I worked from home for about a year in a tiny apartment in Michigan. My “officemate” was my roommate’s dog. While I did a lot of growing during this time and I have fond memories of rolling around in the snow with a 9-month-old puppy, I made a couple of mistakes that I definitely learned from. I hope this helps if you find yourself working from home, planned, or unexpectedly.
It's really easy to not talk to your coworkers on the phone. Human connection is something that all humans need, even if you’re an introvert. With slack, chatter, and email you could go a week or two without hearing a teammate’s voice. These short messages can easily be misinterpreted and begin to turn a job you loved into a job you dread. Even if it's for 5 minutes, make the excuse to give them a call to check in. This can help ensure that you remember you’re talking to another human being instead of a name on a computer screen.
When I was working from home, the first couple of weeks were great. I got to stay in my pajamas all day, I took conference calls in my underwear, and no one cared if I was eating a giant tub of ice cream while responding to emails. Working from home was amazing... until I realized I lost the routine of leaving the house. It's really easy to become isolated and consumed in your work unless you PLAN to leave the house. Put 10-minute breaks in your schedule to take a walk, have lunch, call a friend, or switch locations. If you don't, all of a sudden your excuses for leaving the house turn into the gym, the grocery store, and going to a friend’s house once in a blue moon. Scheduling things to do outside of your house will do a couple of things for you.
If you spend all your time in your house working, all of a sudden your job will become your entire life. You’ll live in a snow globe of work and little issues at work will make you feel like your life is falling apart. Even going for a drive or taking a walk around the block will help you remember that work is just a small part of your life.
If you don’t create excuses to put work down and go to a club or see friends, you’ll find excuses to keep working. When you work in an office you eventually have to leave to get food and go to sleep. When you work from home, excuses to keep working are a lot easier to come by. Your email will still be there tomorrow, take a break. You deserve it!
I underestimated the amount of walking around and exercise I got in the office. When I was working in the office I had to walk down the hall to go to the bathroom, go to a different floor for a meeting, and walk to and from my car. Working from home you can sit on the couch, walk 10 feet to the kitchen, and go back to the couch. You can stay in bed all day long if you want to.
I like to stay in shape and go to the gym on a regular basis. Even keeping my gym routine, I still felt the lack of movement in my body and brain. Once I started taking a walk once or twice a day (the puppy enjoyed these too) I felt so much better. Your brain and body will thank you for taking a walk around the block once in a while.
A bad call, an angry customer, or a misinterpreted email can ruin your whole day because you're alone in an apartment or house. You are literally in a box of whatever your brain is telling you that day and whatever is happening at work. Break out and call a friend, call a coworker, or get lunch with someone. At the office, we have the benefit of being around others that are experiencing many of the same things we are. We can connect with others, vent to coworkers, and be near each other when things are stressful. When you’re alone in your home, it can feel like you have to face everything alone. Calling someone or even working together on a project over a video conference can make all the difference in changing a huge problem into just a regular, solvable one.
Remember, it's still just a job and your home is still a home. You can still put things down and “go home.” Leave your computer in one room and go to another. Things will feel smaller once you put things down and decompress.
For many companies, a lot of feedback, in general, is that people love their job for the people they get to work with. Even though you're now working remotely, those people are still there. You can also find new people to work with. Going to a local coffee shop or co-working space can quickly help you build a community. No matter how hard it may seem at first, hanging out with a couple of coworkers over a video conference call while you’re all working can make you feel like you’re back in the office. My company hosted a weekly “dog lunch” where everyone ate lunch together and shared their dogs on the screen. Even though you’re working remotely, you can still find ways to get retain what you love most about your job.
These are just a couple of tips about keeping yourself from going stir-crazy while working from home. However, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to listen to your mind and your body. If you’re feeling restless, get up and move or change locations. Speak your needs to family, friends, and coworkers about connection and communication. No matter how much it may seem like you’re alone and isolated while working remotely, your coworkers and loved ones are right there with you.