Do you get stuck in rush hour traffic on your commute to your home office? Sometimes a commute to work of 20 feet can be a longer, harder road to travel than a commute of 20 miles. Veteran work from homers (WFHers) know that working from home is much more difficult than it looks and comes with a whole different set of challenges than working in a traditional office. It’s easy to get lulled into the casualness of working from home and the mindset of – Oh, I can do that anytime now that I’m working from home.
The rush hour commute to your home office may look a little like this:
- More Dishes. When you drove to work to a traditional office, you may have opted to grab breakfast on the road and likewise lunch, limiting the number of kitchen utensils you used at home during the week. Now that there are more people at home, the quantity of dishes and utensils used on a daily basis has multiplied. You like to keep things clean and orderly, so it’s difficult to get to your home office desk, without first stopping to do the dishes.
- Since you’re now home almost 24/7, what used to be your regular weekend chores have begun spilling over into the work week, so that Monday morning, you’re greeted by the laundry and a burning need to declutter the piles.
- Clingy/Needy Pets. While your dogs may have been accustomed to being home alone when you worked outside of the home, now that you are working from home, they stick to you like glue. You now have more flexibility to take your furry four-legged babies for a walk and you feel guilty about just filling their basins with food and water. Their little furry faces can stop you dead in your tracks on your commute to your home office.
- Competition to Use the Bathroom. Back when you drove to work to an office building, you woke up on a schedule, so competing for the bathroom was not an issue. Now that you’re working from home, there’s a little mini rat race for the facilities.
- Working from home provides an opportunity for homeschooling that did not exist with a traditional office commute working outside the home. Some people prefer homeschooling and some may have had homeschooling thrust upon them due to COVID-19. Either way, it is necessary to allow the time to help the kids get ready for school, either outside the home or inside the home.
Many people are glad to say goodbye to the former rigid structure that exists when working in a traditional office, but let’s face it, that rigid structure did serve a purpose. We were able to get both things accomplished, our work and maintaining our home. The current challenge working from homers face is to replace that old structure with a new kind of hybrid structure that works in a better work-life balance. The new structure must work not only for getting your work done, but for yourself and your family. Here are some ideas you can use to minimize that onerous 20-foot commute to your home office:
- Set a Healthy, Accountability Trap for Yourself – One way to force a consistent time to start work each day is to schedule an early morning call with a coworker or group of coworkers. Another variation on that theme if you want to walk the fur babies or exercise before starting work, is to set a time to meet a friend or neighbor to walk your dogs before starting work. This way, even if you find yourself slipping time deadlines that you set for yourself, most people will adhere to a schedule when it involves other people. Once you’ve started the day or a task, it is so much easier to keep that momentum going than to give birth to it. When you’re in the groove, you won’t want to break stride. Getting in the groove means first, getting started.
- Make Chores Fun. Who likes sweeping floors, folding laundry or washing dishes? There are probably people out there who consider getting chores done some type of therapy, the same way some people enjoy digging in the dirt to nurture their vegetable garden. If you are not one of those people, here’s an idea. Give the kids and yourself specific chores to do at the same time or together, then, when completed at a certain time, give yourselves a reward such as a tasty treat or a trip to the park. You can preempt your obstacles by making this type of plan for each. Working from home is still work, not a walk in the park. However, you can reward yourself by giving yourself a walk in the park upon completing certain chores. Staying cooped up in the house 24/7 is not healthy, but a work first, play later work ethic can help maintain a harmonious work-life balance.
- Make School and Work More Fun. Apply the same idea if your kids are homeschooling and you are working from home. When kids get their school work done while you are working, give yourselves a reward based on results of completing certain tasks.
- Be Strategic with Your Time. By planning meals ahead of time, batching the cooking, and freezing meals in advance, you can eat healthy, save time, and cut down on the dishes. I work with a lady who tells me how much money she saves on food by planning the shopping, then planning the meal preparation. She saves time during the week so that she has less stress and more time to work and earn money by simply taking out meals from the freezer. Even things like lettuce and fresh produce can be prewashed to save time during the work week.
- Fight Procrastination. The first step in the anti-procrastination plan is awareness. By being aware that it is common to face these challenges, and it’s not just you, that awareness is a gateway to change and the first step to creating your new hybrid structure that works for you, your work, and your family. It is possible to earn the same amount of money or more working from home and to strike a healthy work-life balance. Perhaps your structure only needs a few tweaks, or maybe it needs a full overhaul. Either is possible and starts with an assessment of where you are.
Holding a vision of the ancient Greek principle of balance is a worthy ideal for life in general, and working from home can be a key component of how that ideal can become a reality. When your sojourn to your home office starts to look more like the old days of road rage and stalled out traffic, remember that you are not alone in your work from home challenges. Each of us has our set of goals and circumstances. However, there are resources that can help. The most important is your mind. Working from home looks easy, but in many ways, it’s more difficult than driving to an office. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” May the 20 feet of travel to your home office be a joyful, effortless commute.