“I finally found a way to sleep in my office. Under the desk. I lie on my back. I tuck in the chair. I’m invisible.” – George Costanza, Seinfeld Season 8 Episode 18 “The Nap”.
I’m a big fan of working from home. For as long as I’ve been working I’ve been doing it at home in some shape or form. In the early days of my consulting career I did it so I didn’t have to sleep under my desk like George Costanza. In more recent years I did it so that on days I took my kids to school and picked them up I didn’t waste the rest of the day commuting to the city. Its not for everyone I know, but I always said “I would rather work from home than live at the office”.
The thing is, since starting my own business I don’t have an office anymore. At least not one that is geographically separated from my home. So to quote myself, am I still ‘working from home’ or have I now broken my golden rule and started ‘living at the office?’
I’m pretty sure I’m still working from home but I’ve had to implement a few rules to make sure it stays that way:
1. Create physical boundaries
When your office and your home are in separate places you have natural geographic boundaries. You are physically ‘at work’ or ‘at home’. When they become one and the same you have to find another way to create physical boundaries. Some people set up a home office in a separate room of the house but this wasn’t really an option for me so I have found setting up a workstation is just as effective. Granted, its a laptop stand on top of an empty nappy box but hey, it works for me. I figure if companies like Google and Apple started in a garage, there’s no reason mine can’t be founded on top of an empty nappy box! Importantly, I can assemble and dismantle my workstation at the start and end of each day which creates a physical boundary that tells me (and my family) when I’m ‘at work’ and when I’m ‘at home’.
2. Practice mindfulness and be present
Of course, the physical boundary is only half the story. We’ve all had those moments where the ‘lights are on but nobody’s home’ (when either we or the person we are with are physically present but mentally absent). This is definitely still a work in progress for me but I have started being much more deliberate about ‘being mindful’ so that I can master ‘being present’. Google is a much better authority on these topics than me if you are interested, but suffice it to say by simply practicing ‘mindfulness’ techniques like being aware of your breathing, you get much better at being present. When I am working I am present in my ‘office’ and not distracted by my ‘home’. When I am ‘home’ I am present with my family and myself, and not distracted by my work.
3. Love your work
As the saying goes, “if you love your work, you never work another day in your life”. Starting a new business has forced me to get very clear about not only what am I good at but what I love. After all, it would be a tragic waste of an opportunity to start a business in something I hate! But that doesn’t mean I love every aspect of my work. Like any meaningful pursuit in life, it requires effort, discipline and commitment which means pushing myself to do the things I may not like as much as other things. Even before I started my own business though, I’ve always loved my work. Or at least when I haven’t, I’ve changed it. Sometimes by changing the employer, sometimes by changing the job or sometimes by changing the way I approached the job. The bottom line is if you don’t love your work you will find it very hard to work from home. There will always be something more appealing at home, be it family, friends or even the washing! Conversely, it’s very easy to end up living at the office for a job you hate and when that happens it might be time for you to #byopurpose.