Six Tips for Working from Home

Today, a colleague announced she will be leaving our company to work from home. In an email exchange, she mentioned being open to any tips I might have.

Now, I’ll share something about editors: We all have two characteristics in common: 1) We think we know what’s best, and 2) We like to share our superior knowledge. Otherwise, why would we choose jobs where we review the work of others and suggest how to improve it? It’s a quality inherent to the field, much like being able to read and write, and enjoying endless debates over the Oxford comma.

This is all to explain that, of course I had tips and of course I wanted to share them. And due to said traits, I want to share them with you, too.

1. Visit your company/colleagues/clients as often as you can. Face time is valuable for many reasons, and you’ll both appreciate the others’ efforts in making it happen.

2. Create structure. Have a schedule and stick to it as much as you can. Brush your teeth every morning, and put on clothes (even if it’s workout attire). Working in pajamas makes me feel less productive, even if I did the same amount of work. Plus, if I have to run out for lunch, answer the door for the delivery man, or do a video chat, I don’t have to have any lead time to look like a human. I also sometimes just put on reddish chapstick and instantly look like I’m glamorous. (Or so I think/feel.)

3. Take breaks outside when possible. Walks are great reminders that there’s a world outside. I also open my windows and door to feel connected. If you have a dog, he’s a built-in reason for setting up regular walks. If you don’t, ask your neighbors if their dog needs a daily walk. You might even be able to make a few extra dollars or get into a bartering situation.

4. Schedule social time on a regular basis. (Maybe a day a week/month with girlfriends/bros.) It’s important to get that social connection you’d normally get with co-workers.

5. Find a couple of friends in your new office. Create inside jokes, ask about internal and external personalities, and get help navigating the political structure. It’s nice to be out of the loop, but sometimes there’s a reason you can’t get resources and it needs to be discovered. Doing that remotely without insight isn’t easy.

6. Shut work off when it’s over. It’s hard to balance work and life when they happen in the same location; I try not to go in my office when I’m not working. When I worked at my kitchen table, I put my laptop away at the end of the day. I also never work in my bedroom or on the couch. Ditto for leaving the t.v. off during work hours.

These are of course just suggestions. The hardest and best part is the lack of physical presence; it removes headache but also connection. It took a long time for me to find my place, and I still struggle. If your boss is supportive, he or she will care about your mental health in relation to your remoteness and be active about making sure you’re as plugged in as possible.

Also, as scary as it is to begin working remotely, there might be a day when you find yourself wondering if you could go back into an office again. Imagine a day when the idea of putting on real clothes and commuting sounds makes you feel uneasy. It’s happened to me, and to several friends who are just as surprised as I am. The beauty of life is in what happens once you make the leap, and we’re much more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for being.

So if you’re reading this, you likely work remotely or are considering it. Grab a dog (preferably yours or someone you know), take a walk, and consider the possibilities.

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