In February 2017 I started working from home. I almost passed on the job because I was so concerned I wouldn’t like it, but I trusted my intuition and I knew that it would be the right move for my career plus I had a really good feeling about my new co-workers and boss.
I’m four months in and I love my job. I would scream it from the rooftops *if* I could afford an apartment with roof access.
We work as a virtual office, so I’m available by email and phone from 8:30am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and our hours change a bit in the summer time. I work in my apartment most days, but I try to get out of the house at least twice a week and work for a few hours somewhere different. Our firm also uses a productivity tracker/timer that allows me to track my tasks and hours and keep me productive and accountable.
I’m not going to hold back here…working from home has been a big adjustment, both with the self motivation side and the no-coworkers side of things. It’s had it’s tough moments (like when you blow the power in your apartment and you NEED Wifi to make a deadline), but it’s also allowed me more flexibility in my life. You have to be really disciplined and honest, but it totally pays off!
Also, make sure to read this article by Colin Nissan who writes for The New Yorker about working from home — you will die laughing.
Here are some common pitfalls and how I figured out how to work around them:
Fun fact about me: I’ve struggled with compulsive binge eating my entire life, and as an adult overeating and eating too frequently is still a huge issue for me. During college, I got so used to finding comfort in drinking with classmates, dulling the voice of my inner perfectionist with the help of alcohol (wouldn’t recommend this, learned some valuable lessons), and I would eat snacks straight out of the bag when I was bored or seeking a distraction from work — which was frequent.
I live alone now, which is great because I love grocery shopping and filling my cupboards with healthy food, but I also have no one stopping me/bearing witness to the fact that I want to eat everything. Through a lot of research and support, I’ve found some ways to tackle this problem before I let it go too far.
- Decide your meal times in advance, and don’t eat outside of those times. For example, I eat breakfast between 8:00am-8:30am, lunch between noon-12:30pm, a small snack (between 200 and 300 calories) around 3:30pm-4:00pm, and dinner between 6:30pm-7:00pm.
- If you are finding that you are hungry before your set meal times, you either need to make sure you are getting enough calories, or drink more water. Our bodies confuse hunger for thirst very easily.
- Don’t eat meals at your desk. One more step even: don’t watch Netflix or surf your phone while eating. Take a screen break and enjoy your meal.
- Even though you’re at home, preparing a full meal takes time. Pre-preparing your meals is still a good idea, especially if you struggle with portion control like I do.
I’ve heard from some people this “shouldn’t” be an issue if you have a full to-do list, but I have a tough time with this some days. Partly because my apartment is a sauna and heat has been proven to reduce worker productivity, but also partly because I’m a person that gets easily distracted — like a squirrel — and jumps from task to task without accomplishing anything meaningful.
- Download an app on your computer that blocks websites (I use SelfControl), and put your phone close enough that you can still answer it, but far enough that you can’t reach it.
- If you’ve been trying to work on something and you are just not feeling it, or you can tell you’re distracting yourself from it, or you’re stuck and can’t seem to see the solution, hit the reset button. Put a timer on, and step away from it for 10-15 minutes. Spring around the block. Go outside and take 10 deep breaths. Drink a glass of water and take out the garbage. Pack up your shit and go work at a coffee shop. Whatever. Just come back to it with your shit together.
- Stick to your office hours and treat it like work. Avoid long lunches or aimless coffee dates during the day — just because you aren’t physically planting yourself in an office doesn’t mean your ass doesn’t need to be at a computer or on the phone between 9 and 5. Respect the office hours to avoid having work leak over into the evening.
Lack of human contact
Even though I’m an introvert, I still crave face to face human interaction. Even if it’s only for a little while, talking and laughing makes anyone feel good, and it can be really easy (especially in the winter) to get stuck in the bubble of being in your apartment or place all the time.
- Make a point of leaving the house every. damn. day. I don’t care what excuses you have: do it. When you don’t want to get up and leave, that’s usually when you need fresh air the most. My faves include walking aimlessly around downtown, getting a coffee or picking up a copy of the paper, or running a quick errand (like going to a nearby ATM or something like that). Look at a few people in the eyes. Nod. Smile.
- Attend an activity with other people that’s time bound. Why? It keeps you social and meeting new people. Whether it’s a beer league sports team, a fitness class, toastmasters (I know my boss does this) or an evening language class, you lose opportunities to meet new people when you work from home and it’s healthy to create new ways to meet new people.
- Make a point of reaching out to people more and telling them if you are struggling with working from home. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends and family you might want a bit more companionship now — also, studies show that anticipation is a huge driver of happiness — so make those awesome evening or weekend plans to give yourself something to look forward to.
Embracing your beauty / feeling like a bag of garbage
I went from wearing makeup everyday to wearing makeup MAYBE three days a week.
For women, this is actually a golden opportunity to get acquainted with the no-makeup and heatless hair life. It makes painting your face fun again since you only do it once in a while.
However when it comes to clothes, get out of your pj’s. Change. I don’t care if you don’t see a soul, you’ll feel like a slob and you’re more likely to act like one too (i.e. eating cereal out of the box and getting it all over the floor because there’s no one there to shame you and say “that’s how you get ants!”)
I once wore the same shirt two days in a row, stained it with salsa on the first day, and wore it again the next day (because I’m disgusting) then had to run out of the house for a meeting. And noticed said salsa while in the meeting. Strategic tucking couldn’t save me.
Try wearing activewear (something that fits nice, not too baggy) in case you want to pop out for a quick run, or sport some comfortable jeans. My boss actually told me he wore a suit for something like a month or so when he started working from home, just because of what it did for his mental state — I believe him.
If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below, or tweet me @raegjules.