7 Priceless Lessons About Working From Home

7 Priceless Lessons About Working From Home

Workers on the corporate front have been tirelessly fighting for the "home office" for years. In large and modern companies, this has become a common practice. In more "conservative" ones, the mentality still prevails that "if you're not within arm's reach and I can't see you, you're not working." In both cases, working from home is considered a privilege.

I have always been a huge fan of working from home, from a café, from the park, from the beach, from the hotel lobby, or anywhere, as long as it's not tied to fixed working hours and a specific place. With a few breaks, I spent many years working in my dream way.

Over the years, it turned out that "working without a fixed workplace" has not only advantages but also some disadvantages. For me personally, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, but I can't deny that the latter taught me a few invaluable and painful lessons.

Here's what I learned from many years of "working from home":

Lesson #1: If you work from just one place, it becomes "THE office"

For me, the big advantage of "free work" is that I can "work on my computer" in various places and environments. I've tried working in co-working spaces, from home, and from select cafés. However, I notice every time that if I use the same location consecutively, it loses its "fun" potential for me and starts to feel like a regular office. I begin to feel an irresistible urge to find a new place to work.

In this sense, the isolation imposed by the COVID-19 crisis turns working from home into the new "standard office" and, unfortunately, removes much of the charm of this work approach.

Lesson #2: Working without a fixed workplace doesn't eliminate the need for work discipline

At first, working from home is great – you can wake up whenever you want, you can wear pajamas, you can go to the fridge 36 times a day... Soon, however, you realize that work remains unfinished, and the elastic on your pajamas stretches more and more.

The same goes for working in cafés, so-called cofficing. At first, it's fun – drinking coffee, eating cakes, ticking off tasks. At some point, however, you find that 60-70% of the time is spent standing in lines (or waiting for waiters), adding milk to coffee, eating cake, trying to connect to the café's (or mall's) Wi-Fi, looking for an outlet for your dying laptop battery, etc.

Therefore, it's important to once and for all clarify to ourselves – do we want to work and achieve results, or do we want to lounge around, eat meatballs, and drink coffee after coffee? If it's the former, unfortunately, we need to maintain the same work discipline as in the office – defining tasks, writing emails, deep work, reports, backups, and everything else that's part of the work process. Otherwise, the temptations outside the office are too many for someone with "weak nerves," so to speak.

Lesson #3: Remote work looks different in promotional videos than in reality

If you watch ads for courses and books on working from home, online business, etc., you'll notice happy guys and girls with laptops spread out on hammocks, sun loungers, poufs, kitchen tables, sofas, beds, and the like.

When you start working remotely and try to do it for 6 hours from the sofa or bed, you find that your back turns into a pancake, and then you can't stand up, walking like Mr. Bean. If you try working on the beach, you notice how your keyboard fills with sand, and your awesome glossy screen reflects every sunray, making the screen unreadable.

Important conclusion: Find a comfortable chair. Adjust it so that your elbows are at the table's level. Place all this in a quiet spot or wear noise-canceling headphones. Otherwise, you won't get anything done and will develop musculoskeletal disorders.

Lesson #4: If there are kids around, you won't get any work done, don't even try

Trust me, I've been through it all, and I'm going through it now. There's no way to do any meaningful work if kids of different calibers are screaming, rolling around, fighting, and pulling at you. Especially if they are under 6-7 years old.

Don't try to work while they are in the same room or awake. It just doesn't work.

What can you do? Work only when the kids are sleeping. If you have a grandmother or nanny, consider yourself very lucky – send them out with the kids, and then get to work.

And how to proceed under COVID-19 home isolation, for example? There's a way I call "transferring to an alternative space-time continuum." In simpler terms, it means – go to another room, lock it, put on headphones, and play loud music. If possible, while the kids are sleeping.

Lesson #5: If you don't take care of your equipment, it won't take care of you

When working remotely, the most important thing for your success, apart from your professional skills and contacts, is your technological tools – computer, internet connection, data storage devices, mobile devices, etc.

For better or worse, remote work (and online business in particular) requires us to be a bit more tech-savvy than "normal."

If you're a soldier and don't keep your weapon clean and loaded and go into battle, you won't have good news. The same applies to the "battle" on the online front.

Get to know your computer. Keep it clean. Don't spill coffee or water on it. Don't eat over it, dropping crumbs on the keyboard. Don't hit or kick it. Ensure space around its fans for cooling.

Get to know your operating system, whatever it is. How do you back up files? Is your hard drive full? How can you clean it? How to protect yourself from viruses? How to connect Bluetooth devices?

Get to know the software products you use and will need to use. What office suite do you have and how to use it most effectively? What online applications do you need to work with, and what are the access details for them?

Delve into security. Learn how to protect your computer and key online profiles from breaches. Store your passwords securely, preferably using a password manager. Use complex passwords, different for each application. This is where the password manager helps. Enable two-factor authentication if not for all, at least for key accounts like Gmail, Dropbox, Facebook, and similar.

As they say:
"A good samurai is known by how he cares for his sword."

Lesson #6: Just because you're far away doesn't mean you don't have problems

When working remotely, there's a "softened communication" effect. The boss or client is not right next to you, not yelling at you, not getting angry. You receive emails and messages, but they don't have the same strong effect as someone chewing you out in person.

This effect is somewhat pleasant and reduces stress, but on the other hand, it can mislead us. There are tasks and problems whose importance and urgency we can underestimate because we learn about them through "non-yelling" channels.

Therefore, pay attention to online communication. It's not an "unreal" world, just not banging on your desk. However, if you ignore your messages (because you can turn off notifications, for example), the real problem will hit you just as hard.

To put it metaphorically, when we cover ourselves with a blanket, the killer won’t say:
"Oh, this one is covered, I won't kill him."

Lesson #7: Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand

Most people don't like working in an office, but it's actually much easier than working from home. The office has rules – when to come, when to leave, how to dress, which room to do what, when to complete each task, etc. Someone else has already figured out and set everything for you. It's annoying but – in most cases – quite easy to follow.

When you work from home, you have absolute freedom, but also absolute responsibility to mobilize yourself, get the job done, take care of your health, and manage your time efficiently.

If you're at one extreme, you end up sleeping, visiting the fridge, watching movies, and lounging around. And deadlines loom heavier over your head.

At the other extreme, you work to exhaustion for 18 hours a day, forget to eat and go to the bathroom, respond to emails at 3 a.m.

As much as I hate to say it, the ideal option is to set yourself "working hours." Divide your day into blocks, as if you are really going to work in an office. Set time for work, rest, meals, and exercise. Don't mix them and focus on one activity at a time.

I'm sure there are many more than 7 things we can learn from remote work. I would love to hear your impressions, lessons, and how you tackle the challenges of the home office.