Marisa: Working From Home
We won't always know all the answers or have the right advice for the different situations you all face in your respective careers. So we're turning to our network of friends and mentors to share their stories with you. We hope you enjoy our first guest writer's post on what it's really like to work from home full-time and how she makes it work for her. If you'd like to write for AtHerDesk, we'd love to hear from you!
When asked where I work, I am always met with the same response – eyes widen, mouth opens, an audible gasp followed by “You’re so lucky!” And yes, being trusted to work remotely from home is an honor and certainly has its appeal. But it is also challenging and has a steep learning curve.
After two and a half years of living and working on-site in Boston, I decided that I wanted to make the move to New York to be closer to friends and family. Upon breaking this news to my boss, I was presented with a unique opportunity – keep the job, just change the location. The reason for this was twofold: I was in the midst of developing a new Data Visualization department at the agency and he did not want momentum to be lost; and over the previous 2+ years I had built and earned trust, done my job well, and made myself invaluable. Not wanting to uproot every aspect of my life all at once, I accepted this offer (admittedly, somewhat reluctantly).
A month later I moved to Brooklyn, put together an IKEA desk in my tiny bedroom, and got to work. The first few months were tough. I was accustomed to working in an office space with coworkers who were my friends and Sonos speakers that were blaring. Now I was in a new city, in a small room, by myself.
Fast forward two years and it’s a pretty different scene. I live in a two-bedroom apartment now, so I don’t sleep and work in the same room. I have the occasional case of FOMO, but I don’t get lonely working alone. And, well, it’s been two years so I feel at home.
Below I’ve compiled some advice I would give to anyone that works remotely, or anyone who may be considering it.
MAKE A DEDICATED WORKSPACE
Right now, I have the luxury of a home office with two windows and an actual door. But even if your home doesn’t allow that, you should create a space that is your “office” – whether it be a desk in a corner or a stack of cardboard boxes. It’s tempting to work from the couch or your bed, but trust me that gets old very quickly and it starts to take a toll on self-esteem.
CREATE A ROUTINE
With the exception of the 20-minute commute to work, I have maintained my morning routine. I wake up at the same time, feed my cat, brush my teeth, wash my face, and get dressed. Then, I drink coffee and eat a yogurt at my desk while I catch up on the news and social media. This worked for me when I worked in an office, so I think it’s important to maintain. It also prevents me from rolling out of bed at 9am and starting my day groggy and rushed.
I mentioned it above but it’s crucial to repeat – get dressed! I’m not crazy, I don’t put a suit on for no one to see. But throwing on athleisure, at a minimum, triggers you to feel productive, and neighbors won’t think you’re the lowlife who wears the same set of pajamas all day every day.
FIND A WAY TO BE SOCIAL / FIND A HOBBY
There’s appeal in being a homebody, and literally never leaving your apartment. But if you’re like me and are paying rent to live in an exciting city, you owe it to yourself to get out. For me, the perfect solution was joining ClassPass. I get to explore different areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, meet new people or bring old friends along, all while getting into shape. If exercise isn’t your thing, Coursehorse offers plenty of class options that range from crafting to cooking, and Meetup is a great place to network with likeminded people about sports, business, pets, and anything imaginable.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR COWORKERS
I would argue that this is the most important piece of advice. You will inevitably feel out of the loop, so make sure that feeling doesn’t become a reality. Stay on top of whatever messaging system your company uses, in my case it’s Slack. To stay in touch with the team as a whole, I send along articles I think are interesting or funny and I contribute to the giphy wars that occur at least weekly. I also make trips up to Boston monthly to see everyone face-to-face and grab beers at the local bar to catch up on a personal level. To stay in the loop about projects that I’m on or changes that are happening within the company, I make sure I have someone in the office who will always remember to dial me into calls. Which brings me to my final piece of advice…
BUILD A CLOSE WORKWIFE RELATIONSHIP!
Even though we don’t work together anymore, my closest workwife, Pip, made my first couple of years of working remotely worlds better. I could always count on her to catch me up to speed on what’s been happening at the office, and we would constantly lean on each other for professional and personal advice. Our relationship turned into an after work best-friendship, which I’m very grateful for but I do realize that’s not always the case. If you don’t currently have someone in the office that you can lean on, start by taking people out for coffee or drinks after work when you’re on-site. Get out of the office and get to know your co-workers on a personal level. It’s smart to be careful about what you say if that trust isn’t built yet, but eventually you’ll find someone that experiences the same frustrations and moments of joy that you do, and you’ll both benefit from it.
If you have any questions at all, feel free to post in the comments below.
Insight Visualization Manager at Inspired Insight (A full-service research and insight agency based in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood)