working from home

  • Standing desks : A review by a couch potato freelancer (gifted)

    This review features the Varidesk ProPlus30, which was kindly gifted to me.

    I’ve been curious about standing desks for a while. I’ve heard about some of the benefits of them, from reducing back pain to boosting energy levels. One thing I’ve become aware of in the last few years, is that I don’t need more time to work, I need more energy. The idea of making a small change to my office space to boost those levels was something I was happy to do. Especially as my professional workspace consisted of two pillows stacked on my lap on the sofa, as a makeshift desk (I have an actual desk, but…I love the sofa.)

    Varidesk kindly got in touch to offer me the chance to try out the ProPlus30, an adaptive workstation to place on top of my desk and give me the option of standing and sitting.

    I was excited. Would I, as a couch potato who gets far too many ‘stand up’ pings from her Apple Watch, suddenly become a super fit person with perfect posture and unending energy? Er, no, it’s a standing desk, not an entire personality and body replacement. But I was hoping for a little boost in productivity and energy levels. And maybe a slight improvement in my digital age slumped shoulders.

    Productivity

    So, what’s it like? Well, on the productivity front, it works. Standing up and working means I spend less time faffing (read: browsing my Facebook feed), and more time getting sh*t done. I’m more purposeful because I want to treat myself to a sit down with a cuppa and a Pinterest slot of time after. I started using it with my Pomodoro timer to really ramp up the productivity.

    (It’s also much easier to have a boogie at your desk when you’re standing. Desk dancing is an important factor to consider)

    I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed using it. I love using it for recording videos and Facebook Lives, where I can move a little and gesticulate more. It’s adjustable, so at 5ft 4in, I could get it to the perfect height. What I’m saying is, it’s great for getting that perfect ‘trim the chins’ angle.

    Posture

    Standing up and working made me feel more aware of how I was standing, particularly my shoulders and my centre of balance (I’m constantly shifting feet). I don’t tend to stay standing for longer than an hour at a time.

    Let’s get into the meaty stuff:

    Pros

    • Converting it from a seated desk to a standing desk can be done in seconds (see video above). It’s simply a case of pressing the button on each side, and easing it up or down. Just don’t do what I did and press the buttons without holding on. My laptop nearly took its first flight through the office window.
    • It doesn’t require building, I just pulled it out of the box and placed it on the desk.
    • There’s loads of desk space, and space to pop your Bluetooth devices.
    • It looks good. I mean, it’s big (a dinky IKEA desk isn’t going to hold this bad boy), but it looks great once it’s in place. There’s also a different version of the Varidesk if you have two monitors that you use regularly
    • Varidesk offer a 30 day guarantee, so if standing isn’t for you, you can return and get a refund.

    Cons

    • It’s heavy. It was a two-person job to lift it onto the desk. We’ve got a pretty sturdy old wooden desk, so it was stable enough, but I would probably put down a thin foam mat or fabric underneath it if I put it on there again to protect the wood.
    • The price is reasonably high at £275, and there are certainly cheaper ones on the market. But this one is high quality, easy to set up and gives the option of being a standing or sitting desk (whereas others are just standing desks).

    Considerations

    • If your desk is a tangle of wires, this is a good time to update your desk to more Bluetooth/wireless devices so you can easily move the desk up and down without yanking anything out. If you use a laptop rather than a desktop, a wireless mouse and keyboard make it much easier to use the Varidesk easily.
    • Have a think about footwear. This is not the time for stilettos (but hey, you’re working from home, why would you be even wearing them).

    Conclusion

    Yup. I’m a standing desk convert. I find it particularly good for those days when I really need to focus, but it’s great to have the option either way. It’s not an essential item, but I feel like the benefits really make it worth looking at if you’re spending a long time at your desk.

    You can find the Varidesk ProPlus 30 on Amazon (affiliate link) or direct from Varidesk.

  • How to deal with loneliness as a freelancer

    How to deal with loneliness as a freelancer

    When you work from home, loneliness can often be an unfortunate side effect. For some of us who identify as an introvert, working from home is the ideal – away from the small talk, constant chatter and people time of an office job. But for others, the days can be long, far too quiet and quite lonely. It can be disheartening to see everyone enjoying Friday night drinks, or having no one to celebrate a win with or commiserate on a loss.

    Working on your own shouldn’t mean you have to work alone though. In all honesty, I don’t think I realised how lonely it could be to be at home on your own for most of the day, until I became a mum. For the first time in a long time, I felt real loneliness (Channel Mum recently discovered that 9 out of 10 mums felt lonely). I really struggled with it for months, until I decided to take some steps to get out there and meet more people. Mate date. Primarily through apps like Mush and Peanut.

    The thing is, making friends as a parent isn’t that different to making friends as a freelancer. You don’t necessarily have opportunities like all the activities and childcare that kids bring. But there are other ways you can get out there, meet more people and create that support network that can be missing when you’re freelance. The key is to be pro-active and get yourself out there.

    Here are just a few of the ways you can do it:

    Networking events

    I know lots of readers get nervous about going to networking events and focus on the business side. But I’ve made some really lovely local friends through going to networking events. Think about it – these are people who more than likely also work from home, run their own business and get the pressures. You probably share a lot of interests. And it’s only for a couple of hours.

    Here are a few articles on networking which might help

    Co-working

    If you miss working next to colleagues, have a look for local co-working venues or events (Jelly do regular co-working events across the country so you can go without feeling like you’re committing to office space.)

    Push yourself to organise meet-ups

    Have you ever organised a meet-up before? It’s one of the best ways to meet new people, because you can control where you meet, what you’ll do and you’ll be there from the start so people will immediately gravitate towards you. You could set yourself the goal to do one bigger meet-up, or organise to meet up with a new person every week or every month. Facebook Groups are a great place to do this, especially the local ones. Or contact people you chat to on Instagram regularly, they’re probably keen too!

    Come join us in the Facebook group!

    Finally, come join the Freelance Lifestyle Facebook community of lovely freelancers. It’s a really kind, supportive and funny community of freelance types, primarily UK-based, and therefore perfect for finding other local freelancers to meet up with! Want to join? You can access the community by joining the weekly mailing list. There’s a bundle of other freelancing freebies in there too for you.

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  • Working From Home Bingo

    Today I’ve got a post for you in collaboration with Furniture At Work, who sent me over a video that really struck a chord with me.

    I love that the video recognised the difference challenges of working in an office and working from home. Even down to going professional on the top, pyjamas on the bottom when jumping on a conference call!

    It got me thinking – which things have we all done when working from home?

    Pull out your marker, it’s time to play Work From Home bingo!

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Doll up your top half for a conference call

    (Bonus points if you only style the front of your hair)

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Work on a particularly boring task in front of Netflix

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Have a mini office dance party when a project goes well.

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Get too chatty with the postman because they’re the first person you’ve seen today

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Become the default house for all the deliveries in your street.

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Keep a ‘postman bra’ by the door to throw on when the doorbell goes unexpectedly

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Find yourself cleaning the house instead of dealing with a tricky work task

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Feel irrational rage when people are noisy in your street in the middle of the day

    (This was me this week when trying to record a podcast when my neighbours were having building work)

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Feel a little bit jealous of people’s takeaway lunches on Instagram…

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] …Then realising that you can cook really amazing lunches at home/order a Dominos

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Put Peppa Pig on so you can take a call/reply to an important email

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Feel a bit smug when it’s 8am and you don’t have to commute to work

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Fend off friends or family who assume you can drop work at a moment’s notice

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Reach peak ‘I need to see humans’ status and heading to a coffee shop

    [su_icon icon=”icon: check-square-o”][/su_icon] Come home again and realise how much you love working from home

    Thanks to Furniture At Work for sending over the video, have a peek at their site for lots of cheap office desks and more!

  • In love with my landline: Panasonic KX-PRW120 phone review

    PanasonicKXPRW120

    I can’t remember the last time I used my landline phone at home. I haven’t added it to the phone number section of a form for years, and I jump out of my skin when it actually rings (inevitably a call from my mother or mother-in-law). Since the popularity of mobile phones, the home phone has taken a backseat.

    Until I gave the Panasonic KX-PRW120 phone a try.

    This stylish cordless phone is packed full of features that make it ideal for a freelancer. The biggest perk being that you can sync it up with your smartphone (using an app), so that you can answer calls from your landline when you’re out and about. This is excellent if you don’t want to give out your mobile number, and want to give the impression of being a ‘proper business’ by having a landline number. There’s also a conference call function that I haven’t used yet (mainly because I often use Google Hangouts and Skype) but I can see a benefit.

    Voicemails are covered too, with a text arriving on your phone when you get one (as long as you’re in the same Wi-Fi zone). You can use your smartphone as an extra handset, although that seems an awful shame – the stylish large 2.2” TFT colour LCD screen makes it a really nice phone to use. There’s even a baby monitor feature.

    There is one downside – the app (if left running) drained my iPhone battery very quickly. If I was being picky, I’d also say that you have to be slightly careful when placing the phone back in the cradle as it’s easy to miss it. However, as I’ve mainly been using my smartphone instead of the handset, this hasn’t been a big problem.

    Like the sound of the Panasonic KX-PRW120? You can pick it up on Amazon for £89.99.

    Disclaimer: I was sent the Panasonic KX-PRW120 to try for free, however I was not paid for the post and all views are my own.

  • Working from home when it’s chilly

    realityofworkingfromhome

    Earlier on the week on Twitter, @AshLawrenceRye cc’d me into a conversation about working from home in the cold. It was suggested that I cover this on The Freelance Lifestyle, given that many of us have to deal with this.

    ANY EXCUSE TO GO ONLINE SHOPPING AND CREATE A POORLY PUT TOGETHER IMAGE ABOUT THE REALITIES OF WORKING FROM HOME WHEN YOU’RE FREEZING YOUR BITS OFF.

    Thanks to a broken boiler, this has been my reality this week. I spent most of the days working on the sofa in my onesie, under a blanket with a hot water bottle and a mug of hot chocolate. Which all sounded rather marvelous, but I suspect the reality would have been featured in one of those ‘when Pinterest goes wrong’ articles. To be honest, the image on the right above would be a flattering portrayal. But I am, nonetheless, obsessed with cooler days and the delights of keeping warm. Which is perhaps why so many mispronounce my surname as ‘cosy’.

    Anyway, if I WAS one of those effortless women who shrugs on a cashmere vest top and a pair of lounge pants and curls up perfectly in a spotless home, I would probably buy all of items featured below.

    (HA! Kidding. As if being untidy usually stops my shopping habits)

    I asked the lovely freelancing types in my Facebook group Freelance Lifestylers (it’s free, why not join too?) what they did to keep warm without resorting to upping the heating. Here’s what they had to say, along with some suggestions of things that could keep you cosy.

    Working in the boffice with an electric blanket – thermal layers – lots of socks! Doing star jumps in your breaks HAHA. I’m thinking lunchtime baths should be added to this too. Fran Reynolds

    41U7+-vW0tL._SX425_This is a heated cape. A heated cape people! Sure, it’s not the kind of thing you hit up a networking event in, but it’s snuggly. It’s £49.99 on Amazon.

    Currently working under a blanket, wearing Uggs! Also, when it just gets unbearably cold in our flat (we have storage heaters that as far as I can tell basically require witchcraft to set up properly) I head to the library and work from there -it’s free, it’s warm, and there’s a coffee shop! Emily Jayne Phillips 

    p6750_column_grid_12

    Simple heated slippers aren’t enough. Nope. You need Narwharl heated slippers! Firebox, £24.99. (They’re the unicorn of the sea donchaknow?)

    Side note – I love how many freelancers are supporting and working in their local libraries.

    Layers and layers of socks! Staying in the warm bed longer, and doing workouts. I hear dogs and cats are helpful too, but apparently it’s frowned on to borrow them just for personal heating. Jo Shock

    cableknitsocksBoux Avenue is one of my favourite places for cosy loungewear, and these pom pom socks (£15) are divine. Cats are also a useful substitute. Not to wear, obviously.

