As one of the few people in my friend group who works from home full-time, I get a lot of questions about how I do it.
Don’t you get bored? Don’t you get lonely? Don’t you hate being home all the time?
I just laugh.
The best part of remote work is the flexibility. If I get bored, sad, or lonely, I can change my routine or my setting to shake things up.
But I understand their skepticism. Being a fully remote employee is weird, especially if your only experience with remote work was during the pandemic.
I’ve been working from home for over 4 years. While remote work is the best option for me, it has its challenges. Below are 6 common questions I get asked about working from home (WFH):
- How frequently do you exercise when you WFH?
- How much of your working day are you actually productive?
- How do you unplug when you WFH?
- How do you avoid loneliness when you WFH?
- How to prevent WFH from ruining your career?
- What if you’re doing everything right, but you’re still struggling with WFH?
How frequently do you exercise when you WFH?
Honestly, not enough. 😅
The benefit of working at home is that you have the flexibility to exercise when and however you want.
No matter where you work, it takes effort to be active. I try to walk every day. Even just 15 minutes here and there walking around the house. Every little bit helps.
You can, and should, do more than that. I know people who exercise for 1 hour—lifting weights, running, etc.—every day before or after work. If you want to be more active without changing your routine, you can get a standing desk and a foldable treadmill to put under your desk. Guaranteed exercise. 👌
How much of your working day are you actually productive?
That depends on what you consider productive.
My work days look different depending on what work needs to get done. Some days require 1 hour of focused work, others days require 4-5 hours, and then there are days when I skip work to go to the beach with my friends. All of those are productive days for me.
The more time you spend working remotely, the more you learn about yourself. The more you learn about yourself, the more productive you’ll be. The more productive you feel, the easier it is to motivate yourself to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.
No one’s going to tell you if your most productive hours are from 10 am to 2 pm or 5 pm to 9 pm. Or that you can’t write on an empty stomach. Or that you prefer to respond to emails at the beginning of the day vs. the end. Only you know that.
For me, the secret to success is to take a lot of breaks. I do my best work when I’m energized, well-rested, and well-fed.
As soon as I feel my energy lagging, I take a 15-30 minute break and I'm ready to tackle the next task. It's called the Flowtime Technique. You should try it. 😉
How do you unplug when you WFH?
It’s hard. ☹️🔌
There’s a good reason difficulty unplugging is one of the most common complaints of people who work from home. Even people who work from the office think about work when they get home. When your office is your home, you’re going to think about work a lot.
The trick is to set boundaries. You have to place imaginary walls between your work and home life. Here are some of the boundaries I use:
- I only respond to emails/messages during 'work hours'.
- I have designated workspaces, i.e., specific desks and chairs I work from.
- When I’m done with work, I close all my work tabs and move to a different spot.
- I try to work only between 11 am - 6 pm.
- I have a ‘no work on the weekends’ policy.
It also helps to do a 'refresh task' when I'm done with the work day. A refresh task is something that helps clear my mind, like showering, cooking, or going for a walk. This way my mind doesn't linger on work and I can do something productive in my personal life.
Sometimes I break my rules. Sometimes I have a deadline I can’t miss, or the anxiety of unfinished business is too much, or external factors get in the way of work and I have to work on a Saturday. I don’t beat myself up about it. I acknowledge I’m crossing a boundary, then I put it back up tomorrow.
It's difficult to maintain your boundaries 100% of the time. I'm lucky to work for a company that encourages a healthy work-life balance. If that's not the case for you, prioritize the essential boundaries for your mental health and only compromise when necessary.
How do you avoid loneliness when you WFH?
This seems simple at first. You started working from home because you wanted to spend more time with your family, friends, and/or hobbies. So you do that.
Eventually, you get sick of your family, your friends are too busy, and there’s only so much bread you can bake and eat by yourself.
You have to get out of the house as often as you can. Be intentional. Socialize at your own pace. Take yourself to places—cafes, libraries, museums, gyms, coworking spaces—where you can run into people and say hi. Take in-person classes. Join groups that share a common interest.
I’m a bit of a digital nomad. When I get lonely, I travel. I spend a few nights in a hostel somewhere exotic, or visit family and friends across the country. When I’m not traveling, I try to leave the house at least once or twice a week.
If I feel alienated at work, I talk to my coworkers. As work-from-home employees themselves, your coworkers understand your feelings of isolation more than your friends or family. Because they’re feeling it too.
How to prevent WFH from ruining your career?
Let’s be clear: Remote work does not ruin careers.
A lack of self-knowledge, direction, or motivation ruins careers.
It's easier to lose focus and motivation when working from home. Remote work opens new doors and opportunities for how to spend your time on this earth. Naturally, a lot of people lose interest in work in favor of more fulfilling activities.
If you want to stay motivated at work, you need to remind yourself why you’re doing the work. Be honest about your career goals. What do you want to achieve?
If you want to climb the corporate ladder and become a director of stuff one day, you need a different strategy than someone happy to skirt by and cash a paycheck every week.
If your goal is to stay engaged and not get fired, try to gamify your work day or find a virtual coworker to hold you accountable.
If you’re vying for a promotion, check in with your boss often. Ask them about their expectations of you. What can you do to impress them?
Me? I'm not interested in climbing any ladders. I enjoy the work I do and I enjoy getting paid every month. That—on top of pursuing fun projects outside of my daily work—keeps me motivated.
What if you’re doing everything right, but you’re still struggling with WFH?
You’re eating healthy, you’re exercising—miracles do happen—, and you found a work routine that's productive and doesn’t burn you out, but you’re not happy. You’re not enjoying life as much as you did when you worked in an office. What now?
Remote work is still work. Working from home doesn’t make work more fun or less tedious. You still have to compromise and do things you don’t want to, like early morning meetings or boring repetitive tasks.
Add to that the unique challenges of working remotely, and you’re guaranteed to struggle sometimes—maybe all the time. C’est la vie.
Fully remote isn’t for everybody. If the cons of working from home outweigh the pros, go hybrid or go back to the office full-time. For a lot of people, working from an office is the perfect mix of structure and freedom.
I have days where I’m on top of the world. I feel productive. I feel active. Everything is awesome.
I also have days where I’m lucky if I get anything done, much less work. But I know those days wouldn’t be easier for me or happen less often if I worked from an office. When I start getting too many of those days, I know it’s time to take a few days off from work to reset and recharge.
When my friends ask me how I work from home all the time without going crazy, I laugh and tell them the truth.
I don’t work from home all the time without going crazy. 🤪
I move around a lot. I change my routine. I struggle, same as everybody else.
But it’s a struggle I choose over and over again, every day. A struggle I'd choose any day over commuting to a 9-5 in a fancy office. This is the best lifestyle for me.
While your environment—company culture, the economy, etc.—plays a significant role in your work life, the lifestyle you build around your work is just as important.
Are you eating right? Getting enough sleep? Staying active? Going to therapy?
If the answer is that you're getting enough of the good stuff, and have a smart plan for handling the bad stuff, then you might just be able to work from home full-time with all its perks. After all, there's no place like home.👠
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