Technology and stuff, it’s great. With the fairly recent introduction of telepresence robots , combined with cloud based systems, VPNs, instant messaging, Skype, and phone forwarding and conferencing, you can work thousands of miles from the office with just as much effectiveness and clarity as if you were physically there.
As executive editor of Beirut.com, I manage the content and direction of the leading lifestyle-travel directory in Lebanon, and I do this from nearly 6,000 miles away in Upstate New York. But that also means I work according to the Eastern European Time Zone, a sometimes grueling schedule that has the added effect of making me feel like an alcoholic because it’s 9:00 a.m. on a Friday, I just finished my workday, and I want to get the party started with a glass of whiskey. I’m also not wearing any pants.
But it’s not all champagne mornings and afternoon naps. Every single person you know -including your colleagues, close friends, family, neighbors and basically anyone who finds out you work from home– acts like you are unemployed. A few weeks ago, I kid you not, my own brother asked me when I was going to get a “real job.” Also, if you live with someone, they don’t understand why you can’t just drop everything and go grab a coffee with them or sit around and talk about the latest episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians for 45 minutes (because I have to do things, yo).
Of course, it goes without saying that there are a lot of perks to being in this position. Not having to commute to work offers the most precious gift of all: extra time. It also saves cash. I don’t spend money on unnecessary expenses like overpriced coffee, unhealthy lunches or vending machine snacks. Headphones? I barely remember those. I blast whatever music I want, and as loud as I want.
So let’s say you’re given the magical gift of working remotely from home. Are you prepared for what’s about to happen? Honestly, it’s not for everyone. Come now, let me share with you the wisdom of sweatpants, smelly breath and the internet. Here’s everything you need to know to survive working from home.
1. There’s no place like home. You are about to spend an inordinately long amount of time in your home. Outside of purchasing food and other necessities, I have no pressing reason to leave my pad during the week. So take the number of hours you spend at home after you finish your regular workday, and add 16. That’s how much time you will have to stare at the neon orange wall you painted in the living room last week because you thought it would look more edgy. My advice: Get as comfortable as possible and invest in a proper office setup with an ergonomic chair, sticky notes, calming colors, whatever it takes to make you feel level-headed, resolute and ready to work.
2. One is the loneliest number. If you’re one of those people who need constant attention and recognition from other human beings, this is probably not the job for you. As far as I’m concerned, solitude is bliss, but some people go nuts when they don’t have human contact. And be warned: the lack of human interaction can have a slew of unintended social consequences. After becoming less attentive to where and when I experience flatulence, I’ve been known to set off some serious air bombs in public places without even wincing. It’s not cool.
3. Make a schedule and stick to it. It can be hard to draw the line between work stuff and home stuff. I think people have this idea that when you’re working from home you get really distracted by things like the TV or other modern amenities, but if you’re serious about what you do, then the opposite is true. You’ll find yourself waking up in the morning, sitting down at your computer to check emails, and then all of a sudden it’s 8p.m., you’ve been working for 11 hours straight and still haven’t brushed your teeth yet. This leads me to my next point.
4. Do not neglect hygiene. You may forget to shower for several days in a row. Make this a part of your schedule. I know some people who work from home and claim they dress the part and even wear shoes while they’re working. I personally think this defeats the whole point of being in the comfortable confines of your own home. The point is that you should do what works for you, but don’t neglect your… umm you know. Ok?
5. Watch out for potential weight gain. I am by no means a shining example of health and fitness, but if you’re like me and you enjoy food, then it becomes much harder to exercise self control with your entire fully-stocked refrigerator at your disposal. At first, my lunch break consisted of going to the next room, opening a cupboard, grabbing a spoon and a jar of peanut butter and walking back to my desk. Now, I plan out my meals for the whole week on Sunday and refrain from purchasing unhealthy snack foods because I simply don’t want to be tempted. The idea of being discovered unconscious and in the fetal position with crusty PB&J all over my mouth after falling into a self-induced food coma is just not a possibility I’m willing to entertain.
6. Plan when you’re going to leave the house. Even if it’s just to go for a walk outside or run to the store to grab some new toothpaste, take the time to make time away from your living space.
7. Minimize distractions. As with any other activity, you simply will not be as effective at work if you’re trying to focus on too many things at once. That means, leave the TV/Radio off and keep all other forms of entertainment out of sight. Also, do not try to work from your couch or bed. While insanely comfortable, these positions will do the exact opposite of engendering thoughtful production. Instead, invest in a real desk and sit there.
The underlying feature of all these points is the importance of maintaining discipline and boundaries in your life. That’s why you must create a schedule for doing things, and when work is done, be done with it completely. It takes more effort than I could possibly explain to stop myself from responding to emails during non-work hours, but it also gives me a level of sanity I could not otherwise attain.