Understanding how to keep our lives in balance as the pandemic has evolved has been challenging for many of us, and as many businesses face a balancing act of returning to office and continuing hybrid working arrangements, business owners need to consider how to best navigate this constantly evolving landscape.
Most of us have established new hybrid working routines from home during the pandemic, and particularly, if you’re a sole trader who has managed to maintain working from home, it’s a great way to be your own boss and have control over your work hours. But, at the end of the day, it can also be tough to stay focused and motivated when there’s no one else in the house to keep you on track.
What have we been seeing?
Over the last few years, working from home has become common than ever before – with over 60% of the workforce now being remote workers. For sole trader businesses, working from home can be rewarding, exciting and challenging all at the same time! If you’re moving forward with a balance of office and home working arrangements, this blog will provide some tips to help you to success. We’ll look at what running a business from home looks like in 2022, how you can overcome the challenges of running your business out of your home, with a few tips on how you can best optimise your home business/office set-up and maximise efficiency.
With a focus on some working from home tips, we’ll outline some practical examples of what you can do throughout the day to make you feel productive, and to improve your home office workspace.
So, why work from home?
The benefits of working from home as a sole trader are endless. Mastering your home life and working hours has allowed Australian’s to feel empowered to create their work schedule.
Sole traders may be able to claim tax extra deductions
According to ATO guidance, sole traders may be able to claim tax deductions for occupancy and running expenses where your home is used for business purposes. Having a home office can result in additional deductions for your business. This might include a portion of your mortgage or rent, council rates, water and electricity bills, home insurance, and the decline in value of office furniture and equipment that is relevant for business purposes. As always, check out the ATO website for the current guidance.
Business owners can set their own hours and can better manage how to handle work with personal commitments
In the old days, managing your life around the office commute could become an impossible task. Picking up packages from the Post Office while managing an hour commute each was almost impossible while trying to run a business. These days, it’s easier than ever to work flexible hours to get stuff done.
Be flexible in your mobility and work in comfortable surroundings
One of the great things about trading from home is that you can design your workspace however you want, and there’s no need to commute. You can change up your scenery by working in different rooms, or even outside if it’s a nice day! Try mixing in some fresh air breaks in your work set-up to keep the body awake and to manage stress levels.
Avoid the dreaded daily commute (and the fuel money!)
Miss riding the bus each day? Me neither. Statistics show that working from home has saved people $641 per year in fuel costs, and $104 in vehicle running costs for those who drive to work, and for those who take public transport, the savings could be even higher.
Save money on child care
When you work from home, there may be less of a need to pay for expensive child care. While having the kids at home might be challenging during the school holidays, it can actually be a great opportunity to spend some quality time with them and get some work done at the same time! Just try to make sure they’re not always popping up in the background of your video chat.
Save even more money in not renting a workspace
Renting an office space can be the most expensive line-item on a small business’ books, and it’s not always necessary if you’re working from home. You might be able save a lot of money by avoiding this cost altogether, or by contracting to a flexible working office such as WeWork or local tech hubs in your city. This will allow you to only use the space that you need to operate your business, and not overpay for unneeded resources.
Break down your businesses geographical limits and broaden your customer reach
The last few years have caused some businesses to widen their horizon in their pursuit of customers in a more virtual network. If your business was limited to a geographical area before, you may now find that there are new opportunities with customers outside of your normal territory.
Improve your work/life balance by allowing more time to focus on the important things.
By working from home, you can take some control back of your routine and focus on the things that are important to you outside of work hours. Whether that’s more time with family, taking up a new hobby or simply getting a better night’s sleep, working from home can help you achieve a better work/life balance.
Why do sole traders struggle to Work From Home?
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of working from home for sole trader businesses, let’s take a look at some of the common challenges faced by home-based entrepreneurs.
