For those of us who have been working from home for years, either as freelancers or online solopreneurs, the recent wave of social distancing and the need to stay home has still been an adjustment. It’s just not as much of an adjustment as for people who hold more traditional away-from-home type jobs. This is a brave new world and you might find yourself going a little stir-crazy staring at the same four walls 24 hours a day.
Whether you’re transitioning to self employment or your more traditional employer is now encouraging a more remote working environment (telecommuting), you may need some tips, advice and insight into how this whole “home office” thing can actually work. Without you going crazy. Allow me to speak from my 14 years of experience.
All Work and No Play…
There’s a weird paradox to the whole working from home dynamic. Many people think that you “only” have to work “when you want to.” But, depending on how things go, if you’re anything like me, then you might feel like you “should” be working “all” the time. It’s because you CAN work at practically any hour of the day and the home office is literally right there.
But, you know what they say…
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but all work and no play Homer something something. I guess some beer and TV wouldn’t hurt. The point is that while there is a temptation to work pretty much all the time, especially if you’re going to be holed up at home for so long, you really need to make the conscious decision to take a break now and then. It also means setting some boundaries.
This is both in terms of physical boundaries, like having a home office that is distinctly separate from the rest of your home, and in terms of mental and temporal boundaries, like having set working hours.
The Silence Is Deafening
Here’s another one that might feel a little counter-intuitive. You know how some parents say that their children are so loud that they can’t even hear themselves think? To that end, we might think that the best way to be as productive as possible is to get rid of all that noise. A quiet space is a productive space, right? After all, distractions are bad, aren’t they?
Well, not necessarily. Part of the reason why the Shining Homers of the world go “something something” is because of this sense of quiet, social isolation. When you are alone with your own thoughts for too long, it becomes a slippery slope toward insanity. Especially if you’re used to the usual background clatter of a traditional office, it helps to have some white noise playing while you work.
In particular, I’ve found a number of YouTube streams and videos with ambient noise, jazz cafes, instrumentals, lo-fi hip hop and other tunes. They’re enough so the office isn’t deathly quiet, but not so much as to be overly distracting.
Social Distancing Doesn’t Mean Antisocial
Social distancing has been a challenge for many people, especially when they’re used to socializing with coworkers at the office and with the barista at the coffee shop. While we are staying at home more, especially when we’re working from home, that doesn’t mean that we have to do without socializing completely.
It’s true that working from home can be isolating. While social distancing means that you shouldn’t get together with friends for lunch, you can still set up the same kind of social support system through social media, video conferencing, online chats, and other digital means. Parents have been setting up digital playdates for their kids, so why can’t remote workers do the same to create a virtual coworking space?
It’s All Fun and Games?
Remember how I said you should have a physical, mental and temporal separation between your work and non-work life? This also means opening up the opportunity to have a little fun too, even if you’re cooped up at home. Remember when Ant Man was under house arrest?
Maybe he was getting a little stir-crazy, but he found ways to entertain himself and keep his mind fresh. You may not want to invest in a drum set, for the sake of your neighbor’s ears, but it’s worthwhile to have hobbies and interests outside of work that you can do at home too. Analog choices are especially good for digital workers.
The Voluntary Commute
I know how easy it is to fall down the deep end and teeter on going crazy when you’re working from home AND you don’t really leave your home either. I get it. However, depending on where you live and the current conditions, it’s still possible to maintain your health while working from home.
If the area where you live isn’t that busy, you may be able to take a stroll around the block to get some vitamin D and fresh air. This can be a great idea to simulate the commute, giving a bit of a routine to the start and end of your work day. It provides structure and greater mental clarity.
What about you? What have you been doing to retain your sanity during these trying times?