The first thing I thought about when I started working from home is my desk. I knew that the desk I owned was unsuitable for my needs and that I needed a new one. For some reason, I don’t exactly know why, the desk gradually became a symbol for my readiness – and the feasibility – of my plan to work from home.
If I only had a desk, so I thought, I would persuade my full-time boss I could work part-time, find new clients, and embark on a new, independent road. If I only had a desk, and a separate work station at home, I could easily separate business and pleasure. If I only had a desk, I’d have a fitting place for my computer, and I could sit by it for hours on end and never tire of working. So I bought a desk, and the rest followed with varying degrees of success.
But there are some things I never anticipated when I began to work from home, and they turned out to be quite challenging:
Oh, the loneliness and the scream to prove to everyone that I exist!
I’ve already written about how important it is to have little rituals that symbolize the switch made when you leave the office to work entirely from home. But this simulation always leaves something to be desired: there’s no one to say good morning to, no colleague to go to lunch with, no office villain to despise in common with your friends at work. People who work from the office spend an average of 40 hours a week with their colleagues. Sometimes, they spend more time with people at work than they do with their family or friends. I don’t have that. Sometimes, I meet no one except for my immediate family for weeks on end. At the beginning, it’s nice to work in such a quiet environment. But as the time passes, I find myself wondering “Do I exist?”, and whether I still have the ability to small talk with people.
So this is what I do: I make sure I never bail out on friends. For example, I meet with a friend at least once a week, have conference calls with friends who live abroad, and make sure I set a play date with a kid whose mom I actually like. So, three times a week, I have some social event, however small, scheduled. Some weeks, I find I can’t have enough of it, while in others all I need is one simple exchange with a friend. All in all, I found the happy middle.
Oh, the internet provider called again!
You get to your office, connect your laptop to its docking station, run through your emails, print a report you have to go through, and go to the office kitchenette to make yourself a cup of coffee. Sounds like a reasonable start to your day, doesn’t it? But for all this to happen, someone has to purchase that laptop, make sure there’s Wi-Fi, buy a printer, and stock the kitchenette with coffee and sugar and milk. In your home office, you’re not just the employee and the boss, you’re also the IT person and the person in charge of administering to your crucial needs (like coffee). So how to buy the laptop best suited for your needs, and an honest internet provider?
So this is what I do: There are several companies out there that will make all of this possible – companies which stated purpose is to set up your perfect home office. I’m all for it, especially for people who have neither the time nor the patience to deal with the hassle. As for me, I decided to turn my lack of knowledge to an advantage. Everytime I feel that my home office lacks something I dedicate some time to research the market for reasonable and productive solutions. At the end of every year, for example, I make a call to my internet provider, and try to lower the cost or replace it with a better one.
Oh, what did just happen in that company meeting?
The very first thing you do when you get to the office each morning (post-coffee, that is) is share and receive information. You talk, you listen. You know where your to-do list stands. You know where your team is at. You know your boss’ mood. All this information spreads around the office like a virus, simply because people interact with others. When you’re not there, all these things fly off your radar, and this absence may well damage some aspects of your work.
So this is what I do: I signaled out some key people in the companies with which I work. These are people I like to talk to, and they like me. Every time we have a conference call, I set up fifteen minutes of chit chat ahead of time, and then I spend some time gossiping with my “key people”. It doesn’t happen every day, naturally, but once every week or so, it’s enough to let me know which way the office winds are blowing.