Working From Home - a personal perspective from Helen Owen

As many of us face the challenge of working from home on a more permanent basis, Helen Owen, Marketing Director here at Bisley, offers some personal insight into how she makes it work for her...

I have been lucky enough to be able to work from home occasionally for many years now. In my current role, I am well known for saying that I need to work from home ideally once a week to get some work done, as the remainder of my days are fully occupied with meetings and catch-ups to help others move their projects forward and get their work done.

For me, working at home is essential quiet time where I can metaphorically roll up the drawbridge, erect the barricades and effectively isolate myself, that is turn the phone to silent (it is never off because what if the school phones?!) and either work offline or exit from Outlook. Proof reading, compiling presentations or difficult letters/emails, reading through draft contracts, reviewing rendered images and catching up on projects are all activities I save for home.

I also use the time to file. Yes, I am of an age where I still like paper and I use files as mental reminders of all the projects/plates I and the team have running/spinning at any one time. I don’t keep much – I have 5-years’ worth of project files in 2 filing cabinet drawers (Bisley BS filing cabinet), alongside back issues of trade magazines and my favourite marketing literature from competitors and other industries, so I am not a hoarder! I like something to remind me where we’ve been and how far we’ve come; besides, like flared trousers, some ideas keep coming back and it’s useful to have the ammunition to make them go away again with minimum effort.

For my personal documents and household paperwork, I have used a MultiDrawer for years, long before I worked for Bisley (home of the original and Design Guild Mark winning MultiDrawer). The 5-drawer version is cute and classic and comes in colours to fit perfectly with every kitchen I’ve had. It also makes the bill drawer less threatening somehow!

Home is where I can focus and think, although my best thinking is usually done in the shower or somewhere along the M4. I believe it is an essential part of my role to allocate time for thinking and to shift the work horizon forward by years, not days or months…how else will we know where we are going and set strategic goals? I will also frequently call myself (handsfree and legal!) in the car to leave messages when inspiration strikes, and home is the best place to decipher those moments and establish whether they were genius, or motorway madness.

To work effectively from home, I have a few suggestions that serve me well:

Set yourself an agenda for the day – NOTE: do this the day or night before.

This is not your ‘To Do’ list – if yours is anything like mine then it’s way too lengthy and quite daunting if looked at for too long.

This is the day broken down into manageable chunks like Hugh Grant as Will in About a Boy. I use 50-minute blocks, as an hour is psychologically much longer and therefore too much, and the 10 minutes between blocks allows me to overrun slightly if needed and prepare for the next block. It also means I have time to stretch, yawn, make a drink or play with the cat – all of this is allowed, and I would argue, necessary, when working from home to allow productivity to flourish. It is no different from making a cuppa at work or walking to the printer and back etc.

Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. You want to feel like you achieved something so ensure there are at least one or two blocks that are definitely manageable.

And face your deadlines - do not put those tasks you’ve been avoiding until the last possible moment at the end of the day. Face them head on in the morning armed with coffee and dressed comfortably!

Move.

If you consider a day in the office, how often are you sat at your desk for eight hours without getting up? So why would you do it at home? Even if you are blessed with the best ergonomic task chair at home, you still need to move.

I try to roam when I’m on the phone, and I tend to do an hour standing at my kitchen counter after lunch to avoid the traditional slump. And most importantly, take a lunch break - a proper one. While it can be tempting to grab a sandwich and continue to read emails, it is proven to be more beneficial to take a mental and physical break. Take an hour to walk to the shops, post a letter or pick up your dry cleaning, visit the local sports centre for a swim or gym session, turn on the radio and dance in your living room – it doesn’t matter, as long as you disengage.

Walk away at the end of the day.

Like leaving the office, it is essential that you walk away from work at the end of the end. So, if you don’t have a home office or designated space in the spare room and therefore can’t close a door on it, at least close a drawer on it!

I don’t have a home office; it has been commandeered as the games room by the kids, although my husband seems to spend a fair amount of time in there too! I tend to work in various locations around the house depending on the time of year – in the search for the right levels of heat and light. This means that at the end of the working day to ‘walk away from work’, I return the contents of my workstation to its rightful place, whether it’s my trusty rucksack ready for when I next go in to work, or a drawer in the filing cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind and therefore not tempting you back for more later.

As many of us face the challenge on a more permanent basis in the short term, there have been a few articles supporting my suggestions. Some of my favourites are here: