Home Office: How to work from home?
Hardly any other topic in the working world is surrounded by so many myths as the home office: How to work from home. Many employees, but also employers, have a stereotypical idea of this working method, which rarely corresponds to reality.
While the home office is the epitome of freedom for employees, many supervisors associate it primarily with loss of control. But what is the truth of these prejudices?
How does working in one’s own four walls become productive? What advantages and disadvantages does it bring with it?
In our comprehensive guide to the home office, we answer all the important questions.
- Advantages and disadvantages of the home office
- Convince the boss of the idea “home office
- Tips for effective working in the home office
- What are the pitfalls and how can they be avoided?
- Can home office and equipment be tax deductible?
- The subject of occupational health and safety in the home office
- How do you deal with prejudice?
Advantages and disadvantages of the home office
Working from home – for many employees, this sounds like the real deal. No boss looking over your shoulders for control, no colleagues disturbing your concentration with their talk – and above all: no commute to work that costs additional time.
At first glance, it seems as if the home office brings only positive aspects with it. But don’t let this appearance deceive you. It can also be said about working from home: Where there is light, there is also shadow.
In other words: the numerous advantages are definitely counterbalanced by disadvantages. Knowing these is extremely important if you are considering working from home.
|Flexible division of the working day||Distraction traps|
|Self-determined work||difficult separation of work and private life|
|Increase of creativity||constant availability|
|Reduction of pressure||Dealing with prejudices|
|Elimination of travel to and from work ( = time saving)|
|Increase in job satisfaction|
Convincing the boss of the idea of “home office
You can very well imagine working in a home office, but still have to convince your boss? Then you should prepare yourself extensively in advance for the interview with your superior.
Good arguments and the presentation of advantages (see table) will help you to get a lot closer to the home office.
It is also essential to be prepared for any unpleasant questions. If you can answer them without hesitation and with a lot of emphasis, you have (almost) won.
Some of the most frequent questions from the boss are:
- How can I check whether you are really working?
- What happens in case of illness or vacation?
- What happens if I want to reverse my decision?
- Will you continue to be available for me, colleagues and customers as usual?
- How exactly do you imagine this to happen in practice?
- On how many days a week do you want to work in the home office?
Tip: Employers do not like to be presented with a fait accompli. Therefore, you should think about it thoroughly in advance, but always give your boss a say and the freedom to make decisions. In this way, you will find a solution together that all parties involved can live with.
Tips for effective working in the home office
Especially the numerous distraction traps in the home office make it difficult for many employees to work concentrated and effective. Employers also see this as the greatest danger – after all, they can never really check whether the employee is really doing his or her job.
The fact is: Lazy employees who only put their feet up in the home office and relax over a coffee are a myth. A study from the USA – more precisely from Standford University – has shown that people in the home office
- perform better
- work longer than they have to
- take fewer breaks
- work with more concentration
(Source: Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment)
The suspicion of the scientists around Nicholas Bloom: The flexibility that comes with the home office not only increases satisfaction, but also productivity.
But how does that actually work with effective working in a home office? We have put together a few tips for you here.
Tip #1: Eliminate disruptive factors
Ideally, the home office is located in a separate room. This not only means that you can separate it better from your private environment, but also that you can work more concentrated. In order to maximize effectiveness, it is important to eliminate all disturbing factors.
These include not only personal items such as pictures but also sounds and furniture. If there is a bed or couch in your study, this will always have a subliminal effect on your productivity.
Tip #2: Be aware that you are working
Even if it is not necessary to leave the house to go to work, you should always be aware that from a certain moment on you are at work. People who work in a home office have developed a wide variety of tactics for this.
While some rely on fixed rituals, others choose to go through the usual work clothing (e.g. shirt or dress) to get to work mentally. The same applies, by the way, to ringing in the evening.
Here too, a specific ritual can help to draw a line under the circumstances.
Note: If you want to work successfully in the home office, you should never be tempted to use the bed or couch as a workplace. This simply does not provide the necessary “job feeling”.
Tip #3: Find a rhythm
Many people who work in a home office rave about flexibility. Of course, you have plenty of freedom and scope when you work in a home office.
But that should not mean that you throw all your previous habits overboard. If you want to work effectively in the home office, it is a good idea to adopt a (more or less) fixed rhythm.
For example, determine when:
- You start
- You take a break
- You stop working
Fixed time slots help you to work in a focused and concentrated way and to create a routine. This in turn has a great influence on the quality of your work. It is important that you pay attention to your inner clock.
While some people can work particularly effectively in the early morning hours, others only really get going in the course of the morning.
Home office means that you can take a bit of freedom to find your own rhythm, which is not based on your colleagues or the boss’ ideas.
Tip #4: Rely on high-quality work equipment
An effective way of working depends not only on you but also on your work equipment. For example, it makes sense to invest money in the following equipment:
- good internet connection
- fast laptop/PC
- large desk
- ergonomic office chair
Tip #5: Set daily goals
To do- and priority lists are good tools to increase productivity in the home office. Because: If you have a goal in mind, you can work towards it and have (at least) one sense of achievement at the end of the day.
Set yourself several achievable daily goals to give your working day a structure. By systematically working through the individual points, the day not only passes more quickly but is also crowned with several successes.
Tip #6: Use tools
What’s the saying? There is an app for everything – even for effective working in the home office! If you find it hard to concentrate on your work (especially in the beginning), a variety of applications for your smartphone and computer can help you work more productively.
The following tools are highly recommended:
- toggl: App to measure the time you spend on certain tasks
- Forest: App that prevents you from constantly using your smartphone
- Goal Tracker: App that helps to establish positive habits
- TomatoTimer: browser application that helps to implement the Pomodoro technique (sequence of fixed working and break times to increase effectiveness)
- Rescuetime: Program that measures how much time you need for which activity on the computer
- SelfControl: Mac application that allows you to blacklist certain websites (e.g. Facebook, Amazon and Co.) and thus block them for certain periods of time
Tip: You can also find more recommendable apps in our article “More productive with apps! The little 1×1 of online helpers”.
