“Everything people say about working from home is a lie”
The pitfalls and pleasures of homeworking
I’m writing this in my pyjamas and my bobbled green ‘house cardigan’, with mad hair and no make-up, wearing my tragic spare pair of glasses that make me look strangely scientist-like (but not in a good way) and I have just had a conversation with the cat, to which its response was “…………” .
I ate a chunk of cheese for breakfast, because that’s all there was in the fridge, and I’m on a deadline; and I really need some ideas, but I’ve got no-one to brainstorm with because I tried it with the cat and its response was “…………”. This is what working from home looks like.
Some people think working from home is the dream. No more commuting, no more colleagues, no more outfit crises, no more hangovers on the bus that require the urgent application of a Greggs’ pasty, a Lucozade and a kilo of Benetint. Working from home seems like a sign that you’ve reached a senior level at your job where you can be trusted to peg away at projects instead of lounging in bed til noon, binge-watching Kimmy Schmidt, and starting the cocktail hour at 5pm. People imagine that working from home involves lovely lunches at cafes with friends, endless museum trips, epic time slips spent sunbathing in the park, and never falling behind with your laundry.
But it’s not true; it is all a lie. Nobody looks like Carrie from SATC did, elegantly tapping away at a laptop in a tulle ball gown and a skimpy vest (or WHATEVER), because working from home is nothing like it looks on TV or in magazines. I did go to the V&A last week in a spare afternoon, but it was for research purposes and because I was desperate for human contact and the far-too familiar walls of my house were closing in; my washing machine is broken; and all my friends are at work. I’m just working. I’m working from home.
I got sent a – possibly not very scientific – online quiz last week that determines if you are psychologically suitable to working from home, but as one who has been doing it on and off for the past decade, let me tell you NO-ONE is suited to it, because it’s a bit weird and quite hard. But if you really want to do it, you can get used to it and there are ways of doing it better. Probably.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
An artist former-flatmate of mine taught me that forcing yourself out of your pit and getting to work at the same (reasonably early) time every day is the key to successful autonomous working. At first you will grapple with the concept that you are doing this, even though you don’t have to and when no-one will know, but then you’ll see that it helps to maintain a similar-ish rhythm to the rest of the world. I get up at 8am and am at my desk by 9am everyday (in my PJs; I use my break to get dressed).
FIND A PROPER WORKSPACE
There is no agony such as that brought on by sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day, surrounded by chaos. You need a proper desk and back-supporting chair and ideally a specially-devoted place free of the detritus of life where you can close the door and get your head down. Yes, occasionally you might want to float about and sit on the sofa or work propped up in bed (see: hangovers) but you really need a desk.
MAKE SURE YOU MOVE
Contrary to the established idea that WFH is a right doss, I always end up getting a lot more done at home, than in the workplace, but I also forget to move about as you would commuting/skulking around an office and end up hunched up and stiff. I try to celebrate the end of the working day by going for a walk or a run (summer) or doing online yoga (winter).
MAKE IT FUN
I started out on my WFH journey like most people do, with bright eyes and noble intentions that I’d go to an exhibition once a week! Run in the park every day! Write a novel in the hours I saved not being in meetings! Get dressed! Ha ha ha. No. What I do do is spend a lot of time desperately hammering away at my laptop and going to the corner shop just to be able to speak to another human being. But I still try to do some of the above whenever I can, otherwise what is the point?