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NOW CLOSED: Do you do paid work at home? Share your top tips for making it work for you and your business/ employer with E.ON - you could win a £50 voucher

(51 Posts)
AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 10-May-12 14:41:39

We've been asked by E.ON, the energy provider, to find MNers who undertake any kind of paid work at home to share with us their top tips on making it work. So if you run your own business from home, are a freelancer, do a job where you work some of the week in the office and some at home or even if you regularly take work home with you please read on.

For example; please let us know what you do to make the most of your time at home (and not get distracted by MN!), what tools you employ to maximise time and optimise productivity, whether you have self imposed rules when you are working and how you manage to separate work and home life and how you organise your workspace/home office.

What tips would you have regarding children and your work from home - what kind of childcare do you use?

They're also looking for your tips on how to be energy efficient when working from home - how can you keep these costs under control whilst being at home? If you use the internet at home for your work, any tips on making the best of this would also be welcome.

Everyone who adds a tip or comment will be entered into a prize draw where one winner will get a £50 voucher for Capital Bonds, which can be spent at over 160 retailers.

E.ON will use your tips to compile into their "Top Tips for Working From Home" information, to coincide with National Work From Home Day (18 June). The tips will appear on E.ON's website and Facebook page as a way of sharing the combined expertise of Mumsnetters and E.ON energy advisers to make the most of working from home. Your MN name will not be used.

E.ON say "In January, we launched our Reset Review which is designed to examine every aspect of its relationship with customers - from tariffs and bills to how customers pay, how products are sold and how support is offered. Feedback from the Mumsnet community is vital to helping us push the reset button onour relationship with customers, putting customers back in control of their energy use at home and encouraging customers to make more informed tariff decisions to reduce any energy related worries."

thanks. MNHQ

BerryLellow Thu 10-May-12 15:46:49

I think I probably need more tips than I could pass on, but for us having one room that is for the business helps. It used to be a desk in the corner of the living room which just led to chaos.

We run a building company and I am also a freelance hairdresser, so good filing systems are also a winner, from where you put the post to it's storage/disposal. Being able to lay your hands on policies/documents/statements easily reduces extra stress.

Obviously I'm hugely guilty of letting it pile up in the kitchen until it topples over however...

I think depending on the nature of your business, you need to have specific working times and definitely child free times. Just because you are at home does not mean you should be on call for every biscuit and juice demand.

FannyPriceless Thu 10-May-12 15:47:05

I am ruthless on the days I work from home. The kids are at nursery, so the heating goes off at the usual time and it's just me. Depending on the time of year I play frozen chicken with myself to see how long I can go without turning it back on. Woolly jumpers, fleeces, hiking socks, etc! <whispers> I have even been known to work in bed with my legs tucked under the duvet if it is particularly cold.blush Using a laptop helps, as I can snuggle up anywhere to get my work done. e.g. sit in the conservatory if it is sunny and warm, avoid it if it is cold.

I also make the most of my working from home days to get several loads washing done. In the summer this is brilliant as I can actually hang the washing outside!smile That's got to be energy saving, plus gives me a happy glow.

ParsleyTheLioness Thu 10-May-12 16:18:39

I have a timetable of work, and mark down the hours I work on a timesheet. I work for myself, so this is only for me, but it means I can see where I need to put extra hours in etc. Sometimes I need a break to think my way round a problem, and I put the kettle on, but generally I try not to stop at a tricky point if I know how to resolve it at that time. Its much easier to go back to it when you've got past the tricky part. Let the phone go to answerphone. I have a business specific no, so don't get homelife interrupted by business out of hours. Previous businesses have shown me that if you one number for all, people will ring you on flimsy 'emergencies' at all hours!

carabos Thu 10-May-12 16:24:47

I work from home (own freelance business). DCs are grownup, but DS2 is still at home and occasionally helps out with menial tasks grin.

