Moving house is consistently ranked as one of the most stressful events in life. Along with the death of a loved one, separation, job and financial stress, the disruption of moving house is unsurprisingly one of those topping the list. So when you’re a homeworker, how do you work from home when moving house?
Our recent house move was our ninth in nine years. A combination of living a Forces life, of being at the mercy of landlords, and moving round the world across continents (twice) has meant we’ve had our fair share of packing up, moving out, and moving in.
For almost all of these moves, I’ve had to continue working from home. For some, it was a little easier than others. As a freelancer, I was able to block off time and not take on work to allow for the few days of chaos either side of a move. But sometimes, you can’t control the date of completion, you can’t control certain goings on in your business, you might be expecting calls and important emails, and customers or clients may still need to contact you.
The disruption of moving house is not just limited to days of packing up and unpacking the other end; it is the endless house viewings, the time spent online researching, the switching of schools, the emotional stresses, and the never-ending admin involved. It really is like running another little ‘side hustle’ for a few months!
Having now experienced our latest house move during lockdown, with no escape to an office, while still homeschooling, and trying to keep on top of work, I’ve compiled a list of useful tips to help you work from home when you’re moving house. Some of these will be useful even if you’re not moving but experiencing any kind of disruption, renovations, or general home chaos!
Make a list (or several)
Homeworkers love lists, I find. And if it’s another excuse to buy a new notebook, all the better.
Preparing for a home move requires a lot of organisation. The less stressed and overwhelmed you feel by the move itself, the more capacity you’ll have to get on with your work.
During the initial weeks and months, the house move happens in the background, ticking over while the day job still takes centre stage.
To keep it out of mind, I make sure I’ve written down everything that could take up valuable headspace.
Lists of expected costs, lists of all the utilities and companies to contact about the move from water and gas to broadband, council tax, schools and banks; lists of things which need to be booked and paid for to move house, lists of things you need to get done once you’re in the new house.
Map out a flexible plan
Once you have your lists, putting them into a timeline really helps you plot out the next few months.
You can also add in days you’ll want to go and do viewings and any viewings you’ve got booked at your house (although some of these can be very last-minute).
Written in chronological order, you can schedule in what needs to be done, booked, or paid for by when. I always work backwards. Seeing it all on the calendar allows me to understand what we’re doing, when I will have less time for work, and therefore how to structure my work accordingly. It also helps to lessen that overwhelmed feeling and the stress it can cause. You have your framework.
Often, the tasks only involve making phone calls and form filling so they don’t take up much of your day but you have it all out of your head and you can focus on your main job.
Get a grab box
One thing that became invaluable to us while we were in semi-lockdown and were allowed people to view the house was what we dubbed our “grab box”.
You still need to live and work but you also need to keep the house looking presentable and tidy to sell to potential buyers.
With two young children and two adults both working from home, this was never an easy job so the grab box was literally a large, cardboard box we grabbed before any house viewings. We had two – one for toys and children’s bits and one for the desk and work bits.
All the surface clutter, toys, random jigsaw pieces on the floor got put into one box. To keep the desk and office space (or kitchen table) looking tidy, we put the folders, notebooks, desk clutter into another.
The boxes were then put into our shed or even into the boot of our car. Nobody is any the wiser. They are easy to retrieve after the viewing and you’re not constantly stressing about keeping everything pristine while living and working.
(It does help you to stay a bit more organised and it’s amazing how long you can go without everything in the grab box… You might end up just adding to them and then realising you don’t need half of the stuff!
Automating and outsourcing
Automations are incredibly useful if you run a business, need to stay visible, and have some basic tasks that have to still happen while you’re moving. Getting as much of your work flow and processes automated, even if just for a few days around the move can help.
These can be as simple as using your out of office responder to let people know about changes to routine or it might be scheduling social media or emails to send at a later date.
When working from home when you’re moving house, having some pre-prepared content to post while you’re not ‘at work’ stops you from going silent to your audience.
You might want to outsource a VA for a few days or weeks to help you keep on top of some admin tasks and emails.
Automating or outsourcing allows your work to tick over in the background while the house move takes centre stage!
The work from home when moving home ‘office’
The things you don’t want packed up accidentally in the removal van are your basic office tools and essentials to keep working.
Even if you’ve blocked the time off, having them to hand will help for any unexpected or urgent requests.
Apart from dealing with any important customer queries or emails from the boss, you never know what opportunities might pop up. On the day we packed up our home, I was asked to do a TV interview on work from home burnout.
