The 21st Century has not only brought us an interesting bunch of new aspiring although sometimes questionable video producing talents (YouTube), it has also showered us with innovations like the ‘translucent cement’ (no questions asked) and ‘no-contact-jackets’, which protect the wearer from attackers by sending out electro shocks! Jezzz! Maybe only half as exciting as the above mentioned (let’s not talk about purpose here), another miracle has come out of it: working from home.
I can still remember my awe towards employees, who were granted the privilege of working from home for companies I used to be affiliated with. They were special, beyond reach and had superhuman powers by being allowed to working in their own PJs all day long. It was almost as exciting as a visit of the Queen herself, if they’d grant the company premises an audience. They’d glide in smoothly and uphold a serene smile whilst on their way out, followed by an almighty aura and several pair of eyes longing for the piece of cake they seemed to have.
Taking away the sideways my imagination often takes me to, they simply carried better job titles (and, arrgghh, the necessary skills) than the usual John Doe: Editor of the company mag, IT nerd controlling the big ‘company-sustaining-brain’, or CEO of the company (eternally unchallenged). The fact that I was not selected to fill such higher-demanding-roles could have given me a sense of importance on good days as, obviously, they could not do without me in the office (let’s ignore the non-existing skills needed). Sadly, it remained like that for many years to come – unless you count taking the workload home in order to get it done a healthy poke into the direction of better life quality and happiness.
20 years on and the rarity of working from home is almost getting as stale as freshly baked supermarket bread the day after. Nowadays everybody works from home, and whilst one is doing it wiser, smarter or individually better than another, all of us encountered a few bumps along the road.
Let’s have a look at some of these bumps and in what shape they might come in:
These could come in many colours, and believe me: it’s a totally new spectrum! The wolf comes in sheep’s clothing, or at times in the inconsiderate disguise of fridge contents which ‘need to be eaten before going bad’. A husband in the urgent need of sharing his creative writing ideas from the sofa in my office in order to tick ‘quality time’, and a serious challenge called 17 months old, seemingly approaching the terrible twos earlier than expected – just to stay in fashion with his growing process overall.
My tip: Make sure to have a designated area you call office, to close the door and to be firm in order for everyone to understand that for now (and the time allocated) the ‘fantasticness’ of your personality is and will remain unavailable. Push aside feelings of guilt and remember that you ARE somebody who has needs as well and actually contributes to the wellbeing of the family by working from home.
Nobody’s watching? Well, let’s have a quick look on Ebay, or the weather forecast. What about the dishes and the wash – I could do it in peace now whilst everybody else is out – beeep! Stop! If you start shifting your focus even an inch, it will be a pitfall to remember and a pattern hard to break! I didn’t need a crystal ball for that.
My tip: Be organised and set yourself goals for the day in order to justify little strays later on (Hello Social Media!). My belief is that if you are well organised throughout the day, focus on getting most of the work done early onward, there’s nothing wrong with ‘a little fun’ towards the end of the day to keep you motivated. To the despair of my husband, I have and probably will always be a ‘happy-list-person’, and get immense satisfaction of ‘ticking them off’. You can also try Time Management Software like Zoho, Basecamp, Yast – even the most disciplined amongst us are using it (I just started using Yast myself). Switch off the phone and your e-mail-program and assign a certain time for it. The world doesn’t end in a couple of hours – besides that there’s always voicemail.
3. Avoid Burnout
When I told one of my oldest friends that I would embark on a soloist journey, she shrieked. Don’t get me wrong, this person would travel to the end of the world to save me from being wrestled by a Yeti in the bush (of course a contradiction in itself), but she knew too well. And she knew me. I admit it’s hard to separate private from business when it’s ‘your baby’. I unfortunately still catch myself too often sneaking out to ‘only check mails’, which of course sets off an avalanche of many other things you quickly need to have a look at. Needless to say that by working from home, personal time becomes a very rare and precious commodity.
My tip: Set boundaries! Especially when self-employed, work is never going to be finished and there’s always more to add. It’s this uncontrollable monster that will eat you alive, if you don’t put it on a leash in the early days. Have regular breaks throughout the day (OCDed as I am, I usually schedule other things for it so I HAVE to leave the desk), and also try to add at least ONE day a week where you exclusively check e-mails only and leave the office for the day. Make sure to do something little for yourself each day (I tend to read or become creative) and escape on little holidays, may it be for a day or a long weekend. You’re a greater asset in your business when balanced and healthy!
Although I enjoy ‘mastering my ship alone’, and I don’t miss being stuck on public transport with the only random person always finding the empty seat beside me or I surely do not cry my eyes out of not being exposed to office politics anymore, working from home can get ‘lonely’. I’m oldschool, so I keep Social Media to a minimum must and will probably never become a social blogger.
My tip: In order to avoid a serious social skill degradation, try to get out as much as possible and sometimes even work from the library, a coffee shop or share co-working spaces. It can be quite stimulating and inspiring to watch the world go by, and whilst being productive you can also gain valuable contacts/networking opportunities on top of it.
5. Lack of motivation
With nobody around to pick up on a long face coming through the office door on a Monday morning, encouraging and empowering you, making you laugh and stimulating your brain, it can lower your motivational levels significantly.
My tip: Stay connected with the outside world, schedule lunches and catch-ups regularly. Go on networking events, whichever art and form you might fancy. Do something you are passionate about and you believe in. At the beginning I tried to adapt too much to ‘other people’s opinion’ in order to be successful just to realise that I AM actually the success if I stay true to myself. There are always enough people, who do like your work and the way you conduct yourself even if it differs ‘from the rest’.
Being a soloist can be incredibly rewarding if you learn to shape the edges and corners and create an environment you can flourish in, grow with and find fulfillment in.
What are your challenges?