How do I make it work? I have turned our third bedroom into an office, properly equipped with desk, chair, laptop, printer, all that gubbins as well as a small sofa so that I don't spend all my time sitting in one position.

*I have a portable oil filled radiator that I bring into the office when its cold to avoid heating the whole house.

I work in bursts and when I want to stretch my legs I go downstairs and make a cup of tea, do a chore, put dinner on etc.

I have the radio on for company, but I don't feel lonely.

*I make a point of going out at some point each day, whether its to exercise, shop, post office, whatever.

We save energy and money by having only one car, which DH uses for work. If I need to go to the city to see a client or contact, I get the train. I have a client about 4 miles away so when I have a meeting with them, I run or walk there and back - getting my daily exercise at the same time (and they don't mind if I'm sweaty).

I don't get hung up on putting the hours in - I tend to do some work every weekday, rather than say work three full days and have the rest of the time off, but at the moment realistically its about 5 hours per day.

I think its more productive than being in a corporate environment as there are fewer distractions and no politics.

*these are my top tips.

LunarSea Thu 10-May-12 17:06:30

1 - have a defined "office". Once you are through that door you "at work" so you only do the things you'd do at work and don't get tempted into doing other things around the house.
2 - too much silence can actually make it harder to work without getting distracted by little things - a radio, even if it's only for background noise rather than because you are listening to it can be helpful.
3 - try to actually have a break for lunch occasionally. I find I tend to work through it a lot of the time, so don't feel too guilty if I occasionally manage a longer break on a quiet day.
4 - unless your business requires it, you're not stuck with 9-5. I usually start at 7 (you do get used to it!) so I can finish by about 3.15 to do school pickups and after school activities. Then a quick check at the end of the business day for anything else which has come in over those couple of hours and deal with anything which won't wait until the morning.
5 - try to have a routine visit to the office or a call with colleagues - it can be quite isolating and it's easy to miss out on things which only get communicated informally.

ThunderboltKid Thu 10-May-12 17:23:17

One of the hardest things is convincing other people you actually work from home. Family and friends seem to think I live a life of luxury and don't work at all; just because I don't work in an office.

Also, I found joining a gym and getting a dog crucial to staying sane! Gets you out the house everyday, no matter what the weather, and means you also see other people.

MakeTeaNotWar Thu 10-May-12 17:39:21

I work in a very busy office 3 days a week and do 1 day from home. I find the day at home dull without the office buzz so I maximise on the quiet time by saving all my admin type tasks and reports for home working and do all my "creative" work in the office, using the energy of others. I use childcare in order to give my job full time and energy...but I do stay in joggers all day for comfort!

MuddyWellyNelly Thu 10-May-12 17:48:17

I work for a very large organisation in an office job, but have persuaded them that I can effectively work from home a couple of days a week. I need to have the technology to do so, and I try to avoid it on critical work days where if say the network connection failed then I'd be scuppered. Other than that my tips are:

Oil filled radiator to only heat one room (saw this above) and I use the conservatory on sunny days, dining room on cold days.

Our house is cold so I get fully dressed including thermals, then slippers and if I'm very cold put my dressing gown over the lot! Also a hot water bottle under your feet is a great one to keep you warm.

Try not to lie in bed longer than normal - I get up at the same time and get some housework done instead of the commute. But I still shower, put make up one etc, as this makes it feel more formal.

Get a headset for your phone. I have to go on a lot of calls. I put headphones in, mute the call if it's appropriate, and wonder round the house tidying up or stacking the dishwasher etc whilst listening. It gets me moving about and saves me doing it all later!

Try not to work on too late <looks guiltily at work computer still on beside me>

BigBadBear Thu 10-May-12 18:08:18

I freelance from home. I have two DDs, one of whom is at primary school and the other goes to nursery two days a week and to my ils one day a week. Part of the reason I work from home is so I can do the school runs etc as I used to commute an hour or so. My dh does too and it made life quite difficult for us as a family.

