Our very own Executive Recruiter, Stephanie Martin, is no stranger to the Work from Home Life. She is here with a list of 8 things she’s learned while working from home previously in her career that will help you with expectations vs. reality.
A few years ago, I was presented with a job opportunity that included working remotely (AKA: from home), which is a situation that many 100% in-office employees dream of. More than excited to experience the work-from-home life myself, I took the position without hesitation. I could work from my house, with no shoes on, sitting next to my dog, AND have my fridge full of good food without the threat of someone stealing my lunch? Deal.
There are a lot of things I expected about working from home, and some that I didn’t. Regardless, my time spent working remotely was filled with valuable lessons that I think we can all benefit from as many positions around the globe become remote for the time being.
1. Unless you have a seriously amazing setup, it’s not the same
Like many people who work in an office nowadays, I had grown accustomed to two monitors, a headset for my phone, and a separate keyboard. Oh, and an abundance of power outlets.
Overall, my home setup was alright. I didn’t have the right cords to connect the extra monitor at my house to my laptop, so I was limited to one screen. Despite my large desk from IKEA, I didn’t have enough room to use an external keyboard, so I was restricted to using the keyboard on my laptop. I’m a little bit of a princess when it comes to my keyboard experience, so I wasn’t crazy about that situation. My house is older and doesn’t have many outlets, so my feet were always tangled in the power strips I had to plug in to have my full setup up and running all the time. I was never really in a good ‘groove’. If I could go back in time, I would have invested a bit more cash into my home office and made things more comfortable for myself from the start.
2. Your dog doesn’t miss you, he just sleeps all day
I was very excited to be home working all day with my 75lb. Goldendoodle, Watson, all day long. To be able to have him roam all day outside of his crate, to allow him unlimited bathroom breaks, and to give him the best dog life he could have dreamed of, all sounded like a dream come true – for both of us!
What really happened: Watson slept most of the day. When he was awake, sometimes he would be a comforting presence in an otherwise empty house, and other times he would bark at squirrels outside while I was on client calls.
Moral of the story: your dog really doesn’t want you to work from home. He just wants some alone time without you trying to get dog selfies with him using the dog-face snapchat filter or forcing him to cuddle with you.
3. You can go from the independent friend to the needy friend in the blink of an eye
Time goes by really slow when you’re at home and you don’t have the occasional distraction that being in an office brings. The casual goings-on in an office, like a coworker showing you a funny video, catching up on crazy weekend stories while you’re making coffee, or even the random conversations you have while walking back to your desk from the printer, are little moments that make each day different from the next.
When I worked at home, I remember sending out texts to my friends and then thinking “why haven’t they texted me back yet? It’s been awhile”, to only realize that it has been only 4 minutes since I’d hit ‘send’.
Without the occasional distraction or merely the dull roar of other humans being around you on the phone, things can feel very cave-like if you don’t take breaks to combat those feelings. Make time to go for a quick walk outside, call your grandma, or dust the ceiling fans in your house (because let’s face it- when was the last time you did that?!).
4. Most people can’t wait to get home from work and relax, while you want to do the opposite
When you’re working from home, 5pm is the signal that you can get out of our house. When you’re working in an office, 5pm is the signal that you can get in your casual clothes and be home. See how that can get really frustrating? It brings me back to when my dad traveled a ton for work when I was growing up. As soon as he came home, my mom and I would want to celebrate by going out to dinner with him. Like the good dad/husband he was, he would go, but not without mentioning all he really wanted to do was eat a home-cooked meal and sit on the couch. We didn’t really understand this at the time, but now I do.
Working from home, I’d be home all day long waiting for the chance to bust out of my cage! Why didn’t my roommates want to go out to happy hour on a Monday?! These are the things that you really don’t understand until you take a step back and assess the situation. Luckily, there are Facebook and other networking groups out there now that plan outings and group working sessions for people in the same boat. If you are new to the WFH life, check those out. Because waiting for your roommate to get home from work, so you can bombard them with weeknight plans, is their personal hell.
