Thirteen years ago, when I first started working from home, I didn't know anyone else who worked remotely. It felt a novelty, but also something other people in the office didn't trust. How could the boss be sure I wasn't watching daytime soap operas in my pyjamas?
So working from home came bundled with a big slice of angst about what people back in the office were thinking, as well as the benefits to productivity and lack of commute time. The only real worry was my cat falling asleep on my keyboard or thinking my typing was a game of "catch the fingers".
But, over the years, it's become more and more acceptable with a shift from managers making sure there are "bums on seats" from 9-5, to output-based results where you can, more or less, decide for yourself what time and where you work.
The benefits of flexible work arrangements are most keenly felt by those with busy home lives — such as parents with young children (as I was) or carers of elderly parents, but also for those with demanding hobbies, such as athletes with rigorous training schedules.
Overall, my experience as a "homeworker" has been positive for my wellbeing, fitting in parenting responsibilities and being able to pursue work I feel passionately about. I've found it a much easier option than working in an office.
But I had the benefit of already-developed ways to set my own timetables and be a self-starter after moving to Hong Kong part-way through my last year of high school and learning by distance education.
Teachers back home didn't know whether I had spent the morning at the swimming pool, just that I sent my work back by the deadline.
Slicing the day up into hour-long chunks, with 10-minute breaks in between made long tasks seem much less daunting. Modern homeworkers have it easier than I had it then, because there are so many online timetablers and planners, such as todoist.com, where you can detail tasks and set up "habits", as well as feel satisfied you're ticking things off your list. They also provide a good record to show your remote boss or client what you've been working on.
Making your home office environment inviting is also an important motivator, so invest in making it feel like you're at a workplace, rather than just putting a desk in the corner of a room and making do. You may also be able to buy items for your home office as tax-deductible.
It seemed pie-in-the-sky when I first went solo working from home all those years ago, and I remember a high-profile recruitment agent telling me it couldn't be done. Thirteen years later, it's been a dream-come-true to work from home. And not once have I watched daytime soap operas or spent the day in pyjamas.
Work from home solutions
Missing your workmates
: head to a cafe to work surrounded by the white noise of other people chatting, just like in an office, or find like-minded work-from-home people in your area and arrange regular catch-ups. A freelancers' Christmas party is always fun.
Cabin fever: set up a makeshift office on your deck or under a tree in the garden for a different perspective and some fresh air.
Chained to the desk: If you feel like you're cramming in too much work and not enough play, schedule in regular time away from your desk, such as an hour to exercise, cook, or do a hobby during the day to give your mind a rest. I found a break in the afternoon much more enjoyable than the night off.
Craving communication: Upskill on technology — everything from Skype to conversation groups in Office 365 are available for telecommuters. Face-to-face now doesn't have to mean in the same room.
Work/Life balance: Set boundaries with clients and don't always be available. Have set times you switch off daily and weekly where you're unavailable and they will appreciate the time you are there even more.Daily grind getting to you? Don't forget to reward yourself for your hard work. Take an afternoon off now and then and don't forget annual leave.
●According to Employment New Zealand, anyone can ask their employer for flexible work arrangements and employers must consider it. There's a handy checklist on employment.govt.nz to give you the confidence to approach your boss in a professional way to put your case forward for working from home.