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  • Writer's pictureJean Dion

5 Lessons From a Decade Spent Working From Home

For some of you, this at-home thing is a new gig. But for me, this is old hat.

Back in 2010, I chucked the all-day-at-the-office routine and embarked on an at-home adventure. I've worked independently as a freelancer for the majority of the time, but I also worked for a brief stint as a full-time employee of a company located one state over.

So I think I have this lifestyle mastered. And I have learned a few things along the way.

Here are my top 5 tips, in no particular order.

1. Invest in great headphones.

Remote relationships work best when you communicate in real time at least once per month. Most of the time, these check-ins are phone calls or vid chats. The first time you tackle one without headphones, you'll find out why an investment is smart.

Clutch your phone to your head and try to take notes. I dare you. At the end of the call, you'll have a sore shoulder from the pinching and tucking. (And you'll probably drop your phone a few times too.)

Those headphones also come in handy for focused work sessions. It's amazing how loud the average neighborhood gets in the middle of the day. Delivery trucks, leaf blowers, and exuberant kids can make your home office louder than an office building. Ensure you can block out the noise when you must focus.

2. Create a dedicated workspace.

I've seen so many social posts showing workers tapping away while on the couch or at the dining room table. I understand that approach. I really do. But there's a big problem with taking your computer with you everywhere in your house.

When you don't have a dedicated workspace, you also don't have a dedicated play space. Everywhere you are is your office. That can lead to compulsive email checks, endless social updates, and mindless Slack chats.

I have a little she-shed in the backyard for my office, and I lock up my computer at night. I'm certainly available via phone and social if something urgent arises. But I let myself rest during my off hours, and I think my work is cleaner for that reason.

3. Take frequent breaks.

As soon as you're not in the office, drive-by interruptions cease. No one will stop by your desk to ask about your weekend, offer you a snack, or comment on your work. You'll be alone with your tasks.

Sure, you'll get quite a bit done. But without the rhythm of regular breaks, you could end up working too hard. Over the long-term (and who knows how long this COVID stuff will last), this can lead to burnout.

Set a timer on your phone, and make a point to get up and stretch at least every two hours. Walk away from your computer if you can. Stick your head out the window if you can't get all the way outside. Just ensure that you give your mind and body a break.

4. Look for alt coworkers.

I work part-time in an animal shelter, and my bias will show here. But bear with me.

Without the constant presence of living, breathing things, work can be incredibly isolating. Even introverts can start to feel a little crazy without someone to share space with them.

My cat Popoki (shown up top) is a dedicated office cat. When I'm at work, she's here with me. My two dogs sometimes work with me too, and sometimes, my rabbits show up. (Side note: I do have an Instagram account dedicated to my pets, in case you're curious.)

If you're not a furry pet person, consider an aquarium. Or if you're against all things animal, try a plant. Just look for ways to connect with something living.

5. Make your own rewards.

Companies have exceptional in-office reward policies. You might be accustomed to free food, regular get-togethers, gift certificates, and birthday parties. All of that stops when you work from home.

Set aside a Sunday afternoon to make yourself office treats. Sign up for a subscription box and surprise yourself with a little party when it arrives. Dedicate 445p to a 15-minute dance party. Do whatever works for you, but keep it whimsical. You'll miss the fun part of the office more than you think.

You can do this!


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