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Tips For Working From Home

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Who here works from home? Who goes into an office?
Who does a combination of both?

These days it seems like a large number of companies are beginning to allow their employees to work remotely. Being a stereotypical millennial with a "side hustle" (being this here blog, of course), I've been used to remote work for a few years now. However, my first official telecommuting experience was at my day job with Big Brothers Big Sister back when we lived in Arizona. It was only once every other week but I quickly realized that I am most productive when working from home.

Fast forward a couple of years, and my day job now is fully remote. I honestly can't imagine having to go back to the days of driving to and from work five days a week. I am so grateful for the flexibility and independence my job allows for, as well as the fact that it lets me be my most productive self. Actually, my job is not only 100% remote but I also set my own work schedule. (This is such a blessing, and I realize how extremely lucky I am - especially since I get to do what I'm most passionate about by working for the animals!) That being said, however, it did take me a few weeks to get used to this totally new style of work at first; therefore I figured I'd share a bit of what I've learned along the way for today's blog post!

It's a necessity to have a quiet area that is set up just for working (ideally away from other people and companion animals, if possible)

Our house is very tiny (just 750 square feet -- yes, seriously). It may only be a one bedroom but we were still able to create a nice home office space. With the help of a few affordable Ikea and Target pieces of furniture, we transformed one part of our place into a workspace nook (see a sneak peek photo above). I made it visually appealing and comfortable so that I actually want to work there (rather than the couch which yes, is very tempting some days).

I'll preface this next part with this: My pets are the best co-workers I could ask for - they are quiet, respectful, and really, really, really sweet. That being said, they're S'CUTE that it can be downright distracting at times. It's easy to find myself just staring lovingly at them as they are curled up taking a nap or giving in to every toy they bring to me to throw. That's why it's important that your workspace can be kept separate from these types of distractions. (Plus, for example, when I'm on a call I need to be away from the clinking of their collars, potential bark outbursts at the UPS person, play fights, and just dog sounds in general. Ya know?)

Remember that the newfound flexibility can take some getting used to

Like I mentioned, it does usually take a bit to get accustomed to not only the flexibility that telecommuting allows for but also the need to be extra self-motivated to get the job done. With no one breathing down your neck in a cubicle that does mean it is solely up to your own willpower to do your tasks, reach your goals, and be efficient at all times. If you're not used to doing that, it may be a shock at first. You can do it though! Below are two additional quick tips which helped me.
  1. Set a strict schedule for yourself. And then actually follow it. Our team uses Asana but I also choose to utilize Google Calendar. I have it linked to my phone so that the reminders pop up on my laptop and my phone screen throughout the week, days, and hours which really help me stay on track. I also make sure to stick to the schedule I set for myself. For example, every day I have created specific time frames for completing assignments, responding to emails, working on future tasks, etc. It has really helped solidify my accountability.
  2. List your priorities. Writing a to-do list is super helpful as you've probably heard many people say. If you aren't already doing it I recommend trying it out for a week. Personally, having my daily and/or weekly tasks listed out in order from most to least important is vital for my success. (Plus, it's super satisfying to cross them all out!)

Realize that your social life will most likely be less active and, thus, you'll need to be more proactive about having conversations with actual human beings (although I personally love that the majority of my convos are with my pups 😉)

I didn't really realize just how much of my past social life came from my working hours. Matt and I have always been old souls who prefer to spend the majority of our free time cozied up at home with the dogs and cats. We've been lucky to have friends in each city we've lived in who understand that we most likely will not be the ones joining them at the bars on Friday nights. Therefore, even though we do of course hang out with our friends, a lot of our day-to-day chit chat time tended to be with our respective co-workers. Matt still works in an office building setting which leaves me on my own for most hours of the day. I don't mind being alone -- which is probably yet another reason why remote work suits me -- but on the flip side then, I do sometimes have to remind myself to get outside into the real world! Honestly, it can be easy to go days on end with the only time I ever leave the house being to walk the dogs, go to the gym, or do the grocery shopping. In that case, some people like to take their work to a coffee shop which can be a nice alternative when you're feeling stuck at home.

To further help combat those natural semi-reclusive tendencies, Matt and I make sure to also get out for some fun every weekend. We spend almost every Saturday and Sunday starting off with a walk down to the beach, hitting up an open house... or four (none of which we ever actually intend on buying since La Jolla housing prices are about 500x what we could ever afford 😅), and then seeing a movie or grabbing dinner. (This is way off topic but we recently got AMC's version of Movie Pass just to try it out, and it is SO worth it. We've already seen multiple movies that we loved but most likely never would've watched otherwise. Highly recommend!) Because really, when there is no difference between your home and your office, it's extra important to get away from it all sometimes - no matter how much we may love unwinding with Netflix on our couches.

The way you communicate with your coworkers will be very different but it's still possible - and important! - to have relationships with them

Take for example my own day job -- our team is spread across the country; thus, weekly Zoom calls and daily messages are just a standard part of our schedules. While it really is nice to be able to see your fellow employees in person (both for the social aspect and for the ease of being able to physically pop into their cube for a quick question, rather than 20 back-and-forth email chains), that's obviously not possible to do as often when you're separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. I recommend making it a point to get to know and bond with your team even if you don't physically see each other very often.

Make sure you stand up and stretch out

This one may seem too obvious to even warrant writing it out. However, exactly like in an office setting, it's just as important to remember to get your blood moving every couple of hours or so. It's much easier to get deep in the zone and forget to move when there aren't any other humans making noises around you to break that concentration! The best part, though, of being in the comfort of your own home means that when you do take one those 15-minute breaks, you can fit in a relaxing stroll around your neighborhood, do a fast exercise, or even complete a quick chore like vacuuming!

^ My coworker sleepin' on the job ^ 

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I have now seen throughout my career that there are definitely pros and cons to both going into an office and telecommuting. While my personal preference may be to work from home, I know a lot of people who say being alone that much would make them go crazy. I did love getting to see the amazing friends I've made in past roles in person five days a week, that is for sure. But I also love the fact that since no one has to drive to an office, our team's carbon footprint is smaller (plus we are all vegan so ya know, that means an even tinier environmental impact to further toot our own horn 😜). And on the more superficial side, I enjoy how I get more sleep than I used to now that there is no waking up and having to get all done up for the day. If I'm being very blunt, since the only person who generally sees me during the workday is, well, me, the majority of my weekdays now entail leggings and zero makeup. Some people say they'd miss that aspect but I think it. is. MAGNIFICENT. I mean, I still always have the option to get ready if I am feeling like it, but it's no longer a nonnegotiable every day which actually makes those days I do get "done up" more fun! 

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What are your thoughts on the topic? I'd love to hear your opinions so please share in the comments!

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