In my ten-year-long career, one of the questions that I’ve been asked the most is, “How can you hate working from home?” followed by a perplexed frown. It’s quite valid actually; on the surface, you have someone saying that she hates the flexible working hours, the comfort of attending meetings straight from bed, not dealing with traffic, and essentially being able to go an entire week without having to dress up! It’s bliss… yet I prefer to do the exact opposite of all that.
For me, one of the most important things in my career has been being a part of a team, meeting new people and essentially working together to achieve something. As someone who worked from home, I had to immediately give up on all those water cooler conversations, lunches turning into ideation sessions and getting inspired by meeting new people. I now had a digital team, and of course, it didn’t add up to the same experience.
I feel that the problem for me, and maybe for a lot of you, comes from our expectations from a work from home job. We idolise it, to the extent of glossing over the negatives and making it sound like the ultimate career destination.
Here are some of the things that I had to give up on, and the tough lessons I learned along the way. If you are considering making the shift to a WFH career, this may be the perfect reality check.
1. Sure it’s fun, but where does it end?
One of the biggest problems for me was time management. Having a routine – getting up, rushing to get dressed, calculating traffic delays – help you jumpstart your day. For a work from home career, you need to be supremely motivated to stay on track (I am not using the word supremely loosely here). It’s easy to fall into the “five more minutes” routine where you spend more time than needed, scrolling through your Instagram timeline, or maybe lounging in bed, than actually rushing to start work. Once that is established, there comes the other routine of switching off. When I was working from home, I used to shut my laptop go on to have my lunches and dinners, only to always return to my laptop, and invariably get sucked into work again. It is easy to lose a set sense of time, and turn that work from home into a working forever situation!
Kool Kanya Tip: Stay focused and have a very strict and structured time schedule for yourself. Start a reward system, where every week that you follow the schedule, you give yourself a 10-minute extra break on Friday.
2. Be Prepared To Work Alone
Yes, you will have colleagues digitally, but this is where you need to decide if that works for you in the longer run. If you are a social person, I am, to some extent, you will hate not having colleagues around. You can, of course, head to a coffee shop or a co-working space, but are you willing to spend that amount of money on a daily basis? You will need to change your regular work tendencies of being comfortable around a team, to now going completely digital and relying on emails and phone calls as your primary source of communication. It’s easy and convenient, but only if you are not a social bee who loves her office peeps!
Kool Kanya Tip: Think long and hard about this because meeting people and getting inspired and motivated by them is a huge part of corporate culture. Are you going to be okay with this, two years down the line – ask yourself that question.
3. Finding Motivation Gets Harder Every Week
Sure #MondaysInPajamas are great, but it is easy to lose your motivation unless you are someone who thrives on working solo. Depending on the nature of your work – mine was writing – it gets increasingly comfortable to stay at home and avoid doing adult-y things. This eventually will lead to you resenting the job, missing people but hating the idea of going out; essentially not knowing how to bridge that gap!
Kool Kanya Tip: Get dressed every morning as if you are heading out. Trust me, as much fun as working in your PJs sounds, you need to trick your brain into falling into the routine of finding motivation, and staying focused, every day.
4. Work Space? Bedroom? Same Difference
Again, it is comfortable and easy to simply stay in bed and work from there, rather than sitting at an actual desk, and being a fully functional working adult. I think this was one of my worst mistakes because working from my bedroom meant that my brain stopped disassociating the concept of work and relaxation and I would lie in bed, everyday night, not being able to mentally shut down and sleep. I eventually visited a doctor, got therapy and had to go through a sleeping pill routine just to normalise my routine. For me it was extreme, but then it is easy to reach here.
Kool Kanya Tip: Always, ALWAYS have a separate work area. In could be a small corner in your studio apartment, but it has to be there.
The bottom line is, you know yourself best, so before you make that plunge, sit down and think hard about all the pros that come with this routine, and how it affects you. A good idea would be to try it out for three months before making a longer commitment.