Working from Home and Walking to Work: Surviving Remote Work

There’s a commercial that I’ve seen in the last few months on TV where the announcer is singing the praises of a lady who rides her bike to work, “…which is impressive, because she works from home.” While it’s true that it seems a little nuts to leave your house to go to your house, there’s actually some incredible wisdom in this simple practice. Working from home is a privilege and an expression of trust from our employers, even if we’re self-employed, and you need to be equipped to find a good cadence to your day.

Awake, Alert and Ready to Go

The first month that I started working from home I thought I had it made. I was sliding out of bed pretty much straight into my chair and starting my work day with the sludge still on my teeth, sipping on coffee and trying to make sense of the emails I was catching up on through my half-closed eyes. I’d usually wait until lunch to shower and I rarely did my hair.

Now, this was all kinds of bad for many reasons, especially because I wasn’t able to get any of my schtuff done, but it also meant that days were always a real slow build up. Rather than hitting the keyboard running with trumpets and sirens and “Hells, ya!”, it was more like a pitiful crawl being cheered on by a fourth-grader playing a sad kazoo.

So, I started walking to work. And I love it. I say goodbye to my kids and give my wife a smootch. I leave via the front or side door, head North and do a loop through my neighbourhood. I will usually read a few emails, catch up some news and listen to music as I walk, but often I stop to talk to folks who live in my community too. As I finish my walk, I enter the house through the back door, and I’m officially at work.

I am engaged, trumpets blaring, as I start hacking.

When I finish my work day, I leave through the back door, and head South, doing another loop, but usually on a different route. If it’s a busy evening, it can be as short as a block or two. I come in through the front or side door that I exited through in the AM and I’m back home.

Separation of Work Space and Home Space

This practice really helps me to keep the work stuff at work and the home stuff at home. There are a few other physical boundaries that I keep in place, but really, the walk at the start of the day and the end of the day are just a great way to get energized, tune in my focus on the way to my office and leave work behind when I’ve signed out for the evening.

Those other physical boundaries? I work in my office, I have a space set aside in my home where work stays. It is a very rare occasion when I bring my laptop out of my office to work elsewhere in my home.  I don’t keep a house phone in my office, and I don’t take my VOIP gear out into my home.  My wife and I don’t talk much through the day, if at all, except occasionally via Skype chat. In my new office (we’re in the process of renovating right now) I’m installing extra sound-proofing so that the noises of the home enter my work space even less than they do today.

Of course, there are some exceptions. At lunchtime, I just walk upstairs to have lunch with my bride, I don’t do the walk from-and-to work again. And if she is otherwise predisposed throughout the day, I’ll take the home phone with me as I head down to the office (our son has Type 1 Diabetes, and our house phone is the emergency contact number). And with kids missing school busses and meetings starting promptly in the AM or running late at the end of the day, I don’t always get my walk in. But I covet the days I do.

Find Your Own Survival Technique

The walking works for me, but it may not for you and I understand it’s not for everybody.  It really doesn’t have to be a walk, but as a remote worker I have found success in having a way to start my work cleanly and to be able to literally walk away from my job at the end of the day.

This is really a matter of figuring out how to not only survive the opportunity you have to work from home, but to find success in it. So figure it out! What is it for you that helps you train in on your work day? What is it that helps you disconnect as the evening begins?