I'm a textbook extrovert. I leave social gatherings recharged and full of energy, but a day at home alone leaves me drained and exhausted. Yet I've been working remotely for most of the last decade, which goes against the fiber of my being. How do I survive working from home without losing my marbles? I've gathered some tips over the years that might help if you find yourself in my situation.
Prepare to work at home
Every remote worker is different, as I've discovered from speaking with my colleagues around the world. Some of us need a bit of a push to focus at home where there are so many distractions. Others need reminders to stop working and find a work-life balance. I tend to fall into the former camp, but if I don't build some kind of distraction into my day, I'll lose my mind. The key is finding the right kind of distraction: one that buoys your spirits without taking too much time away from work.
Regardless of your work style, a schedule is extremely helpful. Having a set time to work, a set time to socialize, and a set time to put aside work for the day can help both unfocused and too-focused remote workers.
I know the internet loves to joke about the joy of working in your pajamas (or less), but I don't recommend it. Get up and get showered and dressed every day. Yes, you can certainly dress a bit more comfortably/casually than you would in an office, but getting yourself presentable every day goes a long way towards preparing yourself mentally for work.
Your physical space is important; you need to have a workspace that works for you. Whether you need a desk with multiple monitors, a treadmill desk, a comfy couch and lap desk, or some combination of spaces, it's got to suit you and the work that you do. It may take some experimenting to find what works for you. But getting your workspace right is essential to being able to work from home happily.
It's likely your office has some system in place for work chat. Yes, it's primarily for work communications, but it's also the modern/remote version of the water cooler. It's an opportunity to get to know your co-workers and socialize with them. You don't want to go overboard, of course, socializing all day, but if you'd normally spend a few minutes a few times a day at the IRL water cooler, why not do the same in work chat?
While getting out of the house is ideal, it's not always feasible. Explore your outside-of-work interests online with an online community such as Reddit. There is literally a group or groups for any interest you can imagine, and so very much more. I've fallen down the Reddit rabbit hole more than once (after work hours of course!)
Take an online class or two. Whether you want to further your career, explore a change in career, or just delve into personal interests, there is a wealth of online learning to be had. Coursera, edX, and Khan Academy are good resources to check out.
While I'm not a gamer myself, many of my colleagues are. Getting involved in an online gaming community is a great way to get social without leaving the house. Discord is a popular voice and text chat service for gamers. It's secure, free, and works on just about any device.
Call your mother. Seriously, your long-distance loved ones, whether friends or family, would love a phone call, FaceTime, or Skype call from you. I have a standing "phone date" with my mom every week in addition to our more regular emails and texts.
Now get out and do something
If at all possible, seriously, make it a priority to get out of the house every day. Do you have a dog that needs walking rain or shine? Do you have beautiful nature or an urban landscape to explore? Go for a walk, every workday if you can. If the weather is less than ideal where you live, join a gym, or check to see if your local mall opens early for "mall-walkers." Even if you're just running errands, going outside and getting some fresh air and talking to human beings is helpful.
Tend your real-life relationships. Make time to reach out and meet a friend for a cup of coffee, lunch, workout, stroll, shopping session, happy hour, sporting event, or whatever you and your friends like to do. If you have friends that work remotely, perhaps you can work together sometimes, whether you work for the same company or not. My spouse also works partly at home, and we love to travel. Sometimes we take long working "vacations" with our laptops, just for a change of scenery. Put some time and effort into those existing relationships, as they are more valuable than ever for remote workers lacking office mates.
Make new contacts and friends. Meetup is helpful for finding local groups to join. You'll find groups of every flavor and interest, including remote worker groups. Perhaps you can make new acquaintances, meet up for lunch, coffee, or co-working. Meetup is also a way to explore your non-work interests for after-hours activities, whether it's indie films or ultimate frisbee, or just about anything you can imagine.
Be an integral part of your community. Do volunteer work, whether it's joining an organization you believe in, or shoveling snow from a neighbor's sidewalk. If you have a religious affiliation, consider getting involved at a house of worship or religious group. Join something, such as a band, a sports league, a women's group, a men's group, or a club. If you have kids, volunteer at their school and/or help with their extra-curricular teams. Anything that anchors you and helps you feel a sense of belonging where you live will be helpful.
If time permits, get yourself a side hustle that feeds your extrovert soul. In addition to my work at iMore, I have two separate after-school teaching jobs which I love. If you can't commit to a second job, think about more short-term gigs. I work as a movie extra occasionally, when I have the opportunity.
Be kind to yourself
Self-care is more important than ever. Be excellent to yourself. Take the time to indulge in life's luxuries that make you feel good. Take good care of your health, both physical and mental. Fuel your body with regular and nourishing meals. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Stay hydrated. Exercise daily. And be patient with yourself: if you're new to working remotely, it may take some time to get into the groove and find the balance that works best for you.
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