How to Work from Home Everyday

My Office is cooler than yours

I work from home. Not only since the pandemic started, but since December 2010. I love it. I wouldn’t go back to working in an office unless I could find no other way to support myself. And I would turn over every rock until I found something I could do from home.

I have heard a lot of criticisms and complaints about working from home, but today I want to focus on one particular one: Working at home is weird and I don’t get anything done.” I have heard this several times from friends and it breaks my heart because working from home can be much more relaxing and eliminates many anxiety causing problems. When people say this, I have noticed a couple of common issues:

  1. They work from home periodically, like once a week or twice per month.
  2. They rarely have their own dedicated space to work.

Let me tackle these two issues and see if I can help. {more}

Working from home occasionally is weird

Bad Home Office

I’m no doctor, but I have noticed that the human brain is not good with change. Sure, people can be spontaneous and make split decisions, but in general humans thrive when they have set routines. When you get up in the morning and go to an office 20 days a month and your boss says you can have 2 of those days at home, the brain gets confused, which leads to anxiety, which leads to distraction to try to forget about the anxiety. Has this happened to you?

It’s similar to getting into a groove of ordering pizza every Friday night for months, and your significant other suddenly says hey, let’s order tacos!” That can create anxiety or even anger, because you had a rough week, and have been looking forward to that pizza, even though you love tacos.

I’m getting distracted because I haven’t had lunch. Lets get back to working. Your boss says you can work from home 2 days a month. You schedule it for Friday. That Friday rolls around and you get out of bed, think about showering, getting dressed, hopping in your car to start your commute, and suddenly remember that you are working from home. Part of you is happy, but part of your brain is thinking: Hey, I’m home, there’s a TV and a couch over there.” Or someone else you live with comes to your desk and wants to chat because they love you and you are there. Or the one I have dealt with: your Mom calls and says I know you are working, but…” and then wants to pull you away from work to do something else because you are home, and they don’t get that you have to work.

Things will try to distract you because you are not in that office that provides a work zone” for your brain. And if you do not have work that is due to be completed today, your brain says you can always get it done tomorrow when you are back at the office. You know, that place where you are supposed to work.”

What’s the solution? Cut the cord and go all in

My grandfather used to say When you eat, you eat. When you play, you play.” This was a reference to me trying to bring toys to the dinner table, or turning my fork into a sword to battle an imaginary Storm Trooper, but the principle is the same. If you want to work from home, find a way to work from home exclusively. If the company you currently work for doesn’t allow for that, you may have a life change coming.

Once you start working from home full time, everything changes. Maybe not everything. Your TV and couch are still there, and your Mother is still your Mother. But your brain reroutes it’s routines into a new system. Instead of getting up and driving to work, you go get your coffee and breakfast, then go to your home office to start working. I do recommend you still take a shower, maybe even put on some comfy work clothes (especially if you have Zoom meetings. Your hair looks terrible and they can’t smell you, but your family can). Set up your phone to block out distractions from apps and people that you would not pay attention to in the office, and tell your family that unless something is on fire, they can tell you about it after work. 1

Now, let’s tackle problem 2.

You need your own dedicated space to work

This is another issue that could potentially require a life change, but let’s talk about it. When the pandemic hit and people were told to work from home, office workers did not have work space set up. Many people plunked their laptop on their dining or kitchen table, and started working from there.

The problem that arose is similar to the first. Your brain is confused because you can’t eat the object that is sitting in front of you, causing your brain to ask what the heck are you doing there? In addition, everyone in your household can either walk by and make noise, or walk right up and start talking to you, as if you have nothing better to do.

What’s the solution? Define your space and set boundaries

Now That’s an Office!

You have to find space that is for working. Ideally, it’s a room that you either aren’t using (like we all have those lying around), or a room you can convert to be for this purpose. This is tough to justify if you are working from home occasionally. But if you work from home full time, it’s a justifiable necessity.

When my wife and I first got together, we lived in an apartment that had one extra bedroom that could be used as an office. She was working at an office and that worked fine. But then she changed jobs to work from home full time. When we bought our house, we made sure we got a four bedroom which may sound crazy, but we each have our own office, a guest bedroom which our kids have used to live with us periodically, and a bedroom for sleeping.

If you can’t do that, consider designating an alcove, or even a closet that is large enough to fit a desk, chair, and enough air/room so you don’t feel like you are in a cage (you know, like a cubicle like at work!). Anything that you can do to tell your brain that this is the place where work gets done so that when you are there, it switches into that mode. A place that when you are there, the brains of the people in your household will know not to bother you except in the case of the aforementioned fire. It won’t do anything about your Mother, but that’s where the phone’s focus mode comes in.

  1. I know the phone solution is for iPhones. There may be a solution for Android, but I’m an iPhone user.↩︎


August 13, 2022