeing. Being dependant & addicted to your work with all the consequences may not be, that will sadly have a negative impact on both the person concerned and the people around them too.  So is it working to live or living to work…………..over to you!

 References
A Furnham, In Psychology Today, Work Addiction – A Sideways View (Accessed 2/06/2014) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201405/work-addiction