by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
The advantages for people who work from home are well-publicized. The morning commute is a breeze (unless your kids are on break from school and create a backup in the kitchen). You can wear your pink fuzzy slippers all day long if you want, even if you’re on a video conference and dressed “professionally” from the waste up. And of course, there’s flexibility in your schedule. If you want to put in a load of laundry while you’re working, have at it.
But the struggles are real, people. If you work from home, you’ve probably experienced some, if not all of these phenomena. This is a message of solidarity to my fellow remote workers. I’m here for you and I feel your pain.
“You’re not really busy.”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that one. Your mom calls and wants you to come over and reset all the clocks after the power went out. You say, “I can’t mom, I’m working.” She says, “No you’re not. You’re at home. You have time.” Or maybe it’s your spouse who works outside the house who leaves you with a laundry list of things to get done around the house (including doing the laundry!). Why do other people think that just because our office is in our home we’re not at work?
Lack of face to face human interaction
Fortunately for me, I have a spouse and kids. Eventually at some point during the day I’m going to come into direct contact with living, breathing human beings (if you count adolescents as human beings). Others aren’t so fortunate.
Even if we’re talking on the phone, chatting on video or messaging via Slack, there’s no substitute for actual human interaction. One adjustment I’ve made this year is intentionally getting out of my house to work elsewhere. I have the Remarkable House where I can see some of my co-workers with the Kevin Eikenberry Group. But I also like to go to the library or other place where there’s good wi-fi, just so I can interact with others, even if it’s just the barista taking my order.
Your neighbors think you’re unemployed
Most of my neighbors know me and what I do. But there are others I don’t know well and I can only imagine what they’re thinking. “Why is his car in the garage at 9:30 AM?” “He takes the dog out every day around 11:00. Normal people are at work. He’s been out of work now for over a year. Maybe we should take over a casserole.”
While I wouldn’t turn down a good casserole, if you’re one of my neighbors reading this, rest easy. I’m gainfully employed, even if it doesn’t look that way.
You get so focused on work you forget to take care of yourself
Many of you who work from home are “creatives” like me. That means you know what it’s like to get “in the zone.” The “zone” is that mystical place where creatives (and I imagine other folks like coders and accountants too, but I can’t be sure) go when the ideas are flowing like…well, I’m not really in the zone right now, so you can finish the simile.
Anyway, when you get in “the zone” you lose track of time and space. You emerge from your work-induced haze and realize hours have passed. You haven’t eaten or bathed. The dog peed on the carpet and is whimpering at the door. You’ve got two dozen or so emails and Slack messages waiting on you.
You got good work done, but the price was steep. I’ve learned that it’s okay to take breaks, that my creativity can not only withstand me eating lunch, it’s actually a little bit stronger when I’ve taken in some nourishment. Don’t work yourself into a situation where the returns on your focus start to diminish.
Getting lost in the internet
Working in the internet and social media is part of my job description. This is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s “fun” to stay apprised of all the latest news and memes…but no, it’s not fun, especially in today’s climate, to constantly be surrounded by the latest news and memes.
If you have an internet-based job, please take some planned breaks, especially when work is over. Get away from Facebook and Twitter. Walk the dog, wave “hello” to that neighbor who’s looking at you so pitifully, wondering when you’re going to get a job. Maybe even call a friend and see if they’re available for coffee.
If they work from home too, chance are they’re not busy.
Remember, all work an no play makes for a bad remote teammate. If you want to be a more productive remote worker and better teammate, consider our 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate learning program.