I have just read a piece on the BBC website that had the wise advice to get dressed. Really. I have to tell you I am writing this wearing … hmm … perhaps we won’t go there dear reader. Rest assured all the important bits are covered. Anyway I can reveal that lots of underemployed scribes are going to be writing lots of rubbish at 50p a word on working from home. This advice is based on experience and it’s free.

So let’s get down to terms. Working from home probably means to us that we work from home as part of an organisation and that were we not working from home we would be physically in the building. Indeed we may pop in from time to time to see people or attend meetings. That to me is different from being a home worker where you turn you home into a work place or self-employed or running a business from home.

We’d better slay that other dragon. Technology. Yes broadband, cheap technology and web conferencing (where it works) mean you can be a worker of the world. We have all worked on trains, or in the case of Northern Rail in bus shelters and on buses. I would say this enables working from home but it is still not the same as “actually” working from home. Not going into work. Staying in the house. Clearing away the breakfast things, chucking the laptop on the table and going at that gawd damn OpenAthens administration. Yee Haaa. It’s different. Trust me.

To the last tricky definition before following the esteemed BBC I offer 5 pieces of advice. What is work? Well, to be honest I have almost forgotten. Work is about being present. Travel to work, the library, colleagues, canteens, rotas, start times and going home time, desks, physical stuff etcetera etcetera … imagine all that is gone and it’s just you, a laptop and the endless void. That’s working from home. What I mean, if it’s not already clear, when you strip away all the above you are left with “the work”. That’s the stuff you do at home. You might want to pause for a bit there because once you get this the rest is easy. Remember this could go on for months. If it catches on could go on for years. I know. I was that working from home person.

OK so as promised here are my five pieces of advice.

1. Working from home is about output not input
Working from home is about delivery. You may be looking a bit indignant now saying working from work is about delivery! Yes it is, but it’s about so much more besides, most crucially spending 37.5 hours in a building. Work expands to fill the time available. Well, stop that right now. At home you need to just look at the task and get it done. Then stop and walk away when it’s over. You may find you gain time or lose time depending on the task. This is not the 09:00 – 17:00. It is a series of tasks that you need to fit in to your day.

2. Relax, don’t recreate the office at home (unless you need to)
One thing about the workplace is that it’s a natural fit for some who don superhero “I am at work and I am getting lots done” persona. It’s a not so easy for others. The ones who think “I am here but there must be a better way”. That’s me by the way. However, I am not judging here. The point I make is that going to work makes us behave in a certain way whether we fit in or not. At home you can be yourself. So I would recommend working with the grain of life and your personal circumstances. Don’t change everything for working at home. It will end in tears. Remember 1. above. It’s about outputs not inputs. I do some of my best work in the wee small hours of the morning. I have attended virtual meetings in London in my PJ’s. No one knows. No one cares. However, do remember to put the electricians tape across the laptop camera to avoid embarrassment. Oh, and if you feel compelled to put the suit on and sit at the dining room table at 09:01. That’s fine too. So relax. You will feel better and get more done.

3. Working at home can be lonely
Just to throw off the jovial humour for a minute. Working from home can be lonely. If you work in a team and have to check in with colleagues to arrange work that will be fine. You just have to put a little more energy in to keeping in touch! If you are a lone worker, that’s a more difficult. You really have to put some effort and time into nurturing contacts with the wider library community.

4. You are at work when you are thinking about work
Really? Yes really. Look at it the other way round. You are at work, sitting at the Enquiry Desk, if you have one, and you are thinking about your holidays. Are you at work? Literally, yes. Mentally, no. A lot of this comes down to what we think work looks like. So don’t throw a paddy if you are “at work” in the kitchen and you get dragged into the washing up. Just take your brain with you. You may find you get some of your best ideas while being distracted by the dishes. Once you get the hang of it 1 and 2 above will fall into place.

5. Have a project that doesn’t involve being there – at work I mean
You’ve worked in a building all your life, just keeping it open can take a lot of time. No more. The door remains locked. Books on the shelves that were gathering dust are now gathering even more dust. Now is the time to think of projects that don’t involve buildings and things: your website, your social media, your learning materials, new ways of working, your communications strategy even QIOF. There I’ve said the Q word. A big project that you can dip into will keep you motivated. Looking in from the outside will change your perspective for the better.
In the end we are all adults. We all want to do the right thing by our colleagues, our users and ultimately the patients. Trust yourself and it will be fine.

Was this article helpful. Yes / No. If No, read again in four months’ time.

Best Wishes
Matt Holland
LKS ASE Librarian