When I moved to Chicago, I knew that continuing to work for our office in Indianapolis would be a challenge. After all, as a graphic designer I work with large files so I knew uploading and downloading would be a new daily tedium. However, it also occurred to me that removing myself from the stress and distractions of the office meant no more phones ringing, no more tasking commute, and no more Lean Cuisines eaten frantically between deadlines.
What I didn’t expect was that my biggest challenge would be overcoming the lack of these distractions and encountering new challenges in the blurred boundary between my work life and personal life. Over the past year I have cultivated a new work/life balance that helps me fight the loneliness of an office without coworkers and the urge to work all hours of the night. Working remotely is not for the weak willed but should you choose to make the switch, I have some helpful tips on how to make it work.
Get Up, Get Ready, & Get Pumped
Working from home is no excuse for being a slob. I know what my fellow Matchbookers are thinking, that every morning I roll out of bed, throw on my furry slippers, and slump down in front of the computer still in my J. Crew PJ’s. While that was true for the first few weeks of my remote life, after a while I noticed that motivation for the day starts with getting dressed to impress. Although my attire has taken a step down from the usual business casual, the simple act of primping gets me pumped for a day at the Chicago office.
The New Commute
Once I am ready for the day, I would normally make my way through snow, downpours, and other terrible weather conditions to get to the office. However, when commuting to my home office, these are no longer concerns. With this new-found time in my schedule, I can take care of things that I would normally do after work such as doing the dishes or laundry. With these tasks cleared before work, my time after work becomes more about the things that I look forward to like spending time with family and friends. Being able to anticipate fun things after work provides more motivation to, stay productive throughout the day.
Travel to Work
While I don’t have a typical commute, it is important to have separation from your living space and your workspace. This can be most easily accomplished if there is a room or portion of your home that you can isolate such as a study or basement office. As it turns out, the Chicago office (aka my basement) is still under construction, so I am currently working from my dining room table. Therefore physically separating my work environment from my living environment has proven difficult but not impossible. I have found that a really good set of noise cancelling headphones can cancel out any distraction, even my whiny puppy Watson. For me, it is all about drowning out the background noise and maintaining the dining room table as a work-only zone. Once I sit down I am at work and I never do anything unrelated to work in this space.
Battling the Loneliness
Isolating my workspace helped me maintain the feeling of being at work but something was still missing; co-workers. The occasional break while chatting by the printer or heating up my Lean Cuisines was something that I never knew was an important part of my work life until I no longer had their welcome interruptions. To help create social outlets for my work day I developed a rule, when at work at Matchbook Chicago do what the Matchbookers of Indianapolis do. If they go out to lunch, I go out to lunch. If Matchbook is toasting a new client, I toast with the team. When it comes to office social activities, I take my cue directly from the Indianapolis office.
Know When to Leave
The biggest challenge of my work day is knowing when to walk away from my desk. Because the convenience of working at my dining room table means I can work on projects all hours of the night, doesn’t mean I should. Likewise, deciding to take a sick day can be a challenging call. The temptation to get a head start on a new project or to say yes to requests that cross my desk after hours is tempting. If I worked every minute I could physically work, my work ethic and morale would deteriorate along with my social life. So where do I draw the line? If I am still working when my neighbors come home from work, I wrap up my day.