I started working from home in 2017 - before the pandemic made it the norm. Back then it seemed incredibly exotic and exciting to ditch the office and work remotely.
I had left my job in a busy London office to move to Barcelona where my husband was starting his PhD. I didn’t know a word of Spanish, let alone Catalan, so getting a job in my new city was out of the question for me.
My only option was to take a remote job which sounded great. I’d be working the hours I wanted, could work in my pyjamas, there’d be no more dirty Northern Line, no more expensive coffee runs, and I had a beautiful new city to explore during my breaks.
I was excited by the freedom and flexibility that being a remote worker would offer.
But the reality was all a bit different.
I found it impossible to discipline myself, getting up late, missing hours of the morning - my most productive time, and always playing catch up.
As I didn't have to go out, I’d often skip the shower, work in my pyjamas and forget to brush my hair. I can assure you, that ‘just out of bed’ look at 3 pm is not a good one.
My working life was hugely different to the one I’d known in London. I had a great team in my new job, but it wasn’t the same as working with ‘real’ people. I missed the spontaneous cross-office conversations about last night’s TV. I missed the random meetings in swanky London offices. I missed wearing nice clothes and feeling like a grown-up.
The loneliness, lack of routine, and a troubling lack of self-discipline made working from home full-time a difficult experience…especially in a city where I knew no one.
Making Working From Home Work!
I realised that I had to change things. To be a happy, healthy, and productive remote worker, I needed to put the work in. I created a strict set of rules that would redefine my remote working life.
Rule 1 - Get Up and Get Ready
Treat every morning like you’re going into an office. Set the alarm, get up, take a shower, have breakfast and be ready to start the day.
Rule 2 - Fake the Commute
I realised that going straight from the breakfast table to the laptop wasn’t working for me. So I decided to introduce my own ‘commute’. I’d leave my apartment every morning for a walk and sometimes pick up a coffee to bring back to the ‘office’. The walk was my ‘commute’ and as well as getting a few steps in, it also enabled me to separate my time at home. When got back from my walk I was in ‘work mode’, motivated and ready to go.
Rule 3 - Go to Coworking Spaces
Before becoming a remote worker, I hadn’t even heard of coworking spaces. Now I couldn’t live without them. I tried a few places and eventually found a great coworking community in the city. I loved working with a group of like-minded ‘co-workers’ and found that I was more disciplined and productive when I was next to other workers. Best of all, Friday night after work drinks were back!
Rule 4 - Take a techtimeout
When you’re working from home, you can spend a lot of time looking at screens. In those early days, I experienced digital burnout and realised I needed to develop healthier tech habits. techtimeout helped me to do so. I started using a Pomodoro timer to structure my working day, and also consciously took time away from my phone, computer, and TV to give myself a break from screens. It greatly helped to improve my wellbeing.
Rule 5 - If You Don't Follow the Rules It’s Not the End of the World!
Some days I do still find myself at home, unwashed at 3 pm and desperately trying to catch up on an unproductive morning. I used to feel stressed and guilty if I had a bad day, but now I just chalk it off and make sure I follow my own rules for the next day.
Now I Love Working From Home!
After a rocky start to the remote working lifestyle, I have fully embraced it. I couldn't imagine going back to the office now and think I would find it very difficult to adapt to a traditional style of working. I love the freedom and variety working from home can bring, the spare time I have to run errands, exercise or explore, and the friendships I’ve made.
My advice to anyone who’s struggling with working from home? Put the work in, and it could work for you!