Some things they don’t tell you about working from home: Separation and Balance

The gig economy is in full swing, my fellow millennials continue to value self care over the big fancy mega-salary career – and it seems like every day there is a new company touting their “remote work” benefit for their employees in an effort to keep up with the demand of our generation. But remote work has challenges.

Whether you’re an employee working from home (part-time or full-time), a freelancer, or a startup business owner – you’ve probably encountered a few little hiccups as you transition into your home office. Let me reassure you, just in case you thought these hiccups were unique to you – they’re not. Going from an office filled with employees straight into that isolation of the home office is a fucking hard transition.

Let me tell you a shitty remote work story.

I worked at a company in 2015/2016 that gave us Fridays to work from home. And in addition to that, they were incredibly lenient in letting us work from home as-needed. On average, I worked from my home office once a week. Boy did I feel like a god damn superhero. My productivity was through the roof. In fact, I was promoted multiple times because of this. I could sometimes grind out more work in that one day at home than I could during three good work days in the office. For me, being away from the distractions of people at work was what ended up directly yielding that increase in own productivity.

I quit this job at the beginning of 2017 to found my company, Polymath. This is when things got a little weird. I was running Polymath from home full time. At first, I was so fuckin’ productive. Like, I’m talking hacker-montage, The Social Network, Silicon Valley, all-nighter productive. I was riding that “no more employer high”. I was making dope software by day, playin games by night. It was great.

After a month of doing this, the days started blending together though. I started getting anxious, and a little depressed. I’m naturally anxious, but I’m usually pretty upbeat – so this was all pretty new for me. It turns out – it’s bad for your mental health to live and work in the same place. And thank god I had a great therapist coaching me through the transition of starting my business. She identified this quickly for me. And that’s when I became pretty focused on optimizing my home and office to create a separation of work and life.

Your Workspace Needs to be Completely Separate From Your Fun Space.

The moral of the tragic story above? Separate your workspace entirely from your fun space. Both physically and mentally. Let me explain.

Our stupid human brains make subconscious associations with things that we are barely aware of. When to relax, and when to go into “work mode” are two of those things.

If your goal is to work from your home office, then you very likely need an actual home office. I’m talking a room, a loft, or a nook, that you only go to when it is work time. Ideally someplace completely separate from the rest of your home and the enjoyable things within it.

But I don’t stop there. And I’d suggest you don’t either. Because the mental separation is just as important. In my story above, it is worth mentioning – I had a separate office. A damn nice one too (not to toot my own horn). But you know what I didn’t have? A fucking morning routine. Do you know how tempting it can be to not shower when you work from home? Spoiler Alert: Really tempting.

I often get goofed on by my peers, because my morning routine for working from home includes the following:

  • Waking up to an alarm at 8:30am, and immediately taking a shower as if I need to be someplace other than the next room over.
  • Getting fully dressed, in clean clothes as if I’m going to the office.
  • Putting on shoes (I’ll talk about this in a second – it’s very important)
  • Making breakfast and coffee, and enjoying it outside of my office setting.

So why do all of this? Simple answer. I’m creating a separation mentally between work and comfort. When I am fully clothed, with my shoes on, sitting in my home office – my brain knows I am in “work” mode. This routine is the same routine I kept when I worked from an office.

And when I want to relax? Yeah you guessed it. Shoes off, on the couch or in an environment that my brain can physically separate from my work responsibilities.

This idea of separation of work and relaxation is very important.

Keeping work and relaxation separate is going to be by far the hardest part of your transition. And it manifests differently for everyone. Some of us don’t know when to stop working. Some of us get distracted by TV or video games during the day when we should be working. Some of us just straight up suck at time management. And there are articles all over the internet claiming to have some magic solution for all of this. But the reality is, these habits and these routines are going to be unique to the individual. My solution may not work for you, but I hope it can at least give you a starting point to understand your own brain, and work towards your own solution.

tl;dr – There is a lot that goes into making your work-from-home life a healthy one.

I could talk for hours about tailoring your workspace in ways that keep you mentally engaged, and support good work habits. But for now, let’s leave it here. Take some homework with you this week. Identify your relaxation habits that you are bringing into your home work environment, and try to start a habit of keeping them separate. And hey, shoot me a tweet or DM and let me know how it works out for you.

Next week, I’ll be talking about tailoring your home office to meet the needs of your work habits, and why that’s so important.

Have anything to add? Throw a comment below.

3 Responses to “Some things they don’t tell you about working from home: Separation and Balance

  • AffiliateLabz
    2 years ago

    Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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