By: Manar Al Hinai*

I recently spoke at the Youth Forum at Tawdheef 2015 — the annual Emirati employment exhibition. Emirati students attended to hear what professionals had to say about their work experiences. As part of the Forum, students were also asked to participate in a live survey about their career and entrepreneurial ambitions.

What impressed me was that many of the students planned to launch their own businesses one day. As someone who manages her own consultancy, nothing feels more rewarding than watching your venture grow and inspire people’s lives.

Additional perks include managing your own office and watching that office expand. But before moving into a lavish workspace, you may need to work from home for a while or from a business centre until your business picks up.

Over the past year, some of my friends who have gone down the entrepreneurial route have changed their routines. Instead of complaining about being late for work or struggling to beat the rush hour traffic, they simply roll out of bed, make themselves some coffee and turn on the computer in their home office.

The idea may sound like a dream. After all, it is tempting for anyone to work from home, in the comfort of your pyjamas with access to your own fridge and bathroom, but that dream also comes with its challenges. In fact, it may be harder to work from home than from a traditional office.

The following tips are helpful for start-up entrepreneurs trying to find the right working environment for their needs:

Try working from a business centre. This will get you into the office mood and prevent you being distracted by family members or other issues at home. Library cafes at hotels are a good example, but other arrangements work too. There are numerous business centres in the UAE that provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to rent a desk, a shared workstation or a private office. They also come with benefits such as printers, meeting rooms, fax machines and a dedicated office receptionist, plus a PO box. Not only will this help to increase your productivity and efficiency, but it will also offer a good opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs.

Set regular call and meeting times. At the start-up phase, you may have one or two team members on board and the lack of office space may mean that you do not meet them every day. If you are an extrovert, you may find this arrangement bothersome. In addition, it is very important to interact with your team members. With technology, a Skype video call will help otherwise arrange to meet up once or twice a week. Even though you may email each other all the time, one-on-one meetings are important to strengthen the relationship and discuss matters not covered by email.

Dedicate an office space at home. Sure, you can always work from the comfort of your bed, lying against your favourite pillow, but that could increase your risk of back, neck and even wrist pain in the long run. Also, you need to have a separate workspace to get you into the work mood. If possible, turn a spare room into an office. If you are challenged with space, dedicate a corner. Have it in the most quiet and comfortable corner of your home, preferably with natural sunlight coming in. It is important to be in the zone, to feel that you are in an actual office.

Set work hours for yourself. Because you are your own boss, you may want to sleep for an extra hour, or to postpone that meeting or task to another day. But because you are your own boss, you need to be firmer with yourself to avoid such situations. Working from home can be distracting and you can easily lose track of time. Set dedicated working hours and ensure to include a lunch break to give yourself some downtime. This will ensure you return to work refreshed to tackle the rest of the tasks for the day.

Starting a business is rewarding, but it also comes with its challenges, especially when you work from home and remotely from your team members. However, with a little bit of discipline and organisation, you could go a long way.

This article was originally published in The National

* Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati writer and communications specialist who writes for The National as well as other publications in the UAE

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