I had my laptop, wifi connection and a window for light. It was still possible.
I kept a portable office in a bag with just the essentials. Laptop, phone, chargers, notebooks, diaries, hard drives, important paperwork etc.
This bag becomes your office for a couple of days. You can use it at the new house before your workspace is set up. It’s practical and it’s also peace of mind.
Keep all the essentials to hand
Don’t pack the passport in the van!
As well as your ‘office’ bag, remember to keep safe all those other documents and ID you might need.
Most people will move out and in on the same day, but this is particularly important if your belongings are going into storage for any time.
Keep those important numbers, proof of identity, and passwords all safe and accessible. It sounds obvious but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget a vital piece of paper in the moving process.
However you save or store this information, you’ll often need it for changing of address, payments and the endless admin associated with a house move.
Just in case things get dropped, go missing, get broken, back up your important documents and files on the cloud and on hard drive.
You know they’re safe and you can access them on different devices.
This was really important for our moves to and from Australia so we had a folder full of photocopies and scans of key documentation. But even with a local move, knowing you have backups of your work, can give you extra peace of mind, especially if things are a little chaotic at the other end.
Emailing certain things to colleagues so there is somebody else with a copy can be useful as well.
You might also want to consider insurance, particularly if you hold stock or are going to be storing items. ‘In-transit insurance’ is one option – and of course, don’t forget to tell your home and business insurers. If you’re interested in protecting your small business, check out the Services Family who have written all about the right kinds of insurance for your needs and how to protect yourself as a small business owner or sole trader.
Their latest article is in the Breathe issue of The Homeworker.
Know what is on your agenda
Knowing what is coming up work-wise for the next few days allows you to plan, from what you’ll need in your portable office, to your wardrobe.
I often opt for comfortable clothes when working from home, and if I’m packing boxes, I’m not going to be wearing my best outfit. But if you’ve got zoom meetings scheduled (or maybe a surprise TV interview) keep some smart clothes in your suitcase, or a more formal top or shirt in your office bag.
During the move, as you go around switching off, taking meter readings, unplugging and disconnecting from your old home, keep that router on until the end!
Simple but easy to ignore. If you’ve already shut off and disconnected your broadband, a mobile router is a great back up and a potential lifeline at the other end…
The mobile router is a great and handy little device and one of my work from home essentials!
They are great for working out of the home and on the road as you can connect multiple devices. They often provide a very fast connection and could be used just for your day to day office use if you’re wanting to keep a separate wifi connection to your home broadband.
In your plan, you’ll probably have arranged for broadband to be reconnected at the new address as early as possible but in the meantime, a mobile router keeps you up and running.
Health and fitness
Inevitably, you are not going to have your normal routine for a few days.
If going for a run or getting outside in the middle of it all is what you need, try to make it happen. Moving house is exhausting and draining so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not doing your daily yoga, meditation, runs and eating 100% wholesome food.
But do try to look after yourself and remember that self-care at this time is really important.
Mitigate the tendency to eat more processed foods by having some prepared snacks or pre-bought on-the-go health snacks such as nuts, dips and fruit bowls. A few deep breaths in your day can help to calm you down.
But if you celebrate your move with a curry from your new local, embrace getting to know the local area, and know you can get back into your good routines over the next few days.
Try to find out find out where you get signal and what carriers work in your new area so you can buy the correct SIMS, and change providers if necessary.
Your work setup won’t be optimal to start but if you’ve got your portable office bag, a wifi connection, and electricity in the new house, you can get going.
Get to know your new neighbours and let them know you’re working from home. These conversations often lead to your first social connections and even future support network. We met our new neighbours yesterday. They both work from home and I already know I can borrow their printer if I don’t have mine up and running quickly!
Equally, check out your local coworking spaces. It might be a good idea to book a few days in at the start if things at home are a bit chaotic, and it gives you an opportunity to get out, focus, and meet some fellow homeworkers!
Enjoy your new home and new area. Spend time getting to know it and settling in without putting too much pressure on yourself. Keep the automations going for a few more days, give yourself some breathing space and remember to celebrate a job well done.
If you want more tips on setting up a new home office, check out these articles:
How to spark joy in your home workspace
How to choose the best lighting for your home workspace
Five key things to consider when setting up your home workspace
For in-depth articles and expert insights into how to work from home effectively, subscribe to The Homeworker magazine. This beautifully-designed magazine gives you a quarterly dose of tools and valuable tips to help you achieve a happier, healthier, work from home life.