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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

AnnMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 21-May-12 18:55:57

Hello - thanks for all your top top tips - all much appreciated!

The tips have been written up and are now on E.ONs Facebook page

Am pleased to say the winner of the £50 Capital Bonds voucher is saintlyjimjams! Well done.

disparatefishwife Fri 18-May-12 21:08:49

Top tips:
dress as though you were going to work, it will help you to feel more productive.
Make sure that other members of the household respect your workspace and working time, you don't want to be badgered while you're working.
Turn the telly off!! This isn't a duvet day it's a work day!

beachhutbetty Thu 17-May-12 15:13:41

I've worked from home since the children were born, it has it's ups and downs and I find motivation to be the hardest thing. I find it easier if I set myself a set task to do and don't move from the desk until it's done (if it's a big piece of work I break it down). My biggest gripe is people thinking I just sit at home all day doing nothing or those who think I'm anti-social because I can't do social things during the day.

With regard to the children, when they were babies I'd work when they napped and then as they got older I worked when they were at pre-school, school etc. One huge benefit is being able to go to school to watch plays, sports days etc as I manage my own working hours. Now the children are older it works better because I can still work whilst they are doing homework/GCSE coursework. My general rule is that if the office door is shut then don't disturb! I let them know if I have any specific meetings/deadlines so they know to leave me in peace.

To maximise productivity I have set hours to work, make a coffee, have lunch etc but I do like the freedom that if the washing needs putting on then it can be done during the day and not in the evening.

My work is internet based but because I have to go through a work network, I can't just browse, catch up on TV shows and shop all day long (everything is logged). My personal computer sits by the work one, but I do not turn it on during the day - far too distracting.

As far as being energy efficient, I tend to layer up and get a hot water bottle before I put the heating on - although typing in fingerless gloves can look ridiculous!!

BumptiousandBustly Wed 16-May-12 17:13:05

My youngest is still at home all the time, so the heating is on if necessary for him, though as he gets older we have reduced the temperature, which is helping keep the bills down. At the moment i mostly work when he naps or watches TV, and then in the eveings when DH is home. Once ds2 starts pre-school I will work when he is there, and will also turn the heating down, and just put on another jumper.

ICutMyFootOnOccamsRazor Tue 15-May-12 17:41:53

I freelance from home. The work I do is time-sensitive, usually with a 24-48hour turnaround, and I get paid by the hour, so have to log my time.

I've learned that there is no point in even attempting to work when the children are home and awake - it is too distracting, they always need or want my attention and I get frustrated and inefficient. So when they are awake, I do other things that need doing (housework, laundry, food prep etc etc) so that when the eldest goes to school and the youngest to sleep, I start work immediately and don't allow myself to be distracted. I break for 5-10 minutes an hour so that I can keep my concentration up and I often work at night after the children are asleep. If I have to work at the weekend, DP takes them to the park for an hour or so to give me some time.

I'd love to have an office, but actually have a desk in the dining room. I like the fact that it's a rolltop so that I can just close the lid on it when I'm not working.

I don't find the energy thing to be much of an issue, tbh. I wear lots of clothes if it's cold, and drink tea, but I'll make a whole pot then zap a cup in the microwave if it's a bit tepid.

fallingandlaughing Tue 15-May-12 13:17:14

For me the key is seeing it as working from home, not some kind off halfway house. I take advantage of the time saved on commuting to put on a washing or do a internet shop, but won't do this in work time. I won't have my DD there... It is hard enough to mumsnet with her around, never mind do actual work.

I would endorse the idea of having a separate workspace, though I don't myself - no room.

I actually find I can get plenty done curled up under the duvet if I am doing something on the laptop, such as prepping a report or presentation. In fact, I probably get more done than at work, where I have colleagues and phonecalls to distract me!

zipzap Mon 14-May-12 17:19:02

DH works from home and I freelance - often from home.

We are lucky enough to both have separate work spaces. For dh, this was a requirement from his company before he was allowed to work from home.

Having a separate work phone line is important, as is having a reliable and fast internet connection. As we have dh's work line and a home line, we have superfast broadband on that but we also have basic internet connection through our home phone too - so if the main internet connection goes down for any reason we can switch over without too much fuss to ensure that we don't get caught out. For both of us the expense is worth it as not having an internet connection could cause real problems.

however - if there are connection problems - remember to check that the work systems haven't gone down! It does happen sometimes and it's good to know that there can be problems at their end as well as yours...

Making sure that children understand the importance of mummy or daddy being on the phone and not interrupting them (short of the house being on fire or accidents involving significant bleeding grin) is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. And that chocolate/favourite toys/treats/etc disappear if phone conversations do get interrupted.

Important to get out in the middle of the day for a walk - it's all to easy to discover you have sat all day at the computer and just haven't done any exercise whatsoever.

Try to keep regular office hours, although enjoy the flexibility it can offer.

keep in touch with workmates to keep up to date with what's going on in the office - both by trying to work in the office occasionally and by being in IM or email contact with colleagues for informal as well as formal contact.

TheOldestCat Mon 14-May-12 10:43:28

I've worked at home for my (large) employer for nearly eight years - started off with one day at home when I was full time. I've done many combinations since, but now work part-time - two at home, one day in the office - in an editorial role.

My tips:
1) Make sure your employer knows what a good deal this is for them, as well as you. I am very flexible and can do things at the crack of dawn and late at night. The upside for me is flexibility for the school run etc.
2) Communicate, communicate, communicate. I work in a job share, so I ensure I keep my colleagues aware of everything that's going on, and vice versa.
3) Email is brilliant, but don't forget to phone in when you can. I'm guilty of relying on email a bit too much. Plus it's nice to speak to a human from time to time.
4) Fingerless gloves in the winter make it easier to type. I can't afford to heat our house when I'm alone, so I model myself on the Michelin Man in many layers. It's a great look (remember to remove your hat if the postman knocks).
5) A separate place to work if possible - or at least a cupboard to shut everything away in at night.

racingheart Sun 13-May-12 20:14:40

DH and I both work from home, both self employed/freelance. We have a shared office but as the kids have got older and know their way round the Macs better than I do, I'm in the process of turning a tiny box room into my own office. I might even decorate it in pink with kittens to keep the boys out!

My working tip is to have a work diary and fill it out with deadlines,whether self imposed or for freelance contracts, pencilled in, then just stick to it. I also try to fix to see clients at regular times so there's a pattern to the week, and bundle them all into two days a week, so I have three days free to work uninterrupted, or to do stuff around the house/sneak off to a gallery with a friend.

We have the luxury of both being around most of the time, even though my husband is often on location, we've been lucky so far that our dates away don't clash. We always pick the DC up from school and spend early evening with them, overseeing homework or taking them to clubs and having friends round. I find it hard to work then, but make up the time by getting up early. I love working at 5am, wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea and a cat to keep warm. The two hours before the rest of the house gets up feel like the most productive time of day.

We're probably a bit wasteful on energy. We do turn it on low, if it's cold and we're both around, which is silly as it's a big house and in the daytime we only use two or three rooms. And I wear a huge fleece dressing gown over my work clothes to keep warm. Not attractive. I have to remember to whip it off when clients turn up!

In terms of the internet, I'm not strict about it. The work I do is quite cerebral, so switching off for a quick browse on MN is the equivalent to a coffee break or a quick chat with a colleague. In fact I think online forums make it easier to work from home. It's less isolating. I use a couple of work related chat forums and have picked up lucrative contracts through discussion on them. They never stop me from meeting deadlines.

judithann Sat 12-May-12 20:57:47

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

CMOTDibbler Sat 12-May-12 17:45:47

I'm employed for a multinational company, and am based fulltime at home (right now though, I'm sitting in a hotel in Spain on a worktrip). For me, being homebased works as I'm travelling a lot, so theres not many weeks when I'm just at home. But I work with a very international team anyway, so we will be chatting on communicator, using Jabber to do video calls etc wherever people are. Thats really important to keep the informal contact going
I am flexible in my day as I often do webex in the evenings for people in that time zone, so I'm not worried about putting washing loads on or cooking (yes, with the phone on mute sometimes blush), but ds is in childcare during working hours.

ratflavouredjelly Fri 11-May-12 23:09:28

I work both in the office and at home. I actually find I get most productive and creative work done from 8pm onwards. Like most creative people, 10pm is when I come alive and my concentration peaks again. It's calm, my 2 DC are (obviously) in bed.

The thing I find hard is having to use the kitchen table - not ideal. my tip is to try and build a cubby hole/area away from the kitchen table with a proper supportive chair - if you have the space.

I also find my laptop a god send. Can work in bed if i NEED TO.

hopeful3 Fri 11-May-12 21:45:38

I'm not sure what I can add to the great comments above, but here goes...
If you can, have a space set aside to work, anywhere is OK apart from the bedroom; keeping work and your relazing/sleeping space separate helps with sqwitching off from work and being able to sleep.
If you have a job with defined hours, try to resist the urge to get up in the night if you didn't manage to get your work finished. Unless it's the ONLY way you're going to get some sleep.
Try to take regular breaks. If you're working from home and have friends nearby who are doing the same or are at home with their kids, getting together for regular coffees or lunches (if you have the time) can be really helpful.
If you get stuck or lose motivation, a short walk for some fresh air can really help clear your head.
Have as much childcare as you can afford, it really does help with concentration, although in my case Grandma, who helps odd days when DS and I are both home, is worse at not disturbing me than DS!
If you can, try to stick to the same working hours so you get used to the routine.
Dressing as if you're leaving for the office can help, although so does being comfortable and it's great not to have to wear a suit at home grin
Have lots of healthy low-cal snacks to avoid munching on crisps, biccies and chocs, or is that just me blush ?
If you can, arrange to check in regularly with your manager to avoid accusations or sniping from jealous colleagues that you're never at work or available or at least make sure that it's somehow visible that you're working. I have friends who've made a point of sending e-mails early in the morning before their colleagues start or late evening after everyone's left the office.
The flipside is that if you do need to stop for a while because something's come up, try to let your manager know you'll be away from your desk temporarily (this helps with bosses who like to be more in control than is really necessary).
If your manager is a control freak, it may be easier to suggest working at home on a trial basis and keeping a brief log of your work so you can show how much better you can work from home smile
And above all, enjoy not being stuck in traffic/standing on a packed train or bus/having to deal with unpleasant colleagues/being able to eat whatever you want for lunch with no complaints/being able to listen to music or sing or even not have to switch your phone to vibrate because the office is too quiet/having more time to spend with your children grin

Ladyrattles Fri 11-May-12 21:28:15

I run my business when the kids are at school and when they are in bed. My top tips are:

1) Have an area that is separate from the rest of the house. I have divided my front room in half to make an office area using a room divider. The kids know this is my office. They can't come in my bit but I can still be there near them.

2) You have to mentally "go to work". That means ignoring any mess during office hours. My husband doesn't do the cleaning at his work, so I don't do mine during the day. That way I stay focused on the work.

3) Have a lunch break. I take half an hour away from the office and work, and find that I am more relaxed because of it.

4) In school holidays plan a few small activities. I will do a few hours work and then break to do cooking with the kids or a treasure hunt. Giving them half an hour of my time at regular intervals means they will allow me to do work.

5) Know that your job is just as important as your partners. Ignore all those people that think your job is a "little hobby" just because you work for yourself.

Ive been a mumtrpretreneur for four years (when my youngest started school full time).

Carnie - York

firsttimetwins Fri 11-May-12 20:07:49

LeechBlock!! It allows you to put a timed block on sites you want to prevent yourself visiting and therefore stop yourself from wasting time during working hours. I'm a lot more productive since I put it on certain sites (a famous network of mothers and others is among them) which means I get my work done much more quickly and efficiently and can then switch the computer off sooner.

A BlackBerry or other such device is also essential, I find. It means you're not trapped at home when waiting for an important e-mail, so you can nip out to the post office or to the supermarket when still working. This makes these trips much quicker, since you can choose to go at times when the shops are less busy, which again saves time, letting you get back to work more quickly and therefore finish more quickly.

NotaDisneyMum Fri 11-May-12 18:23:36

We moved our office into a south facing room with the hot water tank in - it's the warmest room in the house so we don't have the heating on while we're working during the day!

aliciaflorrick Fri 11-May-12 18:09:19

I work from home and have done now for about six years. I enjoy it, but sometimes it can be isolating. Mumsnet is my down time. I am very easily distracted so I have to set myself goals before I have a cup of tea, quick look at Mumsnet etc. As my job is typing, I make myself type for 60 mins solid and then I have a break. This can be pop downstairs and have a coffee, stick in some washing, quick flick on MN and then back to work. I aim to have all my work completed by the time the DCs get home from school, it doesn't always happen but I try.

I have my own designated workspace in the house, but I need an office.

I don't heat the house at all during the day when I'm working and it's just me in the house - I wear so many layers I look like the Michelin man and I have blankets around my legs. When it's really cold, I have a heated overblanket that I bought from Lidl this year and I plug that in and wrap that round me.

Childcare was a nightmare in the early days, I was just setting up my business and couldn't afford to pay a childminder - I don't think I slept in those two years as I would start work as soon as I put the DCs down to sleep and work through the night until the work was finished.

Nowadays they're at school and I try to finish work while they're there. If I have to work in the evening I wait until they've gone to bed. In the holidays if they don't go to kid's club then I take less work for the days they're home and I fit in the work with the kids. These days they are happy doing their own thing and need less supervision, so they let me get on and do the work.

PODDLEBUM Fri 11-May-12 16:51:27

I love working from home (am an editorial consultant) but it can be isolating, hard to get motivated, and - conversely - hard to remember to stop for meals.

My top tip is to team up with other local freelancers. Take it in turns if your work is mobile - or go to the non-mobile person's home. My friend and I have 'office Mondays' where we settle in for the day.

We make sure we're stocked up on coffee and lunch (and put a lunch time in the plan). We tell each other our aims for the day and gently nag each other to get off mumsnet refocus each other as needed.

MMcanny Fri 11-May-12 16:28:04

I work from home for a company, used to do the same job in an office, when I started homeworking last summer I kept the same childcare arrangement - out of school club/nursery two days a week and worked one weekend day when dh was home - 30hrs. Since then I've changed my hours so my midweek days I work school hours, and evenings once dh is home - losing the out of school club and reducing the nursery hours but still have to pay full days there. My three ten hour days are split as two five hour slots but I take the 1hr 15 min break I'm due on my evening slot so I can get the kids teeth brushed/stories/bedtime chats etc. For this summer I've managed to use up my holidays as half days, ie cutting out the schooltime hours so it'll be like term time working without the paydrop. The kids will both be with me the whole summer days and when dh gets back in the evenings I'll get on with work. We also have a summer fortnight off and had an easter week all together, I have the October week off and have managed to take half days like this for almost all inservice days. Don't know if it'll always work like this. DH now considering homeworking too so we'll both do school hours and both do school pick up and drop offs - as after summer kids will be at different schools. I have also been frugal with the heating and it's not unusual to find me sat in my coat but then I did that in work anyway as someone always stuck the aircon on! Thought it would be warmer at home - might consider putting the heating on if DH and I are both here working away at the same time. My work have been really flexible so far about letting me take half days when kids are off sick or school closed - there have also been a couple of days I had to work with them here and it worked out fine - was able to work on later at night to make up for the trips up and downstairs to fetch drinks etc, but did feel a bit of a neglectful parent and it could potentially have clashed with deadlines so certainly wouldn't consider that as anything other than an exception. My time is all accounted for, each task we do should take so long and as my work are so flexible for me I find I work even harder for them and even carry tasks over into my own time to meet targets. I do manage to get the dinner on and keep the laundry under control while I work so it seems only fair. In conclusion: Love homeworking!

Tinkerisdead Fri 11-May-12 16:17:57

I work for my in laws family business, a mixture of the office and home. (altho im currently on mat leave).

I use remote access software so that i can log into my work pc if i have forgotten anything.

I have to do my work in the evenings as its impossible with a toddler under my feet, trying to play cbeebies on the laptop. I organise all my work into folders in the day, to be actioned, actioned but needs scanning or filing and completed. I then schedue what i can do each night and keep a record of what i've worked so i can see historically how long tasks are likely to take and shoehorn it around my schedule.

I also avoid putting the heating on if im working alone at home and i make sure i get dressed so even if im catching up at the weekend when dh is around. I still get properly dressed and set my work out like an office. Its too distracting perched on the arm of the sofa watching programmes on catch up- however tempting.

Where possible i make sure ive got a proper working space. In my old house i made an office in a built in cupboard. I got a tiny desk from ikea and put all my stuff in there. It was far nicer mentally to 'close the door' on work and also to have a 'workplace' assigned.

There are times i've had to work with my toddler underfoot and im ashamed to say i resort to cbeebies a lot. Although i try to plan my work so that on those occasions i'm doing mind numbing data entry not the staff wages. Less room for error.

I never eat properly though, thats not a tip by the way, its a problem. Because im at home i'm always thinking keep going keep going, then you claw back some personal time with dh and the kids. If i was in an office i'd absolutely take a lunch break.

ibbydibby Fri 11-May-12 15:17:28

Try to set aside a specific period each day (say first thing in the morning) for dealing with any emails that have arrived in last 24 hours. If you need input from someone else, send the email straight away so that the ball is in their court to respond, rather than it continuing to be in your hands (speaking from experience....)

Working at home can be very isolating, it is useful to try to incorporate going out into your work day, every day. Eg go to shop / post box/ walk round the block etc.

Good to read all these tips, might use some of these myself!

stealthsquiggle Fri 11-May-12 15:00:02

"frantically motioning at my children to move away and stay quiet while I took important calls in the freezing cold porch."

Been there, done that - inspite of the "out of house childcare" rule, work and children do overlap sometimes, especially now they are old enough not to need me every 5 minutes, but I did catch 5yo DD saying very sternly to a collection of cuddly animals "You have to be very quiet now, cos I'm on a call" before pacing up and down with her toy phone grinblush.

FlouncyMcFlouncer Fri 11-May-12 14:58:48

I work from home (self-employed craft business) and have found this is what works for me:

Reasonably rigid working hours: I'm at the desk in the office/workroom by 8am each morning. I do an hour of email, banking, invoices and networking stuff, and then take an hour for breakfast and walking the dogs. I've found starting work AFTER those things are done isn't right for me, partly because I don't want to eat first thing. I then go 'back to work' at ten and work until 1pm, with an alarm set for that time. A two hour break from 1-3 enables lunch, errands, post office run and a couple of household jobs, then back to work from 3 until 7pm.

To stop myself losing half the day online, I have two desks, one to work at and one where the computer is. I can zip back and forth on my wheeled chair if necessary but it prevents me putting the needle down and clicking the mouse every two minutes!

Although I'm officially 'finished' for the day at 7pm, I will often work through the evening if I'm in the mood or if I have commissions with deadlines. However, my Dc are 16 and 21 so don't need me in the evenings, I have no DH and my social life is non-existent so I may as well be earning money!

nowherenearasposhasisound Fri 11-May-12 14:44:17

I've worked at home for the last 8 years and had two children in that time.

Before I had kids I had fantasties of speaking to clients while a child gently snored sat in a bouncer at my feet. The reality is quite different and in the early days included frantically motioning at my children to move away and stay quiet while I took important calls in the freezing cold porch.

I soon realised how important childcare is, I can't work effectively or build a business up if I have to deal with the kids at the same time as clients! It does get easier once they are old enough to sit and watch a dvd but I feel like they deserve my attention when they are around.

I do give myself breaks during the day - after all if I was in an office I'd be chatting to colleagues - so i think it's fine to spend some time having lunch, browsing MN, as long as I get the jobs done I need to do in a day.

And that brings me to my final point - I choose to work at home so I didn't have to follow the 'rules' around working hours and conventions of an office. I have certain things I need to get done but I work flexibly to suit myself and my kids.

smilingthroughgrittedteeth Fri 11-May-12 14:42:29

I run my own business from home.

My office doubles as DSC's bedroom (I have a tiny corner of it with a desk and filing cabinet), when they are staying I work on my laptop in my bedroom, the rule is that if I'm working and the door is shut No one comes in!

DP works nights so is usually in bed whilst I work, I like the flexibility of working for myself so tend to start working early (usually about 7.30ish) and finish round about 3, then check emails again in the evening once DP has gone to work.

I find that by lunchtime I am going slightly brain dead so grab a sandwich and eat it whilst walking the dog, not only does the dog appreciate it but I recharge and get some exercise.

I find that my ipod is great for blocking out annoying noises.

Like others I rarely put the heating on and just layer, I have a spare duvet that I wrap around me when its really cold. I also made sure that my desk is near the window so that I don't have to have lights on, I only have a laptop so only plug it in when its running low.

The biggest problem for me is family and friends popping in because they are passing or ringing for a chat because they know I'm at home, so now I don't even answer the door unless I'm expecting a delivery and I have a phone with caller ID and unless its business related I don't answer.

I don't have children of my own but have 2 step-children that are here most holidays, and with DP sleeping during the day childcare does often fall onto me, I work at the kitchen table but try and get as much done before 9am (so will work 7-9) then DP will get up about 3pm when I will do another couple of hours (3-6).

I also rely on my BB a lot, to receive and send emails, it means I can pop to the shops or take the kids to the park and still keep up to date with work.

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