I've worked from home full time for about four years now.
While many people I know say they couldn’t handle the isolation, for me it’s the only way to work. I’ll never go back to an office building—I’ve gone feral.
The benefits of working home are many:
I control my schedule and my environment.
I don't waste ten hours a week commuting.
I have more time for health and fitness.
I can have daily dance parties with my cats.
But while I would choose working from home any day over going back to an office, there are a few drawbacks:
The long stretches without human contact.
The ease of falling into unproductive habits.
Other blog posts might give you pointers on how to be as productive as possible, but this one focuses how to retain your humanity. These tips are key to avoiding burnout and ultimately being more productive in the long run.
Here are things I've learned that keep me sane and productive:
1) Get dressed.
Working in your pajamas sounds great, but it's actually not. When I get up in the morning, I put on clothes to start the day. Granted, they are usually soft and loose-fitting clothes, often athletic wear. But the point is to put something on that you could wear out of your home. It signals that rest time is over and being-a-boss time has begun. Plus, it helps with the next tip…
2) Find reasons to go out.
It's very easy to get sucked into your work and not leave your home all day. I find that I'm far more engaged in my work on the days that I have a reason to leave the house. The break changes my perspective and gives me a second wind. It can be something as simple as a walk outside, a short session at the gym, or trip to the grocery store (another benefit of working from home is that you can run errands at times when most people are at work),
These trips also give you chances to interact with other people, and they can make you appreciate interactions that you might otherwise take for granted. I find that I’m friendlier and more open to my neighbors, other customers in stores, and checkout people—and I often have conversations with them that put a smile on my face.
3) Do things that are real.
This is somewhat related to the last item, but it can be accomplished in your home. Most of us who work from home also work online. I find it difficult to live my entire life through a computer screen, so it’s refreshing to use my breaks from work to do something "real."
By this I mean something that has physical consequences in my immediate world. It could be practicing yoga or making a craft, but for me best ones are cleaning around the house and preparing healthy meals. These breaks snap me back to life and remind me that I am a human animal that exists in a real place.
Another good way is to bring life into your home. Pets and plants cannot replace human interaction, but they can tether you to the real world. Having to feed your pets and water your plants are good reminders you that you need to do those things mindfully for yourself as well. And a small bit of affection from your animals can hearten you when you're feeling discouraged. If you don't want or can't have pets in your home, a good way to liven up the day is with a bird feeder. Looking up to see what kinds of birds are visiting is a great break from the screen, as your eyes should be allowed to adjust to different distances throughout the day to avoid strain.
4) Eat well.
When you work in an office it can be hard to eat well. Even when you pack a healthy lunch, it’s hard to turn down an invitation to the local greasy spoon or your favorite pizza place. And all the offices I've worked in were constantly filled with sugary baked goods and treats brought in by my coworkers that were tough to avoid when they sitting next to my desk all day looking delicious.
It's easy to get caught up in your work and just grab something quick to eat on your break. Sometimes going out to get food can be a good break or treat (see #2), but for the most part you're going to be eating what you’ve got in the fridge. So stock it with good things!
If I have junk food in the house, I'll eat it. If I have fruits and nuts, then that's what I'll have.
5) Listen to (the right kind of) music.
Depending on the work you do, you might need quiet to focus. Much of my editing work is very technical, so listening to music can be distracting. But music also keeps my spirits up, making the day go by faster and more happily. I listen to a wide range of genres, but recently I've realized that it's only music with lyrics that distracts me when I'm editing—instrumental music does not. Spotify has bunch of playlists under the "Focus" genre that are good for listening to while you work. Adding music to my day keeps me feeling good.
Working from home means having way more freedom than being in an office. Use that freedom to develop positive habits that keep you sane, productive, and enjoying your work!