Daring to bare ... Flying Solo editor Jodie McLeod and founder Robert Gerrish. Photo: Supplied
Today is officially Work in the Nude Day 2012 in Australia. Admittedly, this isn't an international day initiated by the likes of the United Nations or the International Entrepreneurs Association. Instead, it's a decree from the national micro-business community Flying Solo. This is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the freedom and flexibility of working from home, or at least outside the confines of a corporate cubicle.
- Check out our one-off nude photo gallery!
Gerrish says: "We hope to attract the attention of the many thousands of home-based businesses who may be ... in search of an active, friendly bunch of like-minded people."
Robert Gerrish founded Flying Solo in 2005. According to the organisation's research report Understanding micro business 2012-2013, one of the main reasons people start their own business is because of the flexibility of working from home. According to Gerrish, solo and micro businesses account for more than 90 per cent of Australian small businesses, with more than 70 per cent working from a home base.
Indeed, "working from home" has lost much of the stigma it once carried. For some people, having a home office once implied that you couldn't afford a separate office, you didn't really take your business seriously, or you didn't have a professional approach to business.
Gerrish says: "There was a slight stigma, largely unfounded and often exaggerated by those who benefit from putting the frighteners on small business – consultants, institutions and the like. Happily times have changed, and largely through advances in technology and the growing voice of small business I think the secret is out.
"Today governments and corporates converse differently with the micro business sector and have got the message that working from home and staying small is a choice and not a failure to grow."
Despite the evolution of attitudes towards working from home, the reality is that while flexibility might be wonderful, you still need boundaries to ensure a certain level of professionalism and productivity. As someone who has worked from home in various stints over the past 13 years, here are my top tips.
1. Get out of your pyjamas immediately
A collection of brave souls have stripped off for Flying Solo's Work in the Nude Day. For more pictures check Flying Solo's Facebook site.
This might seem like a no-brainer but I do know several work-from-homers who love lolling about in their dressing gown until midday. I would also hazard a guess that they are not productive until midday. Changing out of your pyjamas and into your "work clothes" helps you shift mentally into "work mode".
2. Advise well-meaning friends of your work hours
When I first started working from home, I had a nearby friend who would regularly drop in for coffee. At first, I thought this was great. My hours were flexible so I relished the idea of not having to stick to office hours imposed on me by a big employer. However, these drop-ins played havoc with my schedule and productivity. Just because you work from home doesn't mean that you should make yourself available any time someone wants to share a latte with you. Set boundaries with your hours and advise your friends when you're working.
3. Who is the voice on your answering machine?
You might think it's cute that it's your three-year-old's voice on the outgoing message of your answering machine or voicemail but your prospective clients and associates may not. If you're using your phone line for business purposes, make sure that it sounds professional when it's picked up.
4. Get off the dining room table
If you're still in the early throes of your business, you might be working off the dining room table or kitchen bench. Migrate immediately to a dedicated space. Ideally, you can turn your spare room into an office. If you don't have this luxury, carve out a dedicated space in your hallway or corner of the lounge room. Again, it's a mindshift that will help you get into the right headspace for work. It's also a signal to the rest of your family that you shouldn't be disturbed.
5. Too much information
I've called people who work from home and have been regaled with stories about their children's bowel movements. Some of these movements have occurred while I've been on the phone with them. Not necessary. Just because you work from home doesn't mean you shouldn't have a filter on what you discuss with people in a professional phone call. Turn your filter on.
6. Get out of the house
Working from home can be an isolating experience. If you find you need some contact with humans over the age of 10 from time to time, ensure that you set appointments for yourself so that you can get a fix of real life interaction. Even if this means heading to your local cafe for an hour during the day, it will help you avoid cabin fever.
While there is no doubt that Work in the Nude Day is a fun gimmick, Gerrish says: "We hope to attract the attention of the many thousands of home-based businesses who may be feeling isolated, overwhelmed and in search of an active, friendly bunch of like-minded people."
Indeed, the Work in the Nude Facebook page already has a number of solopreneurs posting pictures of themselves practising for today's day of solidarity.
I asked Gerrish if he will be working in the nude. His response: "Of course! Not for the entire day. I have a busy building site next door and the workers are frisky enough as it is! But I certainly plan to take my morning coffee sans clothes."
Are you planning on participating in Work in the Nude Day? What are your top tips for working from home?