OPINION

I'm a work from home pioneer -here's what I've learned

I've been working from home for 30 years, starting in 1990 when I operated using just a fax machine and a phone.

In 2000, when my partner Melissa and I launched our business, we both worked from home.

Together, we've learned about all the benefits and pitfalls of this (at the time) revolutionary way of working.

I'm a strong advocate and have been disappointed that the work from home revolution that the futurists so confidently predicted two decades ago never really materialised.

So maybe a silver lining of the current upheavals might be that more businesses - and employees - will come to understand and embrace working from home as feasible, logical and more productive and the work from home revolution might actually occur.

How much better would life be in our over-crowded cities with their choked infrastructure if just 30 per cent of people could drop the daily commute?

The next few months will provide some fascinating insights into this brave new world (and really test our vaunted NBN!) and I hope they won't be lost so the start of this new decade will be remembered not for the fear and confusion, but as the time when the world "broke free".

Working from home does take some getting used to and I'm happy to share five of the main lessons we've learned, that might help you make the most of this opportunity:

  • Where possible, choose a space with natural light, cooling and heating: Not everyone has the advantage of big, expansive windows, but we've found that nothing diminishes creativity and productivity more than being cooped up in a back room or spare bedroom where there's only artificial lighting, cooling and heating. If you can, maybe even try working outdoors for a while!
  • Cramped space - cramped outlook: It's important to be able to get up and stretch out. A lot of people are accustomed these days to being chained to the computer. It makes us look/feel like we're busy, but 'busy-ness' shouldn't be confused with effectiveness. At home, you'll have the chance to see just how effective you can be (and I think you'll surprise yourself - and your boss) with just how much you can get done if you focus on how to be more effective, not simply "keeping busy".
  • It's important to keep moving: Without a daily commute, it can be easy to just roll from your bed to your desk - but getting some exercise and continuing to move throughout the day is crucial. We're not talking push-ups and jogging - simple things can be effective, like walking around while taking/making phone calls.
  • Physical separation of work and home is good - mental separation is overrated: A lot of people will tell you to switch off entirely when the work hours are over - but if you want to be really effective, don't be so hung up about the clock. More important, we find, is to "play full out" - whether you're playing or working. You'll be more effective when you're working and have more fun when you're playing!
  • Do more with your 'circadian rhythms': You already know the times in a day when you do your best work and those when you're a little off. It's worth making the effort to record these cycles and to plan your day around them. We set ourselves 20-minute sprints during our energised cycles - giving total, uninterruptable focus to our most important task for the day - and get to the more mundane tasks during our quieter cycles. We were amazed at how much more effective/productive we were when we took this stuff seriously.

Working from home is such a natural thing for us now and we're almost finished building a new home and home office - both expressly designed around our ideal work from home environment.

Because our business relies only on a good internet service, we have even been able to choose our perfect place to live (in beautiful Port Stephens) and we've also been able to design into our new home all those features that help us to work and play "full out".

After three decades of working from home, I'm convinced there's a far greater place for it in our modern world.

It delivers so many benefits on so many levels ... for the individual, for companies and for the wider community.

I sincerely hope those people who are now being asked to work from home for perhaps a prolonged period will embrace what could be an opportunity to set up a whole new way of life.

Martin Buggy is a co-founder/director of chai latte business Bondi Chai.

This story I'm a work from home pioneer -here's what I've learned first appeared on The Canberra Times.