MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Who needs an office?

James Layfield explains how to run a business without shouldering the cost of running an office.

by James Layfield
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

If you’re a retailer, you’ll know Thursday was the day thousands of shop owners across the country were expected to pay their landlords their quarterly rent. Testing times indeed – but it’s not just retailers wincing over the cost of running premises. Small businesses up and down the country are having a tough time meeting the overheads incurred by running an office.

Is it time to go back to basics? MT asked James Layfield, founder and CEO of Central Working, for his top tips for working without an office.

1. Choose a place to work
You will work more efficiently if you have designated place to work so you can click into a work mindset. Rather than working from the kitchen table with the clutter of your domestic life around you, set up a home office or at least a desk area.

2. Make the most of your space
Ensure that your space has the right light, fast wifi and good mobile phone reception to make your day as professional as it can be.

3. Be disciplined
The lure of daytime TV becomes inextricably greater once you are ‘working from home’. Make sure your work doesn't turn into something you just keep putting off. No, your bathroom doesn’t need cleaning – turn off your email, get off Twitter and get down to it.

4. Spend your time wisely
With no one watching over your shoulder, you need to make sure that you are as effective as you can be. Create a system that helps you prioritise work properly. I find that I set my goals for the month, then my goals for the week, and then priorities for the day. Then stick to them.

5. Challenge yourself
Once you leave the safety of a corporate office environment, you no longer have a reporting structure – which means you might find that you’re no longer challenged or questioned. It’s important that you find an environment in which you can still get this – even if you have to set yourself challenges.

6. Use cloud-based technology
If you’re out and about, you’ll need cloud-based solutions, so you can access the essentials wherever you are. Dropbox can replace your server, any web-based email like Gmail or MacMail can be easily accessed, and Google and Apple also offer online versions of the popular Microsoft Office tools. We also find Evernote, a cloud based note-taking system invaluable. And don't forget Skype, which is particularly useful if you need to make international calls.

7. Use the power of collaboration
We truly believe that you can make a real difference to your business through collaboration. You can gain insight, ideas, new business and so much more. Think about opportunities for collaboration or join a peer network training scheme.

8. Get the right support
Even if you’re no longer based in an office, that doesn’t mean that you no longer require support. Think about using a virtual PA service.

9. Be sociable
No man or woman is an island – you‘d go mad with no-one but your cat for company at home every day. You need social contact, so schedule face-to-face meetings and be open to making new acquaintances.

10. Take time out
The great thing about working outside of a traditional office is the flexibility, the bad thing is feeling like you’re on call 24/7. Make it all worthwhile by occasionally taking advantage of this flexible way of working and doing a little something for yourself.

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