Today marks the end of my first month of working from home (dun dun dunnn).
It’s not the first time I’ve attempted the stay-at-home life — I spent a good eight or nine months freelancing fresh out of university, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in my pocket and the world at my fingertips. Unfortunately I strongly disliked working by myself, and fell into a miserable slump of constant headaches and complaints.
Five years later I’m ready to try again, and I’m not worried in the slightest.
This time around I’m not working for myself, I’m working remotely — I’m still in the same dream job I’ve been in for the last three years, but due to Extreme Environmental Changes (beardly one had a job opportunity in another state) we had to move. Luckily I was able to keep the job, and telecommute until we move back in a year or two. Hooray!
So why aren’t I worried about working from home? Because this time, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Things I’ve learnt from last time, and things I’ve discovered since. It’s worked well for me so far and if you’re in the same (often seemingly sinking) boat, I hope these tips will help you the same way they’ve helped me.
1 | Put some damn clothes on
In my old freelancing days there was a 50/50 chance I’d actually get dressed in the morning. Nobody was going to see my pajama-clad, unwashed, makeupless self, so what was the point? Yoga pants and your favourite baggy t-shirt might seem appealing, but it put my productivity in the toilet. Every day felt like Sunday morning; I didn’t have my (figurative) business hat on, so every 20 minutes of work was coupled with another 20 minutes of Facebook, memes and fresh cups of tea. Even worse, when 5pm came around there was no proper transition from worky-time to relaxy-time — the internet looked the same as it did pre 5pm, and I’d fulfilled my tea quota for the day by lunch time. My options turned into keeping up the 20-minutes-on 20-minutes-off routine until bedtime, or complaining to anyone who would listen about how bored and gross I felt.
This second time around, I do it properly. I get up early (ew), shower (meh), spend forty minutes on makeup (that nobody will see) and I put on my work clothes; blazer and all. Sometimes I even wear shoes. It feels fantastic.
2 | Create a dedicated work area
So you’ve spent the time making sure you look the part — well done! — but all your hard work getting dressed will be completely undone the moment you flop down on the couch with your laptop on one knee and the cat on the other.
I’m lucky enough to be able to dedicate the entire front room of the house to my work spot. It’s light, out of the way, and best of all I can leave the area and switch off my work brain at the end of the day. My commute may have gone from a fifteen minute car ride to a short walk down the hallway, but it’s something and it helps immensely. Your work space doesn’t need to be an entire room, but try setting aside at least a corner for the ‘9-5’ you, and don’t venture into this space unless you intend to work.
3 | Keep regular hours
This one ties straight in with points one and two: keeping regular work hours will help you stay motivated and enable you to shut off properly at the end of the day. Don’t just be strict with your starting and ending hours; keep your breaks timed and regular too. One of the things I struggled with while freelancing was having the entire kitchen mere metres away. Feeling peckish? Just take a quick break and make a sandwich. Not hungry but stuck on something work-wise? Wander into the kitchen and open and close cupboards until you find something else to do. End up baking a cake instead. The kitchen is the devil.
This time around I keep the same break times I did when working in-house. A tea/coffee break at 10–10:30am, half an hour for lunch at 1ish, and another short break when the 3:30-itis kicks in. It gives me something to look forward to (not that I don’t love my work, but having a break to look forward to is a great motivator) and ensures I’m not sitting there snacking all day long. It also gives me a great excuse if someone outside of work wants my help with something.
4 | Go outside every once in a while
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me — I’m as white as an untoasted marshmallow — but I do love going outside. Anywhere that’s not my house. It’s easy to forget about the outside world when you work from home, but spend too long there and I guarantee you’ll start feeling restless and grumpy. It won’t do well for your health, either!
My favourite out-of-the-house routine is my 6am gym sessions, but don’t be put off if that’s not your thing. Go for a walk in the morning or after work, sit outside during your lunch break, or take the laptop to a cafe for a few hours. Buy a dog and walk it or something, I don’t know, but just make sure you get some outside interaction, especially if you live alone. Your sanity will thank you for it!
5 | Talk it out
There are often two types of workers, especially in my field of design. The first type are lone wolves — they work quickly and efficiently by themselves, with no outside distractions. Other people slow them down. If this is you, good news: working from home will probably suit you down to the ground. Unfortunately, I fall into the other category: the collaborator. I can get work done by myself, but I work best when I have other people around me to bounce ideas off, chat with, or make faces at. It’s not uncommon to hear me chatting to the cat about a job (I put his bed on my desk so he’s forced to sleep next to me while I work — don’t judge me) or just making small talk about the weather. Oh mister kitty, your fur is looking beautiful this morning. Did you recently have a brushing? Did you hear the thunder last night? Fantastic, wasn’t it?
Oddly enough, the cat helps. So does talking through a job with my partner, even though he probably doesn’t understand half the problems I’m having. He listens though, and makes encouraging noises, and more often than not gives me the kick I need to keep on going. I’m lucky enough to have my boss on call 24/7 too and we’ll often work via speaker phone, even if there’s no particular conversation to be had. If you’re like me but don’t have a cat / partner / boss on hand, try a forum online. There’s a whole internets worth of people out there to bounce ideas off — working from home doesn’t have to be a lonely experience. Crank the Spotify too. Every little bit helps.
Have you got any tips for working from home? Let me know below!