Working from home sure sounds like the dream, doesn’t it? There’s no commuting (which means no road rage or running late after your train suffers from more “signal problems”), you can spend more time with family, you save money on child care and transportation, your schedule is flexible and you can work in your pajamas (bra and underwear optional). Seems heavenly, right? Not so fast.
Turns out working at home may not be so awesome after all. Studies have shown working from home can actually be a bad thing. But there are ways to make your home-office environment a happy and healthy one.
You have so much work to do, but after a quick glance around you see dirty dishes in the sink, laundry that needs to be folded, the television, Facebook, Twitter, online shopping…
Solution: Carve out your own office space; don’t just plop yourself down on the couch in the middle of everything. A desk away from all the distractions — be it a nook, an entirely separate room, or even an altogether separate floor — will have you forgetting you’re at home. You know, until the doorbell rings or the telemarketers start calling.
With no one breathing down your neck, no pressure to start work at a certain time or even dress a certain way, it’s quite easy to put off starting the day. And the same goes for quitting time; on a beautiful summer’s day, it might be easy to clock out early.
Solution: You need to maintain self-discipline and be really diligent about your schedule. Set your alarm to go off at the same time every morning and stick to a routine.
Sometimes it can get a little too quiet, with only the sounds of your keyboard, your voice (if you’re one of those people who talks to themselves) and the cat purring. You know when moms are at home with a newborn baby and they crave that adult interaction? Same thing.
Solution: Take a break, call one of your friends on mat leave or hound your spouse at his place of work. Even if you just go out and chat with the cashier at the grocery store or go to the gym for an hour, even if the talk is minimal, being in the outside world can make all the difference.
It sounds like such a good thing, but once friends and family know you’re home, it’s easy for them to mistake that you’re more available than you actually are. Brunch with girlfriends might become a habit, as will calls from your kid’s school, as your son and/or daughter know if they’re not feeling well, they can just come home. Expectations of volunteering for whatever also increase, since, technically, you’re around.
Solution: Call display. If it’s really important, they’ll leave a message. (Don’t ignore the kids’ school, either, as tempting as that may be.) As for the “sick kid” situation, once you talk to them, see if they can try and tough it out instead of coming home — a child underfoot becomes just another distraction.
Sometimes going to the office is a nice distraction from potential stress at home (marriage woes, financial trouble). Being in the same place day in and day out is like having a looming black cloud over you at all times.
Solution: You know how you get a lunch break at the office? Try to do the same here. Take some time for yourself — savour a meal or go for a noon-time yoga class. At the very least, you should be able to recall what trees look like.
It can be argued that you aren’t tempted by fast food or vending machine goodies, but you’re in your own home, where no one else is fighting for the microwave, and snacks are available at all times. Plus, you’re walking a matter of steps to get to your workspace so there’s little movement during the day.
Solution: Go for a walk or find a morning Zumba class that isn’t as busy (we all know how those weeknight classes are). Whoever buys the groceries needs to make sure there aren’t too many junky options for you to feed on.
NO TECHNICAL SUPPORT
Nothing is more frustrating than computer problems. Working at home, you have no one to rely on but yourself. In an office, the IT folks will probably just tell you to reboot, but we all know that that’s usually not enough to fix the issue. So really, being at home doesn’t feel all that different — it just sucks to be alone with your non-cooperating tech.
Solution: Become well-acquainted with the nearby Geek Squad staff or local computer store guru. You’ll have to be a little more patient, since machines will probably take longer to fix than if you had an in-house IT person.
Sure, there are no annoying people to deal with (like the girl who laugh-talks and that loud dude who’s always bitching about his “ball and chain,” you know who you are), but being by yourself eight hours a day can get a little lonely. Peace and quiet’s one thing, but sometimes it can get too quiet, you know?
Solution: For the most part, you have to deal with someone at one point or another. Make an effort to keep in contact with co-workers and managers via phone, instant messaging, email, even video chatting. Try to bust out of your comfort zone and go to an event, have lunch with a colleague — anything that gets you interacting with humans. And, no, your kids don’t count.
Maybe that grey cubicle isn’t so bad after all. Grass is always greener, right?