5. You start to critique your home
You know that piece of wall art that you bought at Marshall’s last year that you really loved? Well, after you started walking by it twenty more times a day, now you hate it.
While you sit on conference calls throughout the day pacing throughout your house, you start to notice all the dog toy marks, fingerprints, and miscellaneous marks on the walls. You think to yourself, “how long has it been since these walls have had a fresh coat of paint?”.
These things turn into the “if you give a mouse a cookie” story very quickly. I painted my whole house, then realized the base boards needed fresh white paint, then had to update the wall decor, and then I had to paint some of the furniture to match. The possibilities are endless, so be careful.
6. Taking a lunch break feels like you are committing a crime
You’re at home, so now your ‘lunch break’ can consist of other random things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do during your lunch break from the office. You don’t have to worry about changing back into your business professional attire after a quick gym sesh, there isn’t any sort of commute time to factor in if you were wanting to take care of something at home, and you have the freedom to cook a meal from scratch! You can wash your car, even mow the lawn if you’re feeling like an overachiever.
Whatever you decide to do, you will quickly realize that any time spent away from your computer will feel like you are breaking rules. Am I really allowed to do this? Can I go for a run in my neighborhood without telling my boss? The answer is most likely “yes, you’re allowed” as long as its not illegal and takes no more than an hour’s time. Please don’t cite me if you get in trouble for doing anything weird on your lunch break while you WFH, though.
7. Working from a coffee shop is only cool in theory
Picture this: you’re sitting at a table at Starbucks with your laptop, sipping on a macchiato, looking like the cool, hip, professional that you are. Bumming free WiFi never looked so cool. DJ, stop the music. This isn’t real, this is the romanticized version of working remotely.
Working from a coffee shop only works well in movies and daydreams, where your laptop doesn’t need to be charged and free WiFi ACTUALLY works. Those tiny tables are not only too small to put your laptop on, but they all have a pile of Starbucks straw wrappers shoved under at least one of it’s legs so it doesn’t wobble when you touch it.
Maybe just try it once, when the social distancing rules are lifted, just to say you did it. Trust me, though- once you try it once, you’ll never try again.
8. Instead of scrolling social media while you drink coffee and wake up, you check e-mails
Unfortunately, we live in an era where everyone checks social media as they stand in front of their coffee machines rubbing sleep out of their eyes. It’s the ‘morning routine’ of society as we wake up slowly to start the day. I think most people have a similar routine as we settle in at our desks each day at the office. Walk in, sit down, and scroll through emails as we wake up the little professional inside of ourselves before we pick up the phone and start calling. At home, you combine these two steps. I would start checking/responding to emails as my coffee brewed, and boom – I’d be ahead of my normal day’s work by at least an hour, and that’s before I even brushed my teeth!
Working from home has different positives and negatives. Whether you enjoy it or not, I think depends on the type of job you have, what your personality is, and maybe even if you have a spouse or roommate who also works from home (or doesn’t work at all). For every person, the experience is different, and I don’t think you’ll find someone who is in the middle on their feelings about it – it seems that you either love working from home, or you don’t.
As for me, I lasted about 6 months. It was fun at first, but I started losing my mind (and house projects to take on), and I felt that it was important to make a change before I drove all my friends and family crazy. I was dying to get back to real life and for a reason to put real pants on other than for client meetings. Working from home is its own beast – I’m glad that I have experienced it before and won’t have as aggressive as an adjustment period when I inevitably have to do it again while the U.S. tries to ‘flatten the curve’. Make the best of any chance you get to experience it in these next few months, keep in mind that it won’t be totally perfect when you start out, and don’t be afraid to reach out to coworkers if you need help, or even just to say ‘hi’ – because they probably kinda miss you too.
Follow our Recruiter Blog and Social Media: