Working From Home – In 400 Sq Ft.

I grew up watching my mother work from home. She everything you could possibly need for it too. A supply closet, phone line, fax line, you name it, she had it in a dedicated office that baked in the summer since it was on the western exposure.

So I guess you could say that remote work is in my blood.

I started working from home in April 2014. The commute to the parent office was over two hours and my entire day job can be done online with a VPN (virtual private network) connection, so as long as I have a laptop and a wireless connection, I’m pretty golden.

That’s also oversimplifying it.

My other colleagues have a far different setup than I do. They usually have a dedicated office, with an actual desk, ergonomic chairs, and you know, office supplies.

I don’t. I have a comfy chair, a lap desk for when I work from home (tables suffice when I’m working from cafes), and I keep my kit really light so if I wanted to work from the beach, I could (and have).

I also live in Seattle, so everyone in tech works from home at least once a week. Now that we’re undergoing the #SeattleSqueeze due to the Highway 99 closure, if you live North of Downtown Seattle – you’re probably working from home if you can.

Now I know what you’re thinking and I can already hear the questions, so I’m going to answer them.

  • Isn’t it hard to work from home?
    No. I’m an introvert who gets really distracted by everyone walking around my cubicle. In this case, there’s no cubicle and nobody to hear me scream into a pillow out of sheer frustration.
  • Don’t you get distracted a lot?
    For the most part, no. Some days, I’ll sneak off and do laundry during conference calls that don’t require my attention and a few days – it’s all I can do to make 8 hours of work go by and even those feel like 16.
  • Don’t you get lonely?
    Yes! I’m fortunate enough to live in a building where if someone isn’t retired – they work from home, so I pretty much just knock on someone’s door when I need my “human being” fix. I also live within three blocks of a delightfully nerdy tea shop owned by my bestie, Friday. So every Thursday, I work from the tea shop for a few hours and it’s usually enough to help stave off the loneliness.
  • How do you separate work from life if you don’t have an office?
    Oh, this question is easy now that I don’t have a dedicated workspace. Are you ready? I close my work laptop and I put it away. That’s it. Because once that company-owned machine is out of my site, the day job is too.
  • How do you handle work/life balance?
    I don’t. I’m a confessed workaholic and if I’m not working on day job things – I’m working on personal projects to keep myself busy and to help avoid Galaxy Brain.
  • How do you help mitigate stress?
    I… still struggle with that one. But since I’m at home, I can walk away whenever I need to. Granted, it won’t be very far – but I can ignore the laptop for 15 minutes or so without actually hurting anything or being missed. Now that my pole is up in the kitchen, I can dance for a little bit and distract myself until I can calm down.
  • How do you find time to take care of yourself?
    I make it. I wake up a little earlier than I would in order to work on this blog or exercise. Lunch hours are spent working on dinner and personal projects. And I take my PTO in nice two-week chunks, which is just enough to forget how to do my job until I come back.
  • If you’re at home all the time, do you clean it all the time?
    No. I try to keep things tidy when I can, but I actually pay someone to clean my space. Because if I let it get too bad, it gets overwhelming, and then I feel guilty about it, and then I get overwhelmed by the guilt, or I can just pay Hjordis to visit for three hours and handle it for me.
  • But you’re home all the time, you can clean too!
    Do you clean while you’re at work? Unless that’s your job, I doubt it. Guess what I’m not going to do while I’m also at work? You’ve got it. I don’t even make dinner during the week. All meal prep is done during the weekend and I just heat up whatever I can grab from the fridge.
  • What do you bring with you when you work from a cafe?
    Glad you asked! I keep my kit pretty light and enough to fit into a trusty backpack of mine. I usually bring the following with me:

    1. noise canceling headphones with a microphone – Earbuds with a mic are also nice for conference calls, but I find the visual of the huge headphones deters anyone who tries to talk to me – unless I want to carry on a conversation.
    2. A three-plug extension cord – Sometimes I can’t hog a whole outlet, so I can use my extension cord to charge my laptop, phone, and a brand new friend’s laptop while I’m at it. And I don’t have to sit right on the outlet. I get about 8 more feet of space from it.
    3. Notepad to help me make lists to help get through the day and track my time.
    4. Pens to write in said notepad.
    5. A wallet – because it’s rude to sit in a cafe without buying anything.
    6. A sweater – because some places are cold. But it’s easier to dress in layers than it is to wear a heavy sweater and overheat.
    7. Work-issued laptop with power cord. For that actual work part.

I figured that as long as I can complete a task that needs to be done that day, I’ve succeeded at working from home – and you can too.