The 6 C model for successfully working from home…
This powerful work from home framework helps guarantee your success when working from home – achieve outstanding results and productivity, with more personal comfort, health and happiness.
Introducing the 6 C Working From Home Model
Working from home is great!…
The shortest commute ever, no need to wear anything special, surrounded by your favourite people and things, quiet to concentrate, less gossip, strangely more focussed meetings over Zoom. You can work inside, outside, at the café…there is a feeling of freedom and new found time.
But, working from home can also be challenging…
There is no commute that signals starting or finishing work, you might find your working hours are getting less defined. You might discover yourself in pyjamas or ‘gardening clothes’ still at lunch-time, because you were just going to do this one thing before getting dressed.
Actually, you think you might have forgotten how to apply mascara or walk in heels (oh sorry, that was me). You don’t like working on an old fold up table with a wonky chair and find yourself avoiding it. And, nobody seems to understand that you are working – that means not running a café, popping out for their errands because you are ‘home’ or finding lost possessions mid-Zoom (yes, me again).
So, you have a home-based business, or you might be working remotely for someone else – it might not be perfect, but you can address the challenges of working from home. You can make it comfortable, safe and happy. The six ‘C’ model for working from home or telecommuting is a simple framework for thinking about how you to set yourself up for focus, productivity and satisfaction.
1. Consider your Personality
How well do you know yourself? When are you at your best, most productive? What do you defer because you don’t have the time or maybe just don’t like it? One of the key challenges of working from home is covering a broader range of skills, knowledge and attitudes.
Think about your skills
Working from home, especially when you work for yourself, means you have multiple roles to cover. You have to have ideas and make them into workable products or services. You will need to promote your business, and organise it all, while ensuring it can be repeated and kept to a standard.
You will be responsible for reviewing everything, keeping records and doing the paperwork. And, because this is a cycle, you will be researching or gathering information for more ideas and improvements. It is a lot to cover.
Typically, we are fabulous at the ‘real work’ but we aren’t all skilled at other important aspects of running a business, which includes multiple tasks such as:
- social media
- website design and development
- customer service
- bookkeeping and accounting
- IT support
Identify the critical things you need to learn and apply yourself to them, without overloading yourself.
Consider delegating or outsourcing anything you really don’t have the skills or time for. For example, I am not a great bookkeeper, so I love my accountant.
Maybe you need a system or routine that makes something easier. Again, I am not a great bookkeeper, my accountant loves that I now use Dropbox like a virtual shoebox for receipts.
Find a way to supplement or complement your skillset, you will find it makes things easier.
Best Work From Home Software
Think about the tools you will need. Do you have the right equipment for the job? To increase efficiency and speed, and lower stress levels, you need to invest in appropriate tools that work effectively, when you need them to.
Do you know how to use that fancy new software? Is your computer running so slowly you could put on a roast while it opens an email? Anything you can’t operate as smoothly as you need to, or doesn’t respond when needed, is going to hurt your productivity.
Organise your tools or equipment. Make sure your equipment is easy to access and use, and well maintained or updated. Avoid complicating your life with interesting gadgets or ‘toys’ that are really on the ‘nice to have’ list.
Think about your personal traits
Everybody is slightly different. Broadly speaking, we can be described as having personality preferences that are:
- A combination of how much we draw our energy from inside or from others;
- The degree to which we prefer structured or flexible organisation;
- Whether we tend to make decisions based on feelings or logic;
- And how we make judgements.
Our personality preferences often result in us practicing things that we like or enjoy the most and avoiding what we don’t.
That doesn’t mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) learn to do things that feel less natural. It just takes more effort, and it can take extra effort if you are in remote work.
If you are energised by some aspect of your work, it probably suits a preference, or you have learned enough to feel confident and competent. Being aware of your personality preferences can help you understand your energizers and your blockers.
Personality Profile Systems
There are a range of personality profiling systems that might give you an insight. While I will always recommend getting your profile from someone who can explain it fully, there are free tests available with great information that are a great start. For example, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator which is used by businesses all over the world.
2. Commit to a Routine
You have probably heard people talk about time management and its importance. You may also have heard that multi-tasking is the way to work. So, let’s just throw those two concepts out for the moment. Why?
There is no managing of time – we all get 24 hours, 60 minutes in an hour, etc. You might be able to use your time wisely, though, and that is all about prioritising to be more productive. Productivity you can manage. And being productive is another key challenge of working from home.
As far as multi-tasking goes, what looks like multi-tasking is actually quickly switching from task to task. And sadly, juggling tasks in this way does not really improve our productivity or quality of work, generally speaking. So, what can we do?
There all sorts of answers from project management methodologies to personal productivity systems like ‘Getting things done’ by David Allen. And it largely boils down to fit-for-your-purpose prioritisation and systems.
- What are the things that need doing?
- What are you trying to achieve?
Write down everything that is on your list of things to do – from buying milk to going on holiday in three years’ time. Everything that comes up as something that needs doing sometime.
Identify the Important Tasks
Sort them into batches. Mine range from ‘maybe someday’ (all of which are recorded for future reference) through to ‘something dire will happen if I don’t do it or get someone else to’.
Work out if the important things are multi-step (in which case you need to work out the first few steps) or single step. Prioritise according to “something dire will happen” to the less dire, and work through anything that actually has an action.
Do anything that is quick and easy first – it cuts the list down and is really quite satisfying. Schedule in things that need doing but might take time or need particular resources. If someone else can do it, organise that. Review your progress periodically.
The routine in this is in developing a cycle of periodically identifying things to do, sorting them into priorities and reviewing, then reprioritising.
Day-to-day, and week-to-week organisation becomes simpler when your priorities are clear.
- What needs doing,
- How long it might take
- When and where it should be done
- And by whom.
Delegate things that need to be done by others, set reminders to do things that need to be done on a monthly, quarterly or other basis. Organise a bring-up system for things that need attention later. Collect documents that relate to a particular task or project in one file or location (virtual or not).
Work your tasks around your hard and fast commitments and ‘schedule’ your day or week.
3. Carve out a workspace
Make your workspace organised
It will be easier to focus if you set yourself up in a space that is organised just for work. It doesn’t have to be serious, or even completely static, but it does need to be your ‘headquarters’. The place where your computer, laptop and other equipment, down to your favourite pen, sit in total readiness.
If you have to spend time hunting things down, you will lose time and focus. Don’t underestimate how organised you will feel when you have what you need at your fingertips.
And while you are setting up, think about making yourself mobile – even if you don’t go out for lots of meetings. A change of scenery can lift your spirits. I have a ‘go bag’ of necessities for working from a café or elsewhere. I know it won’t be a wasted trip because I have anything vital with me.
Make your space happy
You don’t need to do a full reno, just make the space say, ‘welcome to work’. Sometimes I put on a diffuser with a favourite oil and some background music. I have reminders of why I do what I do – pictures of my boys, snaps from holidays (I’m hoping to go on another). A little fat bird ornament.
Keep your space tidy, clean and personal. Make it yours – no school assignments, other people’s car keys, or anything else that someone is “just going to leave here for a while”.
Make your space safe
This is the serious warning bit. Working on a chair at a kitchen table that is just a little too high for you or balancing a laptop on your knees in bed or on a sofa, might be comfortable for a while. However, over time you are likely to injure yourself. Look up how to set yourself up ergonomically and pay attention to the key points. And, while we are being safe, keep yourself hydrated and don’t forget to move every so often.
4. Control Distractions
Control your ‘feed’
There is nothing wrong with wanting to know what is going on in the world. There is something wrong if keeping up-to-date interferes with work. Keep to checking-in during your ‘commute’ (see below) or specific break times. At other times avoid your mobile phone, social media, TV or equivalent, and, dare I say it, limit your email exposure.
Of course, you will need to stay connected if there is something important happening – just be sure it is really important. Once you know what you have to get done for the day, focus on that and check your ‘feed’ later. You will feel more productive (or at least efficient), and possibly quite pleased with yourself, and still be up-to-date.
Set some boundaries
When I worked from home, on a part-time basis especially, I expected to be challenged by technology. However, I found the real challenges of working from home were:
- Managing interruptions and expectations on the home front, and
- The blurry boundary between work and home.
I started cutting off any sentence starting with “Since you will be at home…” with “Since I will be working…”.
If you are like me, you will pause to listen to family members with one eye on the computer, trying to remember the rest of the sentence you were writing. I would be counting how many times I had been interrupted or how many minutes I had until a deadline.
It is frustrating and can make you feel resentful, and oddly enough, the tension is catching. Strangely, my cries of “there better be a fire” were not helpful in the face of a family having a ‘no cheese in the fridge’ crisis.
Love them but limit them…
Whether for adult or the kids, set some boundaries about when your “office” is open. Or flag when you are planning to emerge for a few minutes, for lunch, and stopping altogether.
Encourage your kids (and to some extent, fur babies and partners) to save up small questions and think about whether it is really important to interrupt.
Be really clear about what is vital to report e.g. fires, bleeding… You will feel less frantic, and they will bask in your full attention when you give it.
Boundaries with work colleagues
Similarly, you may find you need to set boundaries for yourself and work colleagues that signal clear work times and availability. If you blur the starting and finishing times too often, you will start with emails at breakfast and miss dinner as you try to finish something off.
Email and mobile phones make us available at all times, so both you and your colleagues need to respect some limits, or at least protocols, about contact outside working hours.
Establishing a substitute commute time
This is a transition between work and home – can be quite useful as a mental break. It doesn’t need to be long; it could be 10 minutes playing with the dog, a walk around the block or a cup of tea and no thinking. Again, love or just respect them, but set limits.
5. Connect with Others
I am very happy working alone. I get my energy from inside. I don’t need others to pep me up. Even so I have learnt though that working with others creatively leads to better outcomes and gives me a buzz of ‘teaminess’.
In contrast, people who need company, who talk to think, will feel like they are withering on the vine if they don’t have social contact.
No matter who you are, connecting with others will be important.
Keep your communication channels open with work colleagues and clients, make sure there is enough non-work social contact to balance the work focus and consider carefully the quality of your social media and other information.
The idea is to connect positively with people (and sources) that keep you uplifted, on track and supported.
6. Create rewards
Work – at home or in a workplace – shouldn’t mean no fun. Discipline is not a sustainable form of motivation – enthusiasm is. Work is easier, and more like play, when we can:
- See a purpose and meaning in it,
- When we gain a sense of competence and achievement,
- And we feel like we are independent or autonomous.
While not specifically about the challenges of working from home, you could read Dan Pink’s book ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us’ to discover more about motivation.
Motivation is your responsibility
If you are working from home, even if you are an employee working remotely, you are responsible for motivating yourself to some extent.
All of us retain an inner child, and children respond to rewards. Have you done something clever? Here are some examples of rewards you can give yourself:
- Tell yourself you are fabulous.
- Promise yourself a treat.
- Take yourself out to do something fun or creative.
- Buy yourself a small bunch of flowers (or whatever small thing you really love).
- Send yourself, the employee, a short thank you letter from yourself, the CEO.
Whatever it is, reward yourself in a meaningful way.
A final word on the challenges of working from home
Working from home has become a necessity and so we can look forward to more acceptance and better management of remote work. If you are telecommuting for a business, you may have found that they have tried to work through the challenges and provide support quite quickly. If you are working from home on your own business, this support is less available. However, the principles are broadly the same.
Everyone operates a little differently. Knowing yourself will help you to manage your own skills, tools and mindset. Everyone needs an element of routine – even if you think you don’t, think of yourself as your own employee. Would it be easier to work for yourself if you had direction and structure? Probably.
So, prioritise and set yourself up to be systematic. Give yourself a safe, comfortable workspace. Set some boundaries to control distractions, and make sure that you have made room for connecting with others in a positive and supportive way. Finally, reward yourself for excellence – be your own best boss.
Shelley Murphy is a former chief human resources officer who now runs a boutique digital marketing agency, Little Fat Birdie. Shelley is familiar with the challenges of working as remote worker herself, juggling work, study and family commitments. She is also an experienced manager of telecommuting workers and led the establishment of organisation-wide flexible work arrangements. Now she works as a website designer and developer, internet allowing, from wherever her laptop is. She loves working creatively with business owners to marry their online identity to their business strategy and help them reach their audience.