Month: April 2016

What to do when people don’t take your remote job seriously

TelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

Chelsea Handler, one of the best comics and women in the game, and all around person I want to hang out with, dished out some advice on Fast Company to a women who works from home. Keisha, a freelance graphic designer who works remotely told Chelsea about some of the struggles she experiences with her lifestyle. Her main one? That her husband doesn’t support her and value her work.

This one is hard but Chelsea pretty much nails it in her own humorous way. There are a lot of nuggets in this under 2:00 minute video (which you should totally watch because, Chelsea Handler) from spatial boundaries, cleanliness, and overall value and self-worth. But there’s one that I find most important, and unfortunately a little disturbing; it also seems unavoidable to those of us who work from home: What to do when others don’t take your work from home job seriously.

Keisha struggles with her work setup because her husband doesn’t take her work seriously because she works from home. She mentions that they make nearly equal salaries but shares that he doesn’t respect her dedicated WFH space and her work.

Chelsea gives some very valid wisdom of, “You can’t look for your appreciation to come from other people.” Which is true. Your appreciation and self-worth need to come from within, but I will say that I struggle with this want for validation (and lack of it) at times.

How many of us teleworkers tell family, friends, or new acquaintances that we work remotely and receive a borderline sarcastic, “Oh that must be nice” accompanied with a smirk or even an eye roll. What is it about working from home that makes everyone who doesn’t do it all the time assume that we’re doing nothing all day? And, since Chelsea is right– self-worth comes from within, why does this bother us (or just me)??

I’ve thought a bit about where this comes from. Along with telecommuting being relatively new and people not always being able to imagine something different from their own experience, I believe it also derives from the fact that for those who work from home intermittently it can be (not always!) a bit of a relaxed day. Again, this isn’t true for everyone but at least early on in my career when employees worked from home it was often code for running errands or doing projects around the house while checking their email and if nothing came up they wouldn’t be expelling all that much energy into their workday.

But when you work from home full-time or even a sizable chunk of your work-life, this doesn’t fly. If you slack off while working from home one day you don’t have a day in the office to make up for it; all your days are at home so you have to be working.

Those of us who work remotely a lot understand that we’re working to our full capacity (oftentimes more effectively and sometimes keeping longer hours than when in an office) but it still can be frustrating to meet someone new and have them assume you sit around watching reruns of Downton Abbey all day, or like Keisha have your spouse not value you and your work.

So how do you get past this?

If you’re a remote worker you have to keep in mind that at the end of the day Chelsea’s right; if someone else doesn’t think you’re actually working, who cares? So long as you, your manager, and your direct sphere of colleagues know that’s what matters. Keep getting it done–at home!–and let people think what they want!

That said, not having spousal support (or support of close friends and family) can be challenging. If you struggle like Keisha what I’ve found to be helpful is to explain a bit about how I structure my day and my time for these people. By sharing that I tend to spend hours a day on calls–just like them–I try t carve out time during the afternoon if possible to write strategy and plans–just like them–and have regular check-ins with my manager and team–just like them–it helps a bit.

If you’re a significant other, friend, or family member of someone who works remotely take them seriously. End of story. This is their job, their livelihood, where and how they spend a significant portion of their life. They don’t think twice (hopefully) about how you manage your work day so don’t think twice about theirs. Oh, and don’t touch the desk.

Have you experienced family and friends not valuing your work because it’s done from home? How have you coped? Share in the comments below!

My secret to staying sane while working from my home all week

Stress ManagementWork From HomeWorking Remotely

When you’re home all day, every day, all week, every week it’s natural to begin to feel a little cooped up. So how do you fight these feelings? How do you remain a sane human, not get completely sick of your space, oh and stay engaged in your work for your company that is affording you the opportunity to be remote?? To answer this it’s important to consider the mindset and experience of the remote worker.

When you don’t got into an office every day there are some inherent social aspects of a job that you miss out on. Sure you can participate in a team fantasy football league and make picks in a March Madness bracket but there are social aspects that you just simply don’t get to be a part of: happy hours, group lunches, decorating a co-worker’s cube for her birthday.

Even if the social piece of your job isn’t all that important to you, the simple act of getting out of your house every day and interacting with other humans is something that you will notice. And if you’re like me and don’t live with a significant other, kids, roommates, or even have a pet, this can particularly take a toll.

It’s easy to fall into the mundane routine of getting up, having breakfast, working, having lunch, working, hitting the gym, having dinner, relaxing, going to bed. Rinse and repeat. Even if you have a roommate, significant other you live with, or even a pet, it’s easy to fall into this trap. It’s easy to fall into this trap if you do go into an office each day.

So how do you avoid getting massive cabin fever and going stir crazy when you spend a significant portion of your life cooped up in your home? What’s my trick?

I get out.

I’m not talking about spending an afternoon or two a week at Starbucks. I do that sometimes but that’s not the real interaction I seek. What I have found to be most effective is to have actual plans during the work week. Like going on a walk or doing a gym class with a friend at night. Or making a point to go out to dinner or drinks or a sporting event.

This isn’t rocket science, I know. But think about how easy it is to fall into that mundane daily cycle. And think about what you want to be doing after a looong day. If you’re anything like me and you crave (and need) down time to recharge and reflect; after a demanding day I love nothing more than curling up with a book or watching TV in peace. Especially after a few hectic days it’s so easy for me to go hermit mode at night; I tell myself I’ll see my friends and interact with the world on the weekend.

But when I started to work remotely this began to back-fire on me. When I was going into the office daily it was nice to come home and spend time alone; essential actually. But after being by myself all day I was ready for–needing really–human interaction. This was a surprising shift. What was more surprising what that it was impacting my work. If I stayed at home every night a given week by Thursday afternoon I would find myself struggling to stay focused. “Powering through” the end of the week turned into “powering through being in my house for another day.” While I still very much need my rest and downtime to reflect on myself and my world, when I’m home all day I very much need to leave home at night. So that’s what I now do.

This simple observation and change has really made all the difference for me. I’m human so when Thursday afternoon rolls around I still begin to taste and crave the weekend but I’m no longer sick of my space. I can stay focused and stay engaged in my work space, which can be half the battle when you’re a remote employee.

What do you do to stay sane from your home office? Share in the comments below!

Why you must get up early even as a WFH employee

TelecommutingTime ManagementWork From HomeWorking Remotely

The other week I was answering some very fair questions from my parents about how my work from home job actually works (“But Janie what do you do all day?”) Since it’s often helpful for people to understand another person’s experience by considering their own reality, at one point my mom began to talk me through her own daily routine. She started and really focused on her morning. She gets up pretty early, pours a cup of coffee (side note: she and my dad have this adorable/practical rule that whoever gets up first makes the first pot of coffee and whoever gets up second makes the bed), walks outside to get the paper then spends 10 minutes reading The Star Ledger (#jersey) at the kitchen table. She noted that she always does a biiiiiig stretch on the patio outside (which I can actually visualize her doing), which may seem like a trivial part of her morning but is actually really important to her. It’s part of how she greets and begins her day: regardless of whether it’s 80 degrees or 20 degrees she does this and it has become part of her ritual.

I’ve always believed that mornings set the tone for the day. And rituals set the tone of our mornings. I studied Anthropology in college and rituals are proven to be vital parts of our lives and cultures. They create comfort and routine and contribute to us feeling like ourselves. A morning ritual can be just as important as a family ritual like hanging Christmas stockings together during the holidays in that if you don’t do it you can feel off.

When you are a remote employee and don’t have children or pets to care for, or a partner getting up early to begin his or her day, it can be incredibly difficult to get up early. If I don’t have a meeting until 9:30 that I don’t have to actively participate in it can be appealing to lay half asleep in bed until 7:30, 8, or even 8:30. But what that does that get me? A little more non-restful sleep. And more importantly it takes time away from my own time.

