By Eleanor Pierce
After reading Reed Parker’s hilarious Spin Sucks contribution about open offices, I started thinking more about working from home.
I’ve been working from home for more than a year now (and yes, I’m counting maternity leave, because while I may not have been working for Arment Dietrich, I assure you I was working that whole time).
I think there are some misconceptions and surprises about working from home that not everyone considers before they make the transition.
If you’re thinking about working from home, whether you’re going to go at it full-time or just on occasion, here are the things you need to keep in mind.
You Won’t Get More Housework Done Just Because You’re Working from Home
So tell your husband/wife/kids/roommate to get over it.
Yes, you might be able to sign for a package from UPS, but no, you cannot catch up on laundry!
Not if you also want to get your work done.
You Need a Space Where You Can Shut the Door
Gini Dietrich has written about this before. Being able to get away from any distractions at home is important.
Because if you try to work from home by parking yourself on the couch in the living room when your family is around, they will interrupt you all the time.
Even if you have your headphones on.
Technology Can Often Be a Challenge
Somehow, this is not something I thought much about before I started working from home.
Although I am Internet-savvy, I am not super technologically savvy.
When a computer problem comes up, my go-to problem solving techniques are:
- Turn it off, then turn it back on; and then
- Call tech support.
Fortunately, I have a partner who basically serves as my at-home IT support—and because he’s a graduate student, he’s around a lot.
Why isn’t Skype working?
What happened to the router?
Did our service slow down?
There’s a problem with my connection to Dropbox!
My startup disk is full again?!
You need to know how you’ll handle these issues when you work from home—and if you work for a fast-paced business such as a PR firm, you’ll need to be able to deal with these issues quickly.
Video Conferencing is Your Friend
You may think you can get by on email alone, but you can’t. When you work from home, you need to get face-to-face with the people you work with.
And you also need to spend a little bit of time chatting and enjoying each other’s company. You can’t be a stranger to your co-workers.
I underestimated the amount of time I would spend talking via Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime.
I also underestimated how quickly I would get comfortable letting my colleagues see me with zero makeup and unbrushed hair.
You Will Need to Prioritize Your Body
I think my posture is worse when I know no one is looking—the pain in my neck at the end of a lot of days certainly suggests this is true.
If you work from home, you will have to make more of an effort to get up and get moving, and to set up your office ergonomically.
No one from HR is going to come by and see if your chair is properly aligned.
And you may not think you move a lot in a regular office, but I know I walked around a lot more when I had to leave my home on a regular basis.
I also went to the gym on the way to work. That’s not really an option anymore.
Now, I have to make a conscious effort every day to unplug, get outside, and move.
You can do what my coworkers do and use a treadmill desk (or a cycling desk), or you can force yourself to actually leave the house to exercise before and after work.
Whatever you do, you need to be sure to move your body, or you will pay for it.
For me, if I don’t get out, it’s not just my body that pays the price—it’s my brain, too.