Having a dedicated room for work really helps. I am fully set up in there with a desktop pc and everything else I need, and it means that I can close the door on it when I'm not working. A desktop pc as my main computer and a properly set up desk minimises neck and back strain that I'm sure I would get if I worked on a laptop.

Having childcare is also really important. My kids are too young and my work too absorbing to juggle the two at the same time with much success.

Like many others, I try to avoid putting the heating on during the day. Instead I wear lots of clothes grin I take breaks but instead of chatting to colleagues, I put washing on, the slow cooker on, peg out washing etc. I also make use of the heat in the conservatory if it is sunny grin I have unlimited calls on my landline so don't worry about running up a phone bill and have a fast broadband connection too.

I miss the human contact you get at an office but make lots of effort on the school run to chat to people so I don't feel too lonely. Unlike some amazingly disciplined people on this thread I don't worry too much about having all my time dedicated to work and will make up time at the weekends or in the evening after the kids are in bed.

nah1974 Thu 10-May-12 21:05:29

I work part-time, mostly from home. I think it's more of a balancing act than anything else, and I guess that is my first tip: to accept that whilst it's very convenient to be able to work from home in some ways, it does have its downsides, so be prepared for this!

My 2nd tip is that often friends and family will not really think that you are working, so be prepared to be ruthless with the friend who phones for a chat at 10am or just happens to drop by for a cup of tea

If possible do try and have a separate work space (DH & I use a garden room). Have a comfortable desk and chair if your work involves driving a computer - if you are perching on a deckchair at the kids playtable you are not going to be comfortable and therefore not motivated to stay there long!!

I try to plan in regular short breaks, and while the kettle is on I stick on a load of washing or quickly do some prep towards dinner. Working from home is also a good opportunity to use up any left-overs for lunch.

Finally, I do try at some point in the day to get a bit fresh air. It's easy to drop the kids off and then spend all day stuck in the house. If the weather is good (I wish!) then I sit outside in the garden at lunchtime, otherwise if I need to post some things for work I walk to the post office

FartBlossom Thu 10-May-12 21:28:11

Marking place as I am considering this option so going to enjoy reading the tips if I knew what and how to do it that is

raspberryroop Thu 10-May-12 21:53:05

My work cupboard has a lock!
I make sure I claim everyting possible/legal as a buisness expense.
I make a thermos flask of coffee 1st thing to last through till my lunch - as if I make a drink, I get side lined.
I check email 1st thing in the morning @ 11 and then just after lunch and just before I finish- I have turned my instant notifications for email and Facebook OFF
I have a routine and have gradually pushed customers to fit my shedual - ie All deliveries go out on a Monday morning so I only have one courrier pick up a week. I do all sales calls on a Tuesday morning etc. It has taken a while but customers now appreciate the regualrity.

stealthsquiggle Thu 10-May-12 22:57:07

I work for a large organisation and, like most of my colleagues, whether or not they have DC, I work from home if I have no specific reason to be in the office or at a customer.

The days I work from home keep me sane. However, you do need:

Out of the house childcare. We had a temp nanny one summer holiday and it really didn't work. Pre-school was year-round nursery, now holidays are a jigsaw of holiday clubs unless DH or I are taking holiday.

A separate room that you can shut the door on

Some background noise. I have to have the radio on whenever I am not on the phone

To get outside - even for 10 mins at lunchtime.

To get dressed. It's tempting, but I can't work in pyjamas.

stealthsquiggle Thu 10-May-12 23:01:50

<<reads OP properly>>

Use internet tools to the max - instant messaging and VOIP are great collaboration tools

If you are only using one room, come.up with a way of just heating that room - I hate heating the whole house for just me so I sit on top of the fan heater in my office

mothermirth Fri 11-May-12 07:02:16

My workplace is a desk in the corner of my kitchen/living room and my computer doubles as the house TV, which isn't ideal. However, it means I have to tidy up before my children get home from school, which helps me keep everything in order.

To save money, I try not to put the heating on and on chilly days can often be found swathed in blankets, with a hot-water bottle stuffed down my leggings and a cat on my lap for extra warmth.

I use Skype for 'meetings'. I love the fact that I can sort out washing/peel veg/unload the dishwasher/ sit in the garden with a cuppa smile when my brain is frazzled.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 11-May-12 07:23:17

DP and I both work from home smile

We've found it crucial to have regular 'meetings' to keep each other updated with appointments, joint commitments - just mentioning it to each other in passing led to things being missed.

We also schedule in 'days off' together - weeks in advance, sometimes wink

saintlyjimjams Fri 11-May-12 08:01:11

I work from home (own business). I am very tied to ds1's (severely disabled) school days as I cannot get childcare for him. I do work in the evenings etc as well, but having the school days helps focus (a little - I do tend to get distracted).

All my work is done on the laptop which no-one else in the family is allowed to use. I also find it's essential that I am comfortable and not too cold or my hands starts to freeze up and I can't type. I also have to remember to put socks on or my feet turn blue. I am VERY fond of working in bed (actually find I work really well there grin )

I encourage clients to communicate by email. Occasionally someone will phone which can be a nightmare if the kids are home.

Started walking the dog in the middle of the day so I have some brain space and the day divided into two main chunks (3 if you include the evening).

drcrab Fri 11-May-12 08:56:49

I have a v flexible job which allows me to work from home other than when I have meetings or when I have to meet the students.

My top tips are:
1. Make sure you have child care especially if you have preschool kids. My kids go to full time nursery and have done since they were 6 months old blush. It's impossible to do any proper work (reading, writing reports) with them around hounding me for food, play, poo...

2. Get dressed. Or at least dressed for the task you are doing. That way you feel like you are 'at work'

3. Having said that, be comfortable. There's no crime in working in pjs or Trekkies. Or sitting in bed/conservatory. As long as the work gets done...

4. Make a 'to do' list. That way you can feel more accomplished. Or set targets like if you've done x amount, you can put the washing on or have a cuppa or whatever.

5. On days when it gets 'impossible' to be constructive, it's still ok to take breaks or do 'other tasks'. Because the work is so flexible you can always do it at night!!

Woodlands Fri 11-May-12 09:18:01

My DH and I both work from home at least some of the time. This can cause a few problems as we only have one desk which is in the corner of the living room - so the other one has to work on the sofa (well, we could work on the folding dining table but the chairs are bloody uncomfortable). As you may be able to guess, we live in a small flat. Luckily I tend to work in the mornings whereas he is usually out in the morning and then comes home in the afternoon to write up cases, so we don't often both need the desk at the same time.

We don't tend to have the heating on during the day unless it is absolutely freezing, so I spend a lot of time wearing my dressing gown over my clothes.

I agree that out of the house childcare is by far the best option - our DS is at nursery for two of the three mornings I work from home, but on the third my DM comes to look after him at our house and it can be quite hard to work when he is banging on the door and shouting for mummy.

Remember if you are self-employed (as my husband is) you may be able to offset increased electricity/internet costs against tax.

funnypeculiar Fri 11-May-12 09:25:33

I work from home - SE/freelance and have been for 7 years now.

Kids are now both at school, so I try and work around that as much as possible, and then have a network of childminders + after school/before school clubs that I buy into on an ad hoc basis - that has taken 8 years to build up though smile. Agree with everyone else that to do anything serious, you need out of house childcare. I work most evenings too - even if just to sort emails etc.