I don’t have complex AM routines. Sometimes I workout but more times than not I let myself wake up leisurely: I make coffee, open the front door to see what the weather is like, sometimes I make a big breakfast but a lot of times I sit down and turn on the news or draft a blog post while having my morning coffee. Since I am so acutely aware of ensuring my 9-5 work-time is dedicated to work this is some of the only time really set aside for me when I’m motivated and ready to take on the day. I really like to enjoy it because it’s allllll mine. Only after easing myself into my day with my rituals do I feel ready to tackle what’s ahead.

When you head into an office you might have anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of time to yourself as you get ready and commute. Yes many people have to get kids ready and drop them off; but hopefully they carve out a a small moment to themselves, even if it’s a slow deep breath before leaving their car or getting off the train. As a remote employee it’s critical to give yourself even this time for a deep breath before you start your day.

What’s your morning ritual? Do you need to get your gym-time in? Read or watch the news? Share below!

The Skinny on Not Over Eating While Working Remotely

EatsTelecommutingWork From HomeWorking Remotely

Believe it or not this is one of the number one things people ask me about when they learn I work from home full-time. And it’s fair, in my experience working remotely can very easily lead to overeating: you’re near your kitchen and often alone, two things that with limited impulse control can lead to eating, well, a lot.

So is this hard?

In a word: yes. I have definitely observed fluctuations in my weight based on where work.

So how to deal?

I have personally found 5 things that really help:

1. Planning: Meal planning has always been a tactic for staying trim, and I think it is key for working remotely. No, you don’t need to plot out your whole week on Sunday (you can! I just don’t…) but I find it’s helpful to have and idea of what you’ll eat and when. I like to have an idea of what my breakfast, lunch, and 1-2 snacks will be all week and when I think I might want to eat each. To help with this I usually do one big shopping trip on Sunday. Generally speaking it’s not too different from meal planning when you go into a company: since I cook just for one (me!) I often prepare a larger meal I often make that at night and have leftovers for lunch. The main difference and why planning is so key is since it helps avoid making impulsive food decisions. If I find myself getting hungry at 11 am I can decide to maybe have an early lunch, wait until lunch, or opt to have one of my snacks.

2. Small meals: Another strategy of healthy eating in general: smaller, more frequent meals. But to be honest, my driving force isn’t to constantly keep my metabolism running (though yes, that’s a perk), it’s because when I work from home I find myself grazing. Rather than working against this tendency I’ve begun to work with it and make it work for me. I  try to eat smaller breakfasts and lunches, say, maybe 1 egg versus 2, which means I can have that second egg as an afternoon snack.

3. Breaks: I like to take an afternoon tea break (or 2 if it’s a long day, or generally any Monday). Maybe it’s my English background but a cup of breakfast tea with a little bit of almond milk and sugar goes a long way for me. I try to have a cup in the afternoon when I first start to sense myself getting hungry after lunch. Then if I am still wanting (spoiler: I almost always am) I have a snack.

4. Leave your space. I know it’s not possible all the time but when it is the benefits of leaving your house and going on a short walk are huge. The change of scenery helps mentally, offers a break, vitamin D, but also I find that if I’m in the mood for mindless eating by the time I am back I no longer am searching my kitchen for a snack.

5. Get creative! Okay that exclamation point was a little obnoxious. Anyway, I’ve never been the greatest cook. But it’s fun to look for and try new, easy recipes. It’s been especial enjoyable to try new recipes that are tasty, healthy, and easy to make while I’m working from the house. Below are a few pictures of what I’ve been cooking up!

IMG_1864
These are taco seasoned lentils over a baked sweet potato with cheese, topped with a fried egg. Per my Snapchat note, I prefer black beans to lentils with a sweet potato but this was still a really tasty dish!

Working from home can seriously pack on the lbs if you’re not careful. What do you do? Any favorite recipes to make during the day?