I have spent far more hours of my life than I care to count commuting to and from work on congested freeways, always day dreaming of finding a job that would allow me to walk, bike, or take public transit (without creating an even longer commute). I would look around at my fellow commuters and think – “there has GOT to be a better way!”. I tried carpooling with a work buddy and I will admit that I slightly enjoyed giving the stink eye to the other solo drivers on the road, thinking – “if all of you would carpool too, none of us would be stuck in this mess”.
Flash forward a few years and here I am – living the dream as part of the amazing distributed team at Blue Like Neon. Here is what I’ve learned over the past few years about how to make both work life & regular life happy while working from home – because balance = happiness.
It helps to have a pet to talk to
(AKA your “assistant” or “intern”) As nice as it is to not have people swing by your office to shoot the breeze and break your workflow, sometimes you need someone to talk to so you don’t lose your mind. The walk breaks are as much for your benefit as theirs, of course.
Trading in those single-function stiff work slacks for some multi-function sporty joggers was a big win. They work double duty when faced with coffee’s pitfalls – spills (liquids just bead right off!) and the coffee sweats (they’re moisture-wicking, yo). Because #athleisure is everywhere right now for a reason.
Pay for the faster internet
Because you don’t want to be the one with the crazy frozen face on your team’s Google Hangout. Also – get yourself a backup wifi hotspot for when your expensive home internet fails during a client screenshare, or for when your favorite beach camping spot has availability only during weekdays. We like using Karma Go.
Set up a solid home workspace, and be ok with taking breaks from it
It took me awhile (like, well over a year) to put together a “real” desk with a second monitor, external mouse & keyboard, and a supportive chair. My body – back, wrists & eyes especially – are so much happier for it. Sometimes a MacBook Air and a coffee shop are all you need, but I’ve learned that it’s totally not worth it to sacrifice ergonomics in everyday life. Now that I’ve got my setup in place, I have to remind myself to not be chained to it and to hop on my bike to the coffee shop every once in a while 🙂
Get some help with time zones
Being part of a distributed team with clients all over the world is both rad and also really hard for scheduling meetings. Off the top of my head, here are the locations where I’ve had to coordinate calls with over the past 2 years: France, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, somewhere in Africa (a client was on a safari), London, Philippines, and all of the continental US time zones every day. This website helps.
Set boundaries – with yourself, your co-workers, and co-habitants
While being flexible with your schedule is a great benefit to have, it can also be super frustrating if you don’t set boundaries. My experience has been that maintaining regular work hours is most helpful. It sets expectations with others as to when you’ll be available and when they should save it until tomorrow. Block off your calendar and sign out of Slack if you have a dentist appt – you don’t need to be available 24-7. Boundaries are especially helpful for sharing a living / working space too – if I’m at my desk, I’m “at work”.
Meditation & yoga breaks are a good thing
Sometimes everything is just too much and you need to zen out before you can get back on track. I really like the Buddhify app for its colorful wheel of guided meditation options. I try and leave my yoga mat open for a quick down dog on the way to refill my water glass. If you have a standing desk (I do), there are lots of options for standing yoga poses you can do to work out the kinks while you formulate that perfect client email!
The struggle is real – let us know what your must dos or don’ts are when it comes to the non-office life!