It appears most people that have experience working from home (WFH) are writing and publishing articles and posts sharing their recommendations for all the newcomers. The posts that I have read are thoughtful, well intended and nothing like my experiences working from home. So here are my experiences WFH. You may enjoy reading them as you surf your cable channels for the 100th time and realize no matter how many channels you subscribe to there is nothing you want to watch.
I am inspired to write this post after reading one particular article titled “How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind.” Great title. No one wishes to lose their mind at any time and it is a possibility when remanded to you room, so to speak, for long periods of time. After reading the article, I find I have a little different experience than this author. So with all this free time on my hands (we were to be attending The Players golf championship in FL this weekend until it was cancelled), I am compelled to share my WFH experiences as a counterpoint to a few of the ideas from this article.
Point: Get Dressed (AKA Dress for Success)
Seems like every article on working from home begins with something your parents likely taught you when you were young and has become a habit ever since. Get up, shower and get dressed. This seems a little unnecessary, or is it?
Counterpoint: Wash Your Hair
Yes, get dressed. Even though there have been a few occasions where you may get up in the morning with an immediate need to sprint to your computer. In this case, clothing will be optional and what I mean is you may be sitting there in your underwear for a few minutes while you deliver the email and attachments you forgot to send the evening before.
One of the benefits of WFH is you can wear your favorite worn out jeans and Led Zeppelin t-shirt as many days in a row as you would like. Every day is casual day. I live in a state where I can wear shorts 10 months out of the year, so I do. The clients don’t need to know or experience this with me. Video conferencing makes wearing shorts a non-issue but you will need to wash your hair.
Note: wearing a hat for a video call is code for I didn’t shower or wash my hair today.
Point: Have a Dedicated Work Space
Do not spread your work throughout your home. Set up a dedicated workspace to help establish a daily routine. Not the couch, not the dining room table, not the recliner… Wait. Not the recliner?
Counterpoint: Yes And…
I understand what they are saying here. Yes, set up a place to help you organize your work in the manner you are most comfortable and accustomed. I like having a desk with my files and printer in reach. Working on a desktop computer with a large monitor is great and has reduced the fatigue I can experience from working long hours on the computer. And at the same time, I need to move around. It is a part of the creative process. I have always been this way regardless of the office setting. So the couch, dining room table and, yes, the Lazy Boy are all in bounds as extensions of my office.
Note: I am writing this post sitting in my recliner.
Point: Go Outside
This is a classic. They recommend working from a local coffee shop a few times a week for a change of atmosphere and personal interaction to within six feet of another escapee. They also recommend walking your dog, talking with your goldfish and, I quote, “if you’re feeling stressed out, a good belly rub usually helps.”
Counterpoint: Go Big or Go Home
Two different experiences come to mind as a counterpoint to their recommendation. First, enjoy the peace and quiet. It is amazing how much work I get done without the interruption of associates stopping into the office to catch up. My open door policy when WFH is having my Phantom Screen Door open to enjoy the warm, fresh air.
The second experience is more of a “go big or go home” approach to Go Outside. Usually once a month I meet with my friend, Dean, for breakfast at a restaurant in a small town half way between his home office and mine. The rules are we must concentrate on our work through lunch at which time we can talk shop. I find the drive to our meeting clears my head while the drive home is filled with new ideas from our conversation. Working off site requires me to prepare, organize and focus so I can work constructively. I cannot make this investment every day but when I do the return is absolutely worth it.
Note: As a result, in part, of these meetings with Dean, I picked up a side gig as the Senior Contributing Editor, Marketing and Business Growth with his publication commARCH. I am gaining incredible access and insight into the wants and needs of architects and designers that I can share with my clients. Check it out.
Point: No TV
What? Are you my mother?
The articles advice is if you would not be doing something at the office, do not do it when WFH. First of all, my last office had a TV and so did every common space. It was primarily a PR firm so the idea is the team needs to stay on top of the news including The Masters, Wimbledon and The Kardashians. I am not joking. The TV in my office was usually off so as not to attract more interruptions unless Tiger Woods was playing that day. Besides, you never know when HGTV will have a breaking news story.
Counterpoint: On The Clock
The TV plays an important role in my workday. I use it to measure my one-hour lunch break. I know it seems silly but it is true. I often watch a show I recorded from the night before like Ray Donovan or Homeland or Vikings (the show on The History Channel, not the football team). There are times when I gain inspiration or an idea from a TV lunch break, so if I pitch an idea referencing Ray, Carrie or Ragnar, you know the source.
Point: Prep Your Snacks
You see it now don’t you. You see how this article and this collection of ideas inspired, no required, me to respond. Prep your snacks. What?
Yep. The writer believes preparing snacks in advance will prevent procrastination by impulsive food prep. I am not making this up. Read for yourself.
It almost seems unnecessary to give a counterpoint to this idea. I will say WFH has the potential to save you some money by eating leftovers in the fridge versus going out for lunch. At the same time, going to Popeye’s once in a while for lunch is a nice treat. Generally speaking, when I am hungry, I eat whether WFH or in an office or traveling. I am beginning to think there is more to this piece of advice than the author is letting on.
Moral of the Story
WFH takes discipline just like working in an office. This discipline will allow you to become highly efficient with your time and getting your work done. You will rarely be tied up in a day full of meetings when WFH. It is surprising how efficiently phone and video meetings are run. Seems people can talk all day in a conference room and they can get every thing done in 30 minutes on a conference call.
Working from home can facilitate a healthier work day and better work life balance if you are disciplined. Step away from the computer screen, go for a walk, and recharge your creative batteries when you need it the most. Schedule your day to be your best. You are your own boss now. Yes, you will have demands on your time that you will need to consider. You are not working in a vacuum. You can and must create the discipline to be at your best for everyone including yourself. Just like with your work in the office, you need to know when to end the workday.
Here is one word of caution written in long sentences. Most people need persona interaction and this typically comes in the form of conversation. WFH will likely lead to long conversations with your spouse, roommate, friend and/or pet. My wife probably knows as much about my work and building products marketing as many professionals in the business. Thank goodness she is a giving and patient listener.
Good luck working from home. WFH. My experience suggests it will be fun, frustrating, rewarding and absolutely unique to you.