Like anything in life, there are a few hurdles that come with running your business from home. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
Difficulty separating personal and professional time
If you work from home, it can be difficult to find the line between your personal and professional life, and the work hours can start to stack up. It’s important to set some boundaries so you can have some time for yourself, otherwise you might find yourself working all the time! It’s important to be organised and prioritise your tasks so you can stay on top of everything, which can be particularly difficult with distractions like kids and the dog constantly breaking your trail of thought.
Struggling to create and stick to an established routine
It can be hard to create a routine when you’re working from home, especially if you’re used to the structure of an office job. It’s important to set some ground rules for yourself so you can stay productive, otherwise you might find yourself working all hours of the day and night. For example, setting an effective (but realistic) exercise routine can help to improve both your physical and mental health, which will in turn improve your work performance.
Feeling isolated and disconnected from customers, colleagues and others in the industry
When you work from home, it’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected from the outside world. It’s important to make an effort to feel connected with customers, co workers and others in your industry so you can stay up-to-date with what’s going on. Positive workplace experiences are difficult to create without those little face-to-face interactions like kitchen meet-ups and those awkward hallway encounters, so it’s important to commit to dedicated social experiences despite working at home.
Lacking the ability to multi-task on different projects
If you’re used to working in an office, it can be difficult to juggle multiple projects at once when you’re working from home. Having lots of different priorities often means that each task is not done to the best of your ability, and things are not done to 100%. Make sure you have an established routine to unpack tasks for the day as early as possible, and ensure you schedule in dedicated time to address your key objectives. Consider giving yourself opportunities for a break throughout the day to stay on track.
Not having a dedicated workspace
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is not having dedicated office space. It’s important to create a space in your home that can make you feel that it’s solely for work, otherwise you might find yourself working in bed, in the living room, or on the couch all day. This space doesn’t have to be big, but it should be comfortable and free from distractions to help you be productive, and should have enough natural light throughout the day.
Having a lack of motivation or inspiration.
When you work from home, it can be easy to lose motivation or inspiration, especially without the connection of your normal social interactions. Even though it is fun to sit on social media all day, it’s important to find ways to stay creative and inspired, whether that’s listening to music, reading books or taking a walk. Making time to take a break can be invaluable throughout the day, so use some time to reset and come back ready to go.
How to make the most of your Working From Home arrangements
Setting professional and personal boundaries
The first step to making the most of your working from home arrangement is to set some professional and personal boundaries. This means setting some time for yourself, and ensuring that you have an opportunity to switch off from work and into home mode. Take control of your own routine. Often, things such as changing clothes or eating a meal at a particular time can assist with making the mental shift.
Block out chunks of time for larger time-heavy work tasks and smaller admin tasks.
Trying to work on too many things at once can lead to decreased productivity and focus. Work out which tasks need your undivided attention. Do the same for your personal life/social calendar. Don’t be afraid to say NO to things if it will place too much strain on your professional/business goals.
Keep connected by joining online forums/groups.
When working from home, it can be easy to feel isolated and out of touch with your industry. Staying connected with others online is a great way of keeping in touch with industry peers/career mentors. Online networking tools like LinkedIn, as well as local networking events as can provide a great avenue to stay connected with your industry and feel connected. Try to set-up a video call or in person meetings where possible, and look to set up regular coffee meet + greets with potential new clients.
Automate as much as possible
In order to make the most of your time, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed by admin tasks, look for ways that you can automate parts of your routine. This might include using accounting software to keep track of your finances (like Sole), or setting up automated marketing emails. There are many ways to automate parts of your business, so it’s worth doing some research to see what would work best for you.
Look to others’ success stories for inspiration, set quarterly goals to keep yourself accountable, read read read!
When working from home, it can be easy to feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re not as successful as those around you. Remember that everyone’s situation is different, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to working from home. Take inspiration from others’ success stories, and set quarterly goals to keep yourself accountable. Finally, make sure to read as much as you can – both for pleasure and for keeping your mind sharp with new ideas.
When all is said and done, the most important thing you can do for yourself in times of such uncertainty is to make a concerted effort on managing your mental health and workload, and try not to stress about the things outside of your control.
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