How to Work From Home

I’ve been working from home since August, and since I haven’t gotten fired, gone in to debt, or forgotten how to interact with other people yet, I’m taking the liberty of giving anyone who is considering working from home some advice.

But first, here are some things that people will say to you when they find out you work from home (a.k.a. Common Misconceptions):

“Wow! You’re so lucky.”

Yes. Yes. I am lucky. I’m lucky that nobody I work with can tell if I’m wearing deodorant, and that if I sit far enough back from the web cam, you can’t tell that I cut my bangs all by myself last night. My roommates are also lucky, because when they come home to a messy kitchen and all of my papers strewn across the living room (working from home ≠ being a house-husband/wife), they are also coming home to a highly social person who hasn’t spoken to another human since 9 pm the night before, so I’m fresh with stories about my cats, deal summaries, and computer program documentation.

“So do you get to go skiing all the time?”

No. Just because I work from home and theoretically make my own hours, does not mean that I go traipsing up to the mountains any time the whim hits. Because I also work with other people, it is in everyone’s best interest if my own work schedule resembles a Mountain Time 9-5 (or an East Coast 9-6, which is more like a Mountain Time 7-4). Besides, even if I decided to forsake my co-workers to go to the mountains once a week, as an entry-level liberal arts college graduate, I do not make enough money to be able to afford expensive hobbies like skiing. So no, I do not get to go skiing all the time.

“I don’t think I could do that. I’d just end up sleeping all day.” 

Thank you for acknowledging that working from home is actually difficult. When you work from home, you still have to work. You don’t end up sleeping all day (well, more than once, accidentally) because you like to eat and have a roof over your head, you like and respect your co-workers, and know that if you don’t do your job, they can’t do theirs.

Now that we’ve gotten the myths and misconceptions out of the way, here are the tips!

Working From Home Tip #1: Get dressed. Every single day.

When you wake up, brush your teeth, put in your contacts, put on deodorant/bathe, do whatever morning routine you require to make yourself presentable to society. You might be tempted to wear your glasses or go without a bra or pants (because people on video chat can only see you from the shoulders up, and can’t smell your breath!), but don’t! You’ll just feel gross and unproductive.

Working from Home Tip #2: Don’t work from your bed or your couch.

It is really tempting. But you’ll get more work done at a desk or a kitchen table. Create a standing desk. You only live once and you don’t want to spend your life horizontal/being unemployed.

Working from Home Tip #3: Leave the house and interact with real humans at least once a day.

Go to the post office. Go to a lunchtime class at the gym. Get post-work drinks with a friend (if you have one – it’s hard to meet people when you’re in your house all day!). Start going to therapy. You’ll be much better at your job if you remember how to talk to actual people.

Working from Home Tip #4: Have some working-from-home allies.

Everybody else who works from home, will from time to time feel crazy and seek human interaction. At this point, they will leave the comfort of their home office and go to a coffee shop or the local library, desperately clinging to threads of conversation that they have with their barista or that homeless guy who lives outside of the after-hours book drop. That person who is staring off into the space above their computer at your neighborhood coffee shop is your new work-from-home best friend! Introduce yourself and make plans to work together in the near future. Even if you don’t understand their job and they don’t understand yours, these people are your physical co-workers and will keep you from going crazier than necessary.

Side Note: You might be tempted to become romantically involved with these people, because they are the only people you see on a regular basis. Don’t.

Working from Home Tip #5: Don’t let shared calendars freak you out.

If your place of work uses a service like Google Calendar to make scheduling easier, embrace it in full. It will become your new best friend. But make sure to take advantage of the color-coding feature, so your co-workers’ calendars don’t freak you out. For example, if you look at your calendar and see the words “GETTING MARRIED” on it, think before you panic. Here are some questions that you should ask when you see things that you don’t understand on your calendars.

  1. Are you engaged/going to San Diego on Saturday/going to the dentist in central Texas?
  2. Are you even in a relationship/flying out of SFO/someone who has ever been to Texas?
  3. Is this event actually on your co-worker’s calendar, not yours?

If the answer to these questions is “No, No, Yes,” then you are not getting married that weekend and can spend it cleaning your garage and having a 30 Rock marathon.

In addition, if you have things on your calendar like dates with strangers, visits to your gynecologist, or Lana Del Rey concerts, figure out some kind of code for them. For example: “Drinks with Phil” sounds much better than “Date with Phil #2 from OkCupid ugh I hate dating/why is everybody on OkCupid named Phil?”

Working from Home Tip #6: Don’t let this turn you into a weirdo.

Be a considerate co-worker. Be a considerate roommate/friend/partner. Don’t let the fact that you could, in theory, go days and days without talking face-to-face with an actual human being turn you into a misanthropic lump. Think of the big picture of your company and your role in it. Don’t let spending all day alone get you down. After all, you’re the luckiest person in the world! You get to work from home.

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