When I started working from home over 20 years ago, I was a novelty to most. And, just about everyone said the same thing, “Oh, I would never get anything done.”
I have to say that was a concern when I first started, that I would be distracted by fun and food and television and the outdoors and more. But what happened was surprising, I couldn’t STOP working. There was no traditional beginning of the workday and end of the day – packing up and heading out for the commute home.
Nope. Work was always there. Emails to answer, websites to fix, clients to call, projects staring at me from the desktop. I would get up before the household and work. Then I would get everyone ready for school and shoo them out the door while kissing Wonder Husband and getting him out to his job as well.
Then I would work, rarely remembering to stop for lunch. There was just too much to accomplish on any given day. It was right there. There was no ignoring it.
The kids would come home; I’d say hello, get them settled with a snack and homework, and then – yup – back to work again. And it didn’t end there.
I’d stop to cook dinner, visit with the family, maybe watch part of a television show with them and then head back to my workspace. When it was time to go to bed, I had a hard time falling asleep because I knew what all still needed to be finished. I wanted to check email and messages one more time. So I’d pop out of bed “for just a minute” and return a couple of hours later.
I was doing this seven days a week.
My wakeup call came out of the mouth of one of my babes. When asked at elementary school what his parents did for a living, he replied, “Daddy flies airplanes for NASA, and Mommy sits on her computer at home all day.” Hmmm.
The second wakeup call came when Wonder Husband retired from flying those airplanes and also started working from home as an aviation safety expert. After several months, I realized what I had been doing by watching my husband. He was working all the time, every day. Our poor kids were pretty much on their own, and no one was getting any quality family time or me time.
Wonder Husband and I sat down and discussed ways to fix this — where could we give up work time and learn to relax once again with the family. I’ll be the first to admit it was like an addiction and extremely hard to quit at first, but we set parameters and tried to hold each other to those guidelines.
We created a beginning of day and end of day routine – no sitting at the computer before 8:00 am and stopping everything at the end of the workday, usually around 5:30 pm. We were both fortunate to be working from a spare bedroom, so we got in the habit of turning everything off, leaving the room and shutting the door.
One of us always wanted to go back and check email or a current project just once more. We had to learn to hold each other accountable but in gently nudging ways – like handing me a glass of wine and blocking my entrance to the office!
It took months, and yes, one of us occasionally has to check something early or late or on the weekends. But for the most part, we’ve done it for ten years, and it has saved our sanity as well as giving us time back with our kids and each other.
You may be working from home for a few more weeks or a few more months. Or you or your manager may decide that working from home is very productive, and it may become your “new normal.”
Just remember – it’s okay to stop working. Take a break. You deserve it, and you need it.