    Hot shower then layer up. Fleece lined woolen socks Madeleine Noble Jones

    Cosy ChristmasLush is always my first stop for comforting treats to add to my bath. The Cosy Christmas box above is full of treats including the Hot Toddy shower gel, Snowman Jelly, Celebrate body lotion and Snowcake soap.

    I have a plug in heater for when it’s freezing but I don’t want to heat the whole house. I also find that when you do have the heating on, setting it to come on for just an hour at lunchtime helps to maintain a good temperature without being too extravagant. Oh, and finger-less gloves are good for typing! Katie M Anderson

    screenshot755I also love a good pair of fingerless gloves. Accessorize have a particularly cute collection, including Fairisle ones above (£14).

    Slipper booties, leggings, blanket, hot beverages every half hour. Or pop out to library for free heating. Kerri Walker 

    screenshot756On the tea front, I’m rather addicted to these Twinings flavoured green teas, especially the ginger bread one. With it being green tea, I can convince myself that it’s healthy too. It’s like cake you don’t have to chew.

    I now seem to have taken a rather more drastic approach and I’m looking at flights to warmer climes! Madeleine Noble Jones

    Well, this is the main benefit of being freelance really, isn’t it? The ability to, in theory, be location independent! Good shout.

    Tell me how keep warm during the colder months when you’re working from home? What products do you reach for?

     

    [themify_hr color=”green” ]

    Untitled design(1)

    Want to break out of the corporate cycle, and enjoy the freedom of being a freelancer? Check out the Freelance Lifestyle E-Course!

  • How do I calculate my working from home expenses?

    One question I’ve had pop up a few times on the blog recently is regarding working from home expenses when you’re a sole trader. It’s something a lot of freelancers are unsure of. Can we claim our full phone bill? Can we claim for the cost of dedicating a room to my work? Thankfully, FreeAgent have come up with a snazzy little infographic to work out exactly how much you can put through as an expense for each kind of bill.

    Do you work from home? Do you know which expenses you should be claiming?

    View the full image at FreeAgent

  • 5 things on my working from home wishlist for May

    One of my favourite things about working from home, aside from elasticated waist trousers and not having to enter into excessive small talk, is having an excuse to buy stuff for my home office. Even if those purchases are sometimes a little frivolous.

    Here are a few of the things on my wishlist, ranging from practical gadgets to impractical stationery that makes me smile.  I’d love to know what you’re yearning for in the comments below!

    HomeOfficeWishlist

    • iKettle is a kettle that you can turn on with your phone. Firebox, £99.99.
    • Tea Display box. Justifies me spending more on fancy tea. NOTHS, £29.99.
    • Vitapens Highlighters. As if highlighting stuff wasn’t fun enough. IWOOT, £6.99.
    • Bunny in the field paper clips storage. I don’t even use paper clips. IWOOT, £10.
    • Leitz Complete Multicharger for Mobile Device. So I don’t break my neck on a million cords. Amazon, £54.99.

    Go on, tell me what’s on your wishlist at the moment!

  • The A-Z of Freelancing: Garden offices, extensions and treehouses

    screenshot608

    Freelancing and working from home often goes hand in hand. Which is great, but it can sometimes make the whole work/life balance thing tricky. I’ve talked a lot on the blog about the difficulties of sticking to work hours, and the problems with friends and family not respecting your workspace. Thankfully, freelancing doesn’t mean you have to work from your sofa (you can, obviously. In fact, I often prefer it). But you can work from a co-working space, a coffee shop, a library or from one of the increasingly creative garden offices and sheds around.

    For example, did you know you could work in one of the following unusual workspaces?

    Obviously most of them are pricey (I was lucky that the previous owners of our house had already built an office on to the side of the garage), but a freelancer can dream, right?

    Check out ShedWorking and WorkFromHomeWisdom for a few more unusual working from home options.

    If you could build a dream office at home, what would it be like?