During your commute, while you are sitting in traffic or wondering if public transportation will ever get you to the office, you start daydreaming about working at home. You think to yourself,
“Oh, it would be so great. No commute and look at all that time I’d save. And it would be SO much less stressful. I could be SO productive . . .”
While the reality of working at home does include some of these elements, it’s not all stress-free and fuzzy bunny slippers. As someone who has worked remotely, virtually, or from a home office since 2003, I’ve learned a few things along the way.
FACT: You are always at home and you are always at work. Despite having set up a home office that is NOT your dining room table, you will be distracted by knowing you are not doing the laundry. When you are doing the laundry, you will be distracted by the fact that you are not working. This creates cognitive dissonance, and thus, conflict.
Response: Set a regular work schedule. Get up at the same time; eat breakfast; start working at the same time and stop working at the same time. Why? Because . . .
FACT: You will not eat regular meals. You will not brush your teeth. You will still be in your pajamas at 4 pm wondering what happened to your lunch break. How does this happen? You get up, grab some coffee, and think, “I’ll just check my email really quick and then grab a shower.” This is when the fuzzy bunny slippers drag you down the rabbit hole of email, work follow up, reading online news, checking out Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter . . . and you come out just in time to explain to your spouse why you don’t look any different than when they left for the office that morning.
Response: Treat working at home like WORK. You go at a certain time and finish at a certain time. Schedule lunch breaks and time to take care of yourself. This is essential to maintaining your wellbeing, sanity, and self-esteem. This is called creating boundaries – or, caging the fuzzy bunny slippers.
FACT: You will go days without seeing another human being. Oh, you’ll email and maybe even (gasp!) make a phone call that is not a conference call, but you will have long stretches of time when you don’t see another human being during the day. Why is this? Because you get comfortable and those little fuzzy bunny slippers will whisper, “We don’t want to go out. It’s windy and cloudy and you’ll have to put on REAL Shoes . . .”
Response: Schedule at least one outing per week whether it’s lunch with a colleague, a networking event, or attending a volunteer function (like serving on a committee). Research has shown that isolation makes your brain melt (really!) so don’t go it alone. I highly recommend getting a Zoom account so you can video conference and see/talk to people in real time. It’s not “in person” but it’s an acceptable substitute if you can’t get out for some reason.
Now, the whole situation is not dire and sad - there are many benefits to working at home. You will have opportunities for extreme focus; you will have more time in your day when you don’t commute. You won’t have the office distractions like people asking, “Hey, do you have a minute?” when you need to make a deadline. It will teach you to be even more organized and self-disciplined. And, you will have more time for personal and professional development.
Personally, I love working at home, although I’ll admit that the initial adjustment period was rough. There wasn’t anyone I could talk to about it (telecommuting and remote working were not as prevalent 15 years ago) so I spent a lot of lonely, sad time trying to figure it all out.
In summary: Self-discipline rocks! Make a schedule. Hit your deadlines. Take care of yourself. Most importantly: have some fun with it! That’s why I created the “Work at Home Game.” It’s a fun way to keep track of all the things that make up your day. And the secret to winning the Game? It’s all about Balance. And making sure to brush your teeth.
To view the full Work At Home game click here.