Working from home can be amazing: no stress from commuting or rain-soaked work uniforms, plenty of money and precious time saved, and, let’s be honest, working in t-shirt and shorts is incredible.
Suffice to say, working flexibly from home can be a massively positive aspect of your working life, not only for you but also consequently for your employer, family and friends.
But working from home can also be a hugely distracting, counter-productive and unhealthy existence.
Several years ago I worked for an old English Anglican Church smack in the middle of London. Looking after their large worship department, I was placed at a desk in what, at first glance, seemed like a very cool loft space office in the apex of the cavernous building ‒ kind of like a man cave but for work.
When it came to preparing ministry, worship and prayer, this was great. But I quickly discovered that this wasn’t a positive aspect of my working life at all and, occasionally, actually became a very strong negative challenge for me.
In more recent years, I have worked for several different employers in home-based, freelance roles where, again, most of my time has been with just myself ‒ as time has gone on, I have grown rather accustomed to this rhythm of life:
Hence, here are seven tips to help you decide when/if working at home is best for the health of your leadership:
- Can you “go to work” mentally? This is a great place to start because for many people it’s the hardest question to consider in an objective, honest way. A little like the wiring of some folk that makes them either early birds or night owls, some leaders find it easier to be self-disciplined at home more than others. If you know that being at home reduces your productivity, I’d suggest intentionally choosing to go to a different physical location, even a public coffee shop. Though this may not be an easy decision, it will definitely be preferable to becoming stressed as you wonder whether or not your output is the best it could be. This will only destroy your creativity and rest.
- Can you boss the distractions? Whether it’s the coffee machine downstairs, the therapeutic cat purring on your lap, the postman, the neighbor, the TV … distractions abound at home. Understandably, we create our homes to be functional but also as relaxing and comfortable as possible. In many ways therefore, working at home can be like throwing a kid into a ball-park and asking them to do their homework. If you know that being at home creates a quiet working environment that maximizes work output, then great! But, realistically, you might also be too distracted to ensure consistent, focused graft.
- Can you be connected? I have worked remotely with some other folk who are also working remotely but whose internet connection isn’t up to scratch. This means that, at best, they’re frustrated and also frustrating other colleagues or, at worst, completely isolated. In other words, is your home tech adequate for you to do a great job? This is an especially important point for creative professionals who might be working with film, photography or other large files. Being connected via Skype or Zoom, in a way that isn’t stressful or unstable, always makes a world of difference to home working
- Can you say no? “Working at home” can often be interpreted by others as being less important than “being at work.” It seems like a strange thing to imagine, but your parents wouldn’t wander into your office block and casually knock on your office door, and neither would your wife or husband. It’s important to set boundaries with the closest people in your life so that working at home can be protected time like any other. This will often involve saying “no” to others but also often to yourself.
- Can you take breaks? At home you don’t have as much pressure to take healthy breaks both in the regular getting up from your computer and walking around as well as substantial time out at lunch. Legally, your manager “at work” has to keep an eye on this and, really, it’s no different at home. You need to take regular breaks; otherwise your leisure/recreation home time becomes an extension of work. This is never a healthy dynamic for you or those with whom you live. It helps too if you live somewhere that enables you to get out of the house at lunch and go for a walk or some more vigorous exercise. A great question to ask is whether or not that’s easiest for you at home or where your actual work office is …
- Can you be holy? Being alone and online is always a combination to be mindful of. This is especially true if you are working at home alone. Working online in your own private home office is a very different reality compared to being online in the middle of an open plan office, surrounded by people. Knowing yourself in this regard is vital. Will working at home alone, while easier and with obvious benefits, ultimately be a blessing to your relationship with God and life of purity? It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this point and may well be a deciding factor for your deliberations. Either way, build in accountability and a non-negotiable matter of occupational (spiritual) health.
- Can you build relationships? Will even semi-regular working at home help your process of building relationships? Will it help you to manage and lead those in your team or perhaps will it put pressure on them by your being less available? I have found that a good question to ask myself is ‒ Why is it, really, that I want to work at home? Is it because I genuinely want to be more productive today or, perhaps, because I just want an easier day because things are tough? When the pressure is on, it can actually be more important to be around people rather than defaulting to solitude. Perhaps God will speak to you more in the ebb and flow of conversation with someone than being tucked away in your little fortress space at home.