Before you begin, working at home seems like the dream job. You can stay in your slippers, work when you want, and eat hot lunches without paying restaurant prices. Until you land the gig it seems like the best job in the world. Then you realize it’s a lot more like every other job.
After a while it can even make you start to yearn for the old water cooler again. It turns out that not all that glitters is gold. Working at home still requires you to work, and it requires you to make certain changes you wouldn’t need to worry about if you were punching a time card at the office.
Still, if you do it right, working from your home can be a great pleasure. It gives you more flexibility, saves you money on work expenses, and – if you’re a parent – lets you spend a little more time with your kids. Here are the three most important things you can do to keep your sanity and really make the most of your WAH experience.
1. Get outside
The transition to working inside your home is a big one. You’ll go from spending forty hours per week (plus commutes and lunch hours) out in the world to spending them all in your own home or apartment. You can live your whole life indoors.
It’s important to break up your time before your home starts to look like a padded room. It matters little what you do once you pass through the door, but it is important to feel the sunshine, smell the grass, and hear the birds. It will help keep you balanced. Here are some of the activities I enjoy doing to break up my day:
- Taking a walk
- Eating lunch in the park
- Dropping mail in the mailbox
- Making a brief visit to a friend or family member
- Bird watching
Those little reprieves are enough to make you feel new again.
2. Establish firm working hours
This advice is useful because it works two ways. On one hand, it keeps your life from encroaching on your work. On the other, it keeps your work from creeping into your life! Whatever your work hours are, you should strive to keep them free of television, Facebook, and other distractions. Because you’re in your home, chores and household tasks like doing the dishes or washing the laundry might start to call out for your attention. Ignore them until the working hours are over.
This is a problem that I deal with because my fiancé, when she goes off to work, sometimes leaves me a list of things to do – appointments to schedule, laundry to fold, and so on. I think that she forgets that I’m not just lounging around watching movies all day. I’m at work! It’s vital to keep things separate.
3. Use some of your money
When you work at the office (or some other outside-the-home location), home is your escape. But if the home is your office, then you need to find somewhere else to go. It can be deflating to work hard all day, then transition into “home life” without having anything change. It can also be deflating to feel like all of your efforts are leaving you trapped in the same place.
That’s why I think it’s a good idea to splurge a little bit. If you spend nothing else, budget out some of the gas and lunch money you’re saving by working from home, and use that for your entertainment.
If you can afford it, I recommend picking up a cheap hobby like bowling, photography, or miniature golf. Give yourself a reason to get out of the house at least once per week.
If you’re looking for even cheaper alternatives, check your local library’s website for free events, such as author lectures. Watch out for trivia and karaoke nights at local bars and restaurants. There are lots of excuses to get out of the house. Find them!