I work from home. My commute consists of just a few steps from my bedroom to my office. But it was not always that way.
I had a 45 minute commute each way for my first job, not including the time it took to drop off my daughters at day care. I then got a job that paid more, but was still about an hour from my house in regular rush-hour traffic. We moved to a new house, closer to work, but it was still at least 40 minutes each way.
I did that 40 minute commute for nine years, and then on what I call my “best, worst day,” I was laid off from that job, and found myself out of work. Suddenly, after commuting such far distances for so many years, I was at home. My new job was to look for a job. I started each day by walking the girls to school and then going to the gym. I made it to my desk each day where I made calls, applied for jobs and tried to make networking connections.
I was out of work for over a year, and I was thrilled to finally find a new job. Back to the commute. 90 minutes each way for two and a half years. Then, a new job that was a 45 minute commute for a year. Then, finally, I found a job that was about 10 minutes from my house (only if the traffic was particularly heavy), where I worked for 7 years. I then found my current job, and I now work from home.
I am a “home-body” by nature, so I thought I would love working out of the house, and generally I have, but the situation has not been without its challenges along the way. I have worked from home now for over six years, and I have learned some valuable lessons along the way.
- If possible, create a workspace for yourself. Don’t be in the kitchen, and don’t be in the family room. Make it possible to get away from other things that are happening in the house, and make it possible to get away from your work at the end of the day (more on that later).
- Create a routine for yourself. My routine includes getting out of the house each morning to go to the gym. I eat breakfast at the kitchen table, and I read the newspaper. If it’s nice outside, I try to do no fewer than 2-3 walks around the block. I break for a snack usually once in the morning (fruit), and twice in the afternoon (fruit, then nuts). This may not work for you. Usually, it works for me.
- When I got this job, I warned my wife that I would most likely be going out to lunch every day, anticipating the need to get out of the house. I found that I hate going out to lunch, as it wastes so much time. Unfortunately, I also hate eating at my desk. So each day, I try to take a break to eat lunch at the kitchen table while catching up on some reading, or honestly, watching a little Netflix.
- I am fortunate in that my work requires that I travel from time to time, which I really enjoy. It’s good to break up the routine, and it’s good to be exposed to different people and different experiences. My wife used to be able to tell when I was getting a little “stir crazy” if I had been at home between travel opportunities for too long, but now it’s not too bad (at least I don’t think it is).
- I like to work from home. My computer is set up just the way I like it. I have everything within easy reach. I know I should find more opportunities to work from a coffee shop, library or shared office space. When I go to our organization headquarters in NY, just being able to catch up and shoot the breeze with colleagues I usually only see during meetings on video calls is like medicine. I forgot how rewarding a simple conversation with other human beings can be. Find opportunities to talk to people each day about something other than work. Begin your meeting with a personal check-in. Call a family member. Ask someone how their day is going.
- Working from home, it’s all too easy for your work day to become your work evening. Step away from your desk at the end of the day. Roll your computer cart into the closet. Close the office door. I don’t believe there is really any work life balance anymore, but that is certainly not to suggest that we can not, or that we should not, put our work away at a reasonable hour.
- Don’t just let your day happen. End each day with a plan for the next day. Make sure your calendar is up to date, and make sure you have a robust task list for yourself. Colleagues are not just going to stop into your office. Plan well. Be organized.
Maybe I should have titled this blog “7 Ways to Make Work Work for You,” because I think these tips can help regardless of your work situation. Plan well. Step away from your desk. Eat well. Create routine. Enjoy your work. Enjoy your success. Get in a car, or not. Either way, the work needs to get done.