I have virtual colleagues and efficient communication (skype/catchup calls/quick texts) mean I've never felt cut off at home.
I DO struggle with distractions when I'm not really busy - so I use a 30/10 minute system - 40 mins with no distractions then 10 mins doing something else (tea break/mn/washing out etc) - on my phone on a timer so I can't forget time!
I work at the kitchen table but have a desk where I can keep my paperwork out of the way. I used to have an office, but tbh I never worked up there - I felt cut off & isolated - I enjoy the work/life mix that goes with working from home, rather than wanting to separate the two really strictly.Equally, I do a lot of emails/texts from the park/whilst watching swimming classes etc - modern technology is wonderful grin

Ito energy, I am mean & don't really put the heating on when there's only me here. Which means I was working in my hat, coat & fingerless gloves this winter at some points - and like fannypriceless, I work in bed sometimes too to keep warm.

spooktrain Fri 11-May-12 10:25:54

I am a freelance translator and have been working from home for around 10 years.

My best tip for working from home re motivation is to get a motivation buddy - I have another friend who works from home and we check in every morning on skype IM with our to-do lists and then have updates on progress throughout the day. That has made me a lot more productive.

As for heating, I do keep the heating on, because I have thyroid problems at least that's my excuse but I try to have regular breaks to get up and move around, to keep the circulation going. If I can force myself to go out for a run in the morning that really boosts my inner warmth level

all4u Fri 11-May-12 12:08:06

I could write a book about this! I started working from home full time when mine were babies and they went to Day Nursery as I travelled a lot too - then I had an office at home and could close the door! Then my office was needed for a child's bedroom so I moved into a corner of the living room - luckily I am petite. Then we took them out of school and home educated them for five years and now they are both in high school. So my experience tells me that there is no simple answer or the much-loved 'one size fits all solution' and hopefully MNers will supply E-ON with lots of ideas and models to help others decide what to try!
When work is uniform and about quantities/widgets it can be fitted into specific times but when it is about responding to people when they need you and has to be flexible it can really integrate with ordinary life - after all this segregation of work life from home life is a recent phenomenon since the industrial revolution and pretty unnatural/unhealthy!
I valued being able to speak to people at whatever time suited them and e-mail at any time - e-mail is a vital business tool (nothing to do with FB messaging that the young like so much). Part time means flexible now that I am self employed with four businesses - as a secretary to a cooperative buying group an agent for e-learning and a Life coach and run a horse livery business - there are few boundaries. My DH DS and DD are all involved especially in the Livery side and my DS wants to be self-employed. I trained as a tax consultant and accountant so the financial side is a doddle but I am terrible about filing so that gives rise to lots of clutter. It is lonely sometimes so I was a founder member of a local small business club and that is a useful mechanism - Linkedin hasn't worked for me yet.

Not commuting is marvellous - and with road fuel being so expensive it would not make financial sense anyway. Being here when my DCs come home is gr8 - something I really missed out on with my Mum. Having my cat and dog around through the day means they are content and their contentment with life is infectious! Now I want to get my DH working from home too - in time for the long expected Pandemic. . .

Belo Fri 11-May-12 13:57:49

I can also be found with hat, finger-less gloves, etc etc on my working at home days (and that includes May this year!). I feel very guilty heating up the whole house just for me.

But, I save money by getting my Ocado delivered for £0 (wednesday lunchtimes in our area), and I get the slow cooker on whilst listening to the start of woman's hour so can use cheaper cuts of meat. It's also a day that I don't have to pay for breakfast club and after school club so that saves money. Plus, I always make my own sandwiches on my at home days!

I find I'm as efficient at home as in the office. I suppose that is because clients badger me and don't leave me alone. I'll tend to start work earlier at home, but then have a break to take the kids to school. I'll also take a break at home time for a couple of hours, and then catch up in the evening. That flexibility is priceless to me.

PatriciaHolm Fri 11-May-12 14:13:20

As others have said, a space you can close the door on is good. I make sure all my PCs etc are powered down at the end of the day (temptation is high just to leave them on and close the lid if you don't have to take them anywhere!) Get accounts set up on Skype for business calls.

I work when the kids are at school; you can't work whilst doing childcare, it's unproductive and unfair on your employer.

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