Which pitfalls lurk and how can you avoid them?
As mentioned above, there are various dangers lurking in the home office that can endanger your productivity on the one hand and cause frustration and dissatisfaction on the other. T
o avoid both scenarios, it is important to know these pitfalls and what you can do about them.
Danger #1: Distraction
Anyone who is just starting to work in the home office must, first of all, adapt to the new situation. Of course, it is unfamiliar at first to work in a familiar environment where distraction traps lurk around every corner.
There’s only one way to avoid this problem safely: be rigorous about eliminating distractions. You will quickly notice what is drawing your attention and preventing you from working.
Remove these things from your field of vision and also use the tools mentioned above to focus your attention on the work.
Danger #2: Merging of work and private life
The difficult separation of work and private life is another classic when it comes to the dangers of the home office. Here a quick e-mail to your best friend, there an open invoice, there an exciting eBay auction – and in between, a task that actually has something to do with the job.
In order not to lose your head here, you have to be consistent. For example, in the morning, just before or after lunch and with the beginning of the evening, set time windows in which you can take care of private matters and concentrate the rest of the time on your job. Mixing the two worlds simply does not work.
Tip: Breaks should also play an important role in the home office. To do this, move away from your desk and allow yourself at least 30 minutes off from your job every day.
Danger #3: constant availability
“Oh, Mr. and Mrs. XY are working from home today, so it’s probably okay if I make a quick call after 5:00.” – Your supervisor’s train of thought might sound something like this if you chose the home office.
The constant availability of employees is indeed a major problem that affects surprisingly many people. If you want to avoid this pitfall, it makes sense to establish clear rules from the outset.
Together with your boss, determine from when to when you can be reached and consider a procedure in urgent cases.
Tip: Not every call from the boss is for consultation or inquiry. Often it is simply a matter of checking. If you notice that the control calls are increasing, it makes sense to call the supervisor to talk about a possible trust problem.
Danger #4: Employer skepticism
Talking about trust issues: Many employers are rather skeptical about the home office because they believe they cannot verify the employee’s performance.
This is simply an old wives’ tale. By completing projects on time and completing tasks in a timely manner, your boss will know that you’re working reliably at home and that you’re not lying on your back.
Tip: Agree on various weekly goals together with your boss. This way you always know what to do and your employer has a way to monitor your progress.
Can home office and equipment be tax deductible?
In principle, in the case of the home office, the employer is obliged to provide all work equipment. In return, the employee undertakes to use them exclusively for professional purposes.
In practice, however, it is also very common to use private equipment and furniture for home work.
Here – especially when new purchases are made – many people wonder whether these are tax deductible.
The answer: yes, but only under certain conditions.
Prerequisite #1: The employer does not have his own workplace in the office
If you do not have your own workplace in the office and therefore work primarily from home, you have the option of deducting expenses for this from your tax bill as income-related expenses – but only up to an annual amount of €1,250.
If you want to deduct costs for rent, electricity and heating, it is important that the room is clearly used as an office and not for any other purpose. This rule applies to teachers and some field staff, for example.
Requirement #2: The home office is your permanent workplace
People who work almost exclusively in a home office – for example, self-employed and freelancers – have the option of unlimited tax deductibility of expenses.
However, this rule does not apply to most people who work on a salaried basis.
In the majority of cases, however, it is the case that neither requirement #1 nor requirement #2 is met. Then you have no possibility to deduct purchases for your home office from tax.
Occupational safety and health in the home office
What is often mentioned little or not at all is the following aspect: Even in the home office, the regulations of occupational health and safety apply.
If these cannot be fulfilled in the home office, the supervisor is empowered to thwart you. In addition to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Display Screen Equipment Ordinance must never be disregarded.
Whether the workplace fulfills all the conditions of occupational health and safety and the Display Screen Equipment Ordinance must be checked by a company doctor or other specialist.
It is quite common to contractually stipulate such an inspection.
How do you deal with prejudices?
Do you (in future) work in a home office? If so, you will in all probability not only meet with approval, but will also encounter prejudices time and again.
In the eyes of many, working in a home office is not really “real work” at all, but rather a kind of light version.
Here you can find out how best to deal with mocking remarks.
Tip #1: Arguments
Nothing is more effective than the right arguments. You can easily break down pointy questions like “What do you do all day long?” or “Seriously, you are really tempted to do nothing?” with a short list of your daily tasks.
Tip #2: Counter-questions
Admittedly, counter-questions are generally considered rather impolite, but in some cases they can be very helpful – for example, when someone doesn’t really believe that you are really productive in the home office.
A simple “Why shouldn’t I?” will draw your counterpart out of his or her shell and make sure that he or she will think twice about his or her question.
Tip #3: Clarification
The fact that many people who do not work in the home office have questions about this is often not meant as a bad thing, but as a sign of sincere interest.
Do not close yourself off to this, but consider your situation as a kind of educational mission. By answering questions patiently and maybe even talking out of the blue, you not only create greater acceptance for the home office as a working model, but also ensure that your counterpart gives you recognition and perhaps even a little openly expressed envy.
Working in a home office – even though this work model presents many challenges, it can also be extremely rewarding.
Flexible working hours and more freedom for creative development ensure that the quality of the work improves noticeably. This will not only please you, but also your employer.
The prerequisite for this is that you know how to deal with the dangers and what pitfalls await you in everyday work. With our guide, you are well prepared for the adventure of the home office.
We look forward to receiving your experience reports and questions. Simply write us a comment.