I’ve now been working from home for more than six years. Usually when someone asks me where I work and I say “at home”, it’s met with varying degrees of either envy or amazement. “I wish I could work from home – that would be great”, or, “I could never work from home, I’d be too easily distracted” … and just about everything in-between.
For most people there’s an adjustment period when you work from home where discipline is a little more challenging to attain – though the corollary to that is you can extend your hours more easily given the lack of a commute and make up for any discipline issues.
Over time though, as the months and years stretch on, the issue ceases to be discipline and becomes socialisation. That was actually a harder lesson to learn. And there’s two distinct aspects of it.
The easier aspect to grasp is the simple fact that you need to make sure you get out and socialise regularly. Go to the pub, or out to dinner and lunch and breakfast and so on with friends. Spend some time with your partner or partners or family or friends hanging out and enjoying each others company.
There’s another aspect though which is not as obvious: you need to make sure you socialise at home, too.
Every study about working from home will tell you how important it is to have a dedicated work area. This was brutally rammed home to me last year when the house we rented when we first moved to Melbourne didn’t have enough space for that work area. I worked out of my bedroom due to a lack of office space, and after even just a few weeks of it, it wore on me – after months, it was physically painful.
It’s not just a case of having a dedicated work area though – you still move throughout your house on a daily basis when you work from home. You may have a dedicated office room with a dedicated desk, and all your files kept in that room, but you still have to use the bathroom, you still have to use the kitchen, and so forth.
You don’t just work from a home office, you work from home, after all.
And if you’re not careful, you’ll resent your home. Therein is the second lesson: to socialise at home. To avoid resenting your home – to be able to happily work in your home, you need to have happy memories in your home. You need to have friends over for dinner, or parties, or drinks, or movies, or however it is you socialise.
You need to socialise at home so you have strong happy memories of home. Don’t forget to do that.
It’s another reason why moving to Melbourne was such an important change for us – the increased options for at-home socialisation relieves the pressure of working from home, making it something again to be envied.