The 3 harsh realities of working from home
The whole ‘working from home’ lifestyle seems to be most people’s ideal image of a long-term career. And let’s admit it – waking up at 10 AM to no alarm clock, getting nice and snug under a couch blanket while you trawl through your inbox in pyjamas seems like a pretty awesome way to spend your weekdays, every day.
Yet as alluring as the homebody, PJ-clad laptop lifestyle is to many 9-5 corporate workers out there – being home-based isn’t the sparkly land of employment freedom that common misconceptions make it out to be.
Sure, it comes with its undeniable share of privileges that a ‘normal’ job can’t offer; but at the end of the day; it’s still work like any other conventional job, and may require even more of a grinding effort for some, too.
Having lived the home-based way of life for quite some time before my first-ever full-time office job, and settling back into lifestyle soon after (for two months and counting now, to be exact), I’ve discovered my fair share of eye-openers as a ‘new-age’ telecommuter:
Healthy living becomes an active effort.
I read an article sometime ago about how working from home actually boosts a healthier lifestyle compared to working at a typical office or corporate profession.
I’d say that’s a load of bullcrap.
In my experience, at least. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone out there; but having worked previous jobs in hospitality and retail, I can tell you that running around for eight hours while processing 10 orders of orange-mocha-frappuccinos and God knows what other hipster coffee trend; or racing to and from the back room to grab four different kinds of high heels during peak hour can really fill up your (or an ordinary, non-gym junkie’s) cardio quota for the day.
And for those of you who haven’t experienced the hectic hospitality life, even the seemingly-sedentary world of an office job didn’t do as much of a number on my waistline as working from home. At least my one-and-a-half-hour commute involved a good amount of walking. Having worked close to the city, at least I was more inclined to go and hang out with friends after 5 PM, or do some last minute late-night shopping on Thursdays.
At least I wasn’t tempted to slink into a couch all day, balancing a laptop on my stomach while I contemplated the possibility of taking a wondrous 4-hour nap. And then whipping myself up a cup of instant noodles.
As I’ve said, evidently, everyone’s experience is different. But it was quite the reality check with mine. As a work-from-home-r, I’ve got to put in that effort to set aside some time in my day for exercise, even if it’s just 30 minutes. This Forbes article explains it best: “When your commute is from your bedroom to your home office or living room, you need to proactively plan movement and exercise into your day.”
They also say that movement is recommended every 90 minutes to revitalize your energy. As someone who easily gets caught ‘in the zone’, numbing my legs after three hours of sitting, this is something easily neglected in my routine. It doesn’t even have to be a rigorous circuit-training session – as long as you’re giving yourself the break to set your body in motion, a nice walk, stretch, or coffee at your local café should do the trick. Investing in a comfortable, ergonomic chair that encourages healthy posture may also be worth it. Some even ditch the chair altogether for a fitball.
Of course, healthy living doesn’t stop at your daily dose of exercise. You’ve got to take serious considerations into your daily diet, too.
When you’re working from home, it’s easy to reach for the half-eaten packet of Twisties in your pantry, or make yourself a quick PB&J meal for lunch and dinner. It’s convenient, it’s delicious, and no one’s going to judge you for having cheese dust on your shirt.
But in the long-run, you may want to treat your body a little more nicely. Since productivity and concentration require energy, fill yourself up with a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, veggies, lean proteins and whole grains. Sugary snacks may seem like a quick, easy fix – but they can lead to energy crashes in a matter of hours, leaving you sluggish, unmotivated, and willing to give into procrastination. (Ugh, listen to me, I sound like a health vlogger.)
If you find it hard to curb your temptations, stock your fridge up with these healthy alternatives the next time you pop into the grocery store. Your body (and productivity levels) will thank you.
And if you’re ready to take on the next level of being a responsible, independent millennial, you could even try out meal-prepping to save yourself the daily hassle.
Your time is your own, but so are all other responsibilities.
Remember the bit I mentioned of waking up whenever you want, and working whenever and wherever you want – wearing the comfiest clothes you own?
Yeah, it’s the life. Who doesn’t want to own their every minute of every day? But the truth is, because your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule is completely up to you – you get the added burden of having to plan and manage everything.
From a freelancer’s perspective; this means that if you’re trying to build up your client base, you need to calculate just how much work you need to do per week or month to maintain a substantial financial living. You’ve got to actively seek out steady work on the regular, maintain your social media channels, promote the hell out of your portfolio, and work out what your rates would be – taking fairness and your cost of living into consideration.
Oh, and did I mention taxes? Man, you’re on your own for that one.
Even if you’ve been hired under a company as a ‘remote’ employee, you’ve still got to set up those daily work structures for yourself to successfully get your work done. The freedom of owning your time may all seem fine and dandy initially, but you’ve got to consistently remind yourself that as a worker, discipline is necessary. Without it, your professional reputation and income will suffer.
To stay as productive as you would in a regular office, set a daily schedule for yourself, with a priority list of your ‘to-do’s for the day. Create a list of goals – financial, career-related, or otherwise – that you plan to achieve each month, or even by the end of the year.
And start each day early. Sure, there are days where you can treat yourself to a little sleep-in if you need it, but as a general rule: wake up each day as if you’re going to work. This will train your brain to view your home environment as a productive work area during weekdays, rather than one of rest and relaxation. It might even be good idea to establish clear ‘start and finish’ working hours to provide yourself with a substantial break after a hard day’s work.
But of course, while working hard’s a crucial ingredient to the life of a telecommuter, it’s important to maintain contact with human civilization.
Go out with friends on Friday nights. Schedule a date night on the weekends. Join conferences, networking, or social events near you. By all means; don’t abandon your social life.
It’s bad enough that the home-based lifestyle involves only you, your Gmail inbox and the occasional business Skype call. Cabin fever can easily rear it’s ugly (and socially awkward) head, so avoid falling into a pit of loneliness and get out of the house every once in a while.
Accept the common suspicion you’re living a slacker’s paradise.
Let’s face it; when you answer the typical question of “What do you do?” with “Oh, I work from home as a writer/graphic designer/Twitch streamer/what-have-you”, it’s likely that the first image to come to them would be you in sweatpants, having an 11 AM breakfast as you scroll through your YouTube subscriptions.
And you know what? As accurate as that thought may be, it doesn’t deride the fact that you still do consistent, valuable work on the daily; brunch-breakfasts and unlimited YouTube breaks just come with the perks.
Sadly, you’ll have to accept the reality that some (or most) people still aren’t going to see it that way.
Remote work has only gained traction within the past few years, with a report last year that 70 percent of global workers are now working from home at least once a week. This is great news on the changing landscape of the workforce, and a progressive approach that most businesses are now being encouraged to adopt for the sake of their employees’ work-life balance and job satisfaction.
And while this is great for us who reject the traditional 9-5 schedule, the statistics only cover those who work a partially home-based lifestyle – not the few of us who have dove into it full-time.
Thus, it’s still a novelty for many, and one that’s likely to be misunderstood. People will assume that your ‘flexibility’ means they can hit you up at any time to grab lunch, hang out, run an errand, walk the dog. Though your schedule will surely have the extra space to fit more of these in, it’ll help to set clear, firm boundaries with those around you. Make it known that when you’re working, you can’t just drop it all for another episode of Game of Thrones. Treat yourself like a professional worker, and hopefully they will too.
On that note, if you detest the stereotypical notion of you lounging around in sleepwear all day, a pro-tip that many suggest is to actually dress as if you’re ready to hit the books, rather than your bed.
Inspire the productivity you need for the day by making yourself look respectable. Some wear a smart business get-up, every day, to stay on top of their game in case a client calls for a last-minute meeting or Skype discussion.
Personally, I’d save this look for those real busy days when you’ve got in-person get-togethers or important online conferences to tend to. Most days I’m fine with throwing on a comfortable shirt and denim shorts (or jeans, come cooler months), when I know I’ve got an all-day date with Microsoft Word. It’s no classy-sassy Portmans jumpsuit – but I look clean, presentable, and ready to start another day of work. It’s all about what works for you.
I am by no means ragging on the work-from-home lifestyle, nor am I setting myself up on a pedestal as a I drop truth bombs of “Oh, this isn’t for everyone – you need the drive, the boldness, the hustler’s mentality, like me!”
Because I can tell you straight-up that I’m still trying to work on all three. But being a home-based worker has, so far, come with a lot more pros than cons as I continue to deal with the unpredictable world of self-employment. You’re suddenly in control of your everyday agenda, you can take breaks when you see fit, and your overall stress levels and mental health may just find themselves at their all-time best.
Just be sure to ditch the daily Doritos meals and deadbeat-college-bum mindset, and you may find yourself living your ideal career at the comfort of your own living room.