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When I first started working remotely, so many people have said to me: “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I’d never get work done.”
Then as the remote-life became my new-life, I faced initial challenges.
Every time I was asked: “So, how’s remote-life”, “how do you like working remote”, or anything similar, I would typically start out saying that it was challenging.
Most of the time, before I could continue into why it’s difficult for me, I would receive almost immediately, as if in-office workers have been conditioned to dismiss remote-workers “problems”, comments such as:
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s hard to get things done with all of the distractions.” (uh, no?)
“Sooo difficult I bet. I’d like to work in my PJs all day too.” (seriously?)
“That must be sooo (always exaggerated) nice…”
(This is always followed by whatever the person thinks is “nice” – watching TV while working, sleeping in, working when you want, taking breaks as much as you want, and so on).
I used to feel a little offended.
Now, I am able to recover quickly from these remarks and chuckle, because I know all too well that working remotely is, in fact, challenging – but not for the reasons that most people assume.
Why people think that working from home is “hard”, from my personal experience, is because, from their perspective, the lack of “boundaries” presents distractions. Thus, working less from a lack of focus and investment.
When in reality, for me, it’s that exact lack of boundaries that makes it so much easier to always be working. Thus, working more and forgetting that I have a regular life, too.
What Working from Home Is Really Like… for Me
Working on projects longer than necessary because I have the time to do it.
Hey, no one is going to tell me to stop working and go home.
Taking on more work for no reason at all.
How else will anyone know you’re actually working if you don’t keep piling it on?
Working 40+-hour weeks more often than I can count, not to mention weekend work, first-thing-in-the-morning-email, and off-hour “check-ins”.
Know how many times that has happened when I was going into an office? I’ll be generous and say once a month for the 40+ hours, but I know that’s a stretch.
Not sticking to my own personal plans at the end of the workday or even before the workday starts because work, work, work.
This is both sad and true. I have had to work hard to minimize the occurrence of this. The frequency is maddening.
Putting personal relationships as second to work because I’m so focused on “just finishing this last thing”.
When you work in an industry where there is no such thing as a “done”, it’s tough, real tough, to say you’re ‘done’ for the day – and then actually be done for the day.
I think you get the idea here.
Having boundaries and creating separation between home-life and working-from-home life is absolutely necessary if I am going to continue to choose this path.
And not just physical boundaries.
I’ve also had to learn what my emotional and mental boundaries are and fight every day to protect those – often against myself!
What I’ve learned in the process is not much different than what you may have heard. The difference is in the reasoning behind them and what I did with them.
1. Have a Separate Office Space
Yes, sure, the most obvious thing I knew was to have a “dedicated office space” because that is what everyone says.
Why this is important for me, is not to lessen home distractions, but to have a physical space in which I can then physically leave at the end of the day.
Physically moving my body from “work” to “home – and then not co-using that space for anything else – helps create an energy flow that most people experience when they physically leave their in-office jobs at the end of the day.
2. But Find What Feels Good
I initially assumed I had to separate all the things.
Turns out, I don’t have to do anything. And in fact, separating work and home entirely does not work for me.
At least, not every day.
Some days, my energy vibration at work is high and positive and I kick so much butt in my dedicated work zone with my dedicated work things. I feel powerful.
Other days, my energy vibrations might be lower, or just different, and so I have learned to honor and respect those days by allowing myself to be in the space that feels good and do/wear/use the things that feel good.
Because that, my friends, is the only way to be relaxed and productive in any space.
3. Have a Version of ‘Transitional’ Space & Time
Transitional space is a way for me to reflect on the ‘end’, be present in the “now”, and welcome the “beginning” of all phases throughout the day.
Just as many people have their commute time to and from work, I have my transitional time before and after work.
This is crucial to protecting my mental energy and ensuring that I am present in all moments through my day and am able to properly drive attention and focus on one area at a time.
This changes from day to day, but I typically like to spend 15 minutes to an hour engaging in something to honor my current space and energy and then transition me into the next phase of my day.
- Morning Yoga
- Daily Planning
- End of Day Reflection
- Song and Dance
- Trail Run
4. Have Emotional Vibration Check-Ins Regularly
I have found this to be most helpful.
Without the social interactions of coworkers and the “how are you doing” check-ins from friends, I had to learn to do this for myself.
While it may seem like such a small thing, I know that if I had to admit the number of times I’ve asked myself, how are you feeling right now or how did you feel about that, it would be sad to admit.
Doing this has helped me process my work-stress, reflect and see good things in both myself and my days and has given me the resiliency needed to face daily challenges.
Most importantly, it has minimized the frequency of work emotions seeping into my home-life.
5. And Don’t Forget… Set All the Boundaries!
I am pro-boundaries.
So pro-boundaries, in fact, my manager once commented on how admirable my commitment to my boundaries is.
As a meme I once saw so eloquently put it: “I create boundaries to respect myself. Not to offend you.”
- Daily routines.
And so on.
What I do for myself does not mean I do not care for others or that I am not a team-player. It means I care about myself, too.
Remote-Workers Face Their Own Sets of Challenges
Lack of boundaries.
Loss of context.
Because I both work and live out of my home, I sometimes feel as though I am always working.
I have struggled to set boundaries when I first started working remotely.
I’ve expended too much emotional energy and have caused strains on my mental energy because I was unable to separate my home-life from my work-life – or better yet, live balanced within the two.
Since then, I’ve found a balance and a regime, unique to me, that allows me to continue to show up for work, without giving up all of my energy, fully present, feeling good, and ready to tackle all things in my path.
While still leaving me plenty of energy, time, and mental space for other areas outside of work.
Working remotely has presented me with lessons not just in separation, boundaries, and work/life balance, but also in protecting my energy, space, and time.
It’s something that will continue to present challenges and I am a little more open to facing them with each day that passes.
Now, I know I can navigate these challenges with a little more ease.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita