In December of 2014 I was offered a position with a company that was (and still is) completely remote. That means no office, no meeting rooms— it means that employees carry out their duties away from a traditional ‘office’.
Now, when I started to consider the pros and cons of this new “remote” work-life, I did what anyone from my generation would do… I took to the internet and explored every blog post I could find. Most of the articles spoke about “what to expect”, “what not to do”, “what to do”, “how to transition”, “how to not be lonely”… They all had great information but none of them focused on how that person’s life really changed or what it was really like for them day-to-day.
I would like to change that. I want to take a minute to share with you how working remotely has COMPLETELY changed my life and what I have learned. Oh, so yeah, spoiler alert… I took the job, I’ve worked from home a little over a year now.
Here are 7 things I’ve learned from working remotely for the past year:
1. The “Office” is a trap.
Every job that I have had to report to an office, I have spent entirely too much time there. I stayed late, I arrived early, I ate there, I had a key… No matter what day it was, there was just never enough time to finish my work. I’m a designer and there is always one more thing to tweak, one more web page to finish but I just couldn’t stop. I would end up leaving after dark, never having seen more than what my short commute to work allowed.
On the days I did try to leave on time, say 5-ish, I would get those death stares from fellow employees, as if my 8+ hours spent at my desk wasn’t enough and I should just build a cot in the back to “be available”. I found myself sneaking out or telling white lies about having to run this errand or that errand just to escape. I dreaded Mondays, I would never even glance at my computer for personal or creative projects on the weekends because I felt angry and overwhelmed from how many hours I worked the past week. I felt drained and I felt trapped.
After a year of working from home I can tell you that I have done better work that is more satisfying than I ever have in my life. There is something about sitting in your yoga pants with your dog at your feet, those familiar smells of home sneaking into your office that just makes the day better. It makes all of the work feel less like work. All of a sudden my days were more productive, I dreaded sitting at my desk less and work got done. I leave my desk whenever I want now, whether it’s to get a snack or to take a walk around the block and for some reason at 5:00pm I am done. The work is done.
2. Makeup shmake-up.
In the hundreds of blogs I read to prepare myself for remote life the #1 most consistent “tip” was to still get ready everyday. Ummm, I don’t know who these men and women are, but what a waste of time! For the first month (I didn’t know any better) I followed this tip… showered bright and early, put on my make-up, fixed my hair and put on a decent outfit. My findings after an entire month— All I did was create more laundry and waste make-up and time.
I am a super active person with a 90 lbs chocolate lab (Frank!) that REQUIRES I walk him twice a day. I often pretend to know what he’s thinking and it goes something like this, “Mah, quit staring at that bright screen like a zombie and lets go for a walk already?! And bring the treats!!” I also go to the gym on my lunch break (which will be covered under #5) so all that time I spent “getting ready” was wasted time and overall an annoyance. I don’t know where you live but in sunny North Carolina even when it’s mild out, you sweat. So the rule of thumb for me… if you have a face-to-face meeting or a video Skype call on the books by all means, put a little pride in your appearance. Otherwise, shower or don’t shower, I don’t care and I promise you the other remote workers you talk to all day probably won’t care and didn’t shower either.
Side note: If you stop by my house unannounced, I will be in some sort of gym clothes attire that could include yoga pants. I have brushed my teeth and washed my face but my hair will be in a messy bun. Just saying.
3. Welcome the zen.
The rumors are 100% true— People that work from home are much less stressed and overall more pleasant to deal with on a daily basis. My co-workers that I Skype with ask me how I’m doing, tell me to have a great weekend, the works. What they don’t do… complain, whine, nag, etc… because typing your thoughts instead of just blurting them out gives you that split second to re-think what you are about to say.
It is AWESOME and in the end makes everyone better, including myself. This past year has been such an eye opening experience for me and I have seen the light on the unneeded, unwanted stress that I used to carry around. I truly feel like I am a different person now. Lots of people ask if you get lonely working from home, but I feel like I have more time and actually want to see people more now. I schedule lunch dates or happy hour get-togethers because I can, whereas working in an office you probably just want to go home and take your pants off.
4. I have a car?
So, this part is relative to where you live and what you like to do… I am extremely lucky, I live less than a mile from a park, the gym and the grocery store. Which at my age, happens to be the only places I really go, lol. Since I am walking/jogging/biking to run my errands, I rarely drive my car. Since I rarely drive my car, I rarely have to get gas so I save a ton of money on fuel costs and general car maintenance.
One important lesson I did learn this winter however, was to be sure your start your car once in a while and drive it around the block just to be sure your battery isn’t dead!
5. Enjoy your workout.
This is hands down my favorite part of working from home. I get to go to the gym midday. It is so hard for me to work all day and then make it to the packed-out gym after 5pm during the week with everyone and their mom but during the day when Grandpa Joe and the sweet lady from down the street are there watching their shows— no problem, I love going to the gym.
Also, since I don’t have to save time to shower and be presentable when I get back to the office I don’t have to rush through my workout. It offers me the perfect break in my day to wake up my mind and body, putting me back in the mood to be creative and get my job done. How am I in the mood to go to the gym instead of just take a nap you ask? Go back to #2 and read about what I’m wearing… half the work is dressing the part. You can make yourself feel pretty guilty trying to take your sneakers off and nap in your gym clothes.
6. Tidy Up.
A clean home is a happy home… and office. Keeping clutter at bay and the living room tidy really helps me stay focused. If I walk to the kitchen to refill my water bottle and step on laundry and dog toys, guess what I am going to want to do… fold laundry and put away the dog toys.
I try to do a walk through in the morning. I tidy the living room, put away any dishes, laundry, etc. That way everything is in it’s place before I start working and that makes for less distraction.
7. Invest in good gear.
The last thing I learned right away was that you have to have all the office supplies and gear you need to do your job, at home. Don’t try to work at the bar in the kitchen if you need a drafting table to get anything done, it just doesn’t work that way.
For me, I have to have a HUGE iMac, a good mouse-pad with ergo-wrist rest and the HiRise computer stand from Twelve South. A really good computer chair that has moveable wrist rests and wheels and tons of online cloud storage from Dropbox or Google Drive rounds off my list. If you work for a good company, they might assist in the costs of some of these items, especially a computer. If not, make the purchase, save your receipt and write it off on your taxes. You will be glad to have good gear when you “go to your office” every day, I promise.
Here are a few other things that have tremendously helped my transition to (LOVING) working from home:
If you are thinking about working from home, I say go for it! But either way, I hope what I have learned this past year working remotely enlightens you or helps you on your journey.
Or maybe you already work from home… Do you agree with any of these? Do you disagree? Have you found better ways to do things? Any must-haves on your list? I would love to know, please feel free to share!