The Flip Side of Working From Home and Tips to Succeed
About 5 months ago, I received a call from a recruiter who ardently sold me on the opportunity to do what I do on a daily basis…but from the comfort of my own home. This role would be temporary to start, but was a chance to really dip my toes in the waters of what I had only heard about from the experiences of those more fortunate than I - the mythical, but attainable ‘Work from Home’ scenario.
Hesitant, yet intrigued, I accepted this position and started my journey to discover what working from home really meant and looked forward to being one of those abstruse Coffee Shop Regulars that most office-bound employees curiously studied while waiting in line for their mid-afternoon Americano. “You’re so lucky” was what typically crossed my mind, and quite often, what I had heard when strangers asked me where I worked once I had in fact became one of those abstruse Coffee Shop Regulars. But for me, what had started out as reveling in the daily luxury of freedom and feeling as though so many possibilities were at my fingertips, soon turned into the routine commute of 10 steps to my home office and slipping on three day old jeans.
Showers felt less necessary, make-up was rare, dry shampoo and messy buns were my go-to, and leaving the apartment had happened on an ‘as-needed’ basis only. New friendships, daily conversations, even the simplicity of holding the door open for someone, all evaded me. It was without a doubt a lonely set up. Even my physical health deteriorated. I’d imagined lunch breaks spent at the gym up the street or setting aside time to finally pick up yoga classes and focus on getting back in shape. But my motivation seeped out of me like a hole in a bag of sand. I felt my energy dull so drastically that I made an appointment with my doctor, only to discover that my Vitamin D levels had significantly dropped, most definitely due to the fact the duration of my days were spent in the same four walls that I ate, slept and lived in - a.k.a. zero exposure to sunlight. This, in tandem with East Coast winters, subdued me to a spell of depression that not only affected my mental well being, but now my physical health, too.
Granted, looking back, ways to face this situation head on to make this a successful endeavor absolutely existed. However, when it came down to it, being a work-from-home woman just wasn’t my cup of tea, regardless of how committed I would have been to making it work. And for that, I give major kudos to the women who proudly and successfully manage their work-from-home routines, and on the flip side - I empathize with those who may be struggling to make the shoe fit, the same way that I did.
If you’re considering the same path or struggling with finding the right balance while working from home, here are my ‘lessons learned’ from someone who’s been there!
Trust Your Gut.
Before diving into an alluring opportunity that promises the flexibility of working from home, really assess all details of the role being offered to you. Will you be working from home every day or maybe just 50-75% of the time and have more exposure to personal interactions and being out of the house? Be clear on the expectations from your employer, from daily duties, and be realistic about expectations for yourself. If I’m being completely honest, I knew in my heart that being so far removed from daily interactions with co-workers could potentially be a major negative for me - and it absolutely was. I am a people person and I find creativity being surrounded by creative, relatable people, who I can brainstorm with or just grab a coffee and vent with. I thrive off connections with colleagues. So had I paid more attention to that aspect and listened more to what my gut was telling me, I likely would have recognized that maybe this opportunity wasn’t all gold and glittery.
It’s incredibly important when working from home to set a schedule and establish boundaries for yourself. Create a plan, set goals and stick to it, no matter how tempting it is to fall off track. Wake up, find personal time for yourself and get ready for your day just as if you were heading “to the office.” Dress yourself for a work day and don’t give in to the comfy, casual pair of already worn sweatpants giving you googly eyes from the hamper. Establish short term and long term goals for yourself and communicate those with your colleagues. Keep organized and list off daily to-do’s to keep yourself feeling positively productive. It’s important to remain consistent and keep yourself focused on tasks to get in the swing of a productive rhythm.
Practice Self Care.
Pay attention to your needs as a human being. We weren’t created to spend many, long hours confined to four walls. Know when to take breaks and get yourself out into the world. As I had mentioned, exposure to sunlight is so important. Take walks, go out to lunch, dedicate time to being active, meditate - do whatever feels right for your soul. Be social in ways that you can. Call your mom, reach out to friends, plan social events, get networking and find solace in human connection that goes beyond your work. This aspect is probably the most important to maintain your sanity and avoid a downward spiral into isolation and depression. Nurture yourself on the days it feels particularly difficult. This is something I wish I had done more of, and the days that I did grab lunch from the local deli or work from my neighborhood cafe or make it to they gym, I felt astronomically better about working from home.
One of the most stressful things for me to endure while working from home, was the guilt and expectations I felt to be performing constantly. When you work in an office, your supervisor can physically see you’ve made it to work that day and they know you’re getting your work done. And even when you sneakily set aside 15 minutes of your day to get lost on Amazon, it’s no biggie. But working from home - and even more so, being the only person on my team who worked from home - constantly made me feel like my supervisor and peers were wondering what I was doing all day, every day. Don’t fall victim to that spiral of overthinking. Communication is key - in any job - but especially when you are working remotely. If your team doesn’t have a communication tool like Slack, I highly suggest pursing a tool that will keep you feeling as connected as possible, and easily accessible. Don’t obsess over answering your emails in rapid fire mode, just to prove to your colleagues that you are indeed there, working, just as they are. Chances are, they get it, and they’re more consumed with their own day to day. By being open, asking questions, and prioritizing communication - you will only set yourself up for the positives.
Set the Scene.
If you have an extra bedroom or space in your home to turn into your own little office, perfect! If not, find a space within your home that you can easily dedicate to making your own, even if it’s something as simple as putting a desk in a little nook in your living room. This will allow for a healthy, creative working hub for you to really hone in and feel as though your productivity is flowing freely. Finding your at-home work zen is major. Small, messy spaces or even working from your bedroom or couch can feel just…off. It will create a merging of your personal life and work life balance which is not good. You want to have a space that can allow you to disconnect and step away from at the end of your work day, so your work mode doesn’t follow you long after you’ve switched off. It’s important to keep those energies separate. Decorate your space with things that inspire you, make you feel at ease and indulge your senses.