All Posts By

Jennifer Holland

How to Stay Human While Working From Home

By | Be Clear, Create Value, Motivate Others, Take Risks

Not all employees work from an office. Apparently, starting this week’s BLOG intro with the obvious just feels right for some reason.

Telecommuting, working from home, remote employee, flexible working environment, or whatever you call it, there is a lot of it. Some deem it to be the perk of all perks. Others deem it to be a dreadful prison within your home of social isolation and a perpetuation of not showering.

You can find endless articles about the pros and cons. My personal opinion is that it can be a super good fit from some, and not so much for others. It is NOT for everyone. This week’s Telltale Ten post is from Jennifer Holland, a successful salesperson who works for SoapBoxSample’s parent company, Interviewing Service of America, ISA. She works remotely from her home in New York. She offers some great tips for those who work from home, or those who are considering it.

“You. Are. So. Lucky.”

I hear it at least once a week.  And yes, I am.  I’m one of the over 3 million Americans working from home.  While I must admit, it’s a good gig if you can get it, it does come with its own set of drawbacks.

When I started working remotely over ten years ago, I looked to my friends who’d been working from home for advice.  How did they manage their time, what did their typical day look like, how did they not go insane with all of the alone time?  The answers were varied but there was always a common thread in their responses.

Have an Office with a Door

Working from home can go one of two ways.  If you’re not disciplined, this situation isn’t for you.  People who are easily distracted, need someone checking over their shoulder and don’t like their job in general aren’t a great fit for remote employment.  The other side of that coin is you work All. Of. The. Time.  You’re working from your home, a place where you spend the bulk of your time.  So in essence, you’re always at the office.  I often find myself at my desk at 11 pm, checking email, working on bids, etc.  I start by walking through the house, picking up the backpacks, turning off the lights, checking the kids in their beds.  I end up walking into my office and working for two hours.

You need to work on maintaining an actual life outside of your home office.  I needed to make sure I had an office in my home with a door.  Somewhere I can walk into in the morning, and walk out of at night.  And close the door.  It’s not foolproof, and I’ve been known to bust out a proposal from my laptop in bed, but it helps to have an actual space in your home dedicated to your work.

Leave Your House

I have this trick that I do every morning.  I wake up, take a shower, get dressed and leave my house.  I know that sounds like I’m negating one of the main benefits of working from home.  You don’t HAVE to leave!  But I NEED to leave.  I get coffee, and come back to my office. It’s as if I’m arriving to work every day and not just Groundhog Day’ing my life away.  I also work from a coffee shop a few times a week, for a couple of hours a day.  A change of scenery is key for me.  It keeps me focused and sane.

One of the main struggles of working from a home office is the lack of social interaction.  I basically accost my FedEx guy with conversation when he shows up.  All he wants me to do is sign for a package.  All I want to do is talk to a human in person.  It’s become weird.  To ease the strain I’ve created in the relationships with my delivery people, I keep CNN on in the background all day.  I know he’s not really there, but in my mind Wolf Blitzer is in the office next door.  It’s nice.

Get Dressed

No.  I do not work in my pajamas.  I may work in leggings and a hoodie, but I do get dressed.  Every Day.  I throw my hair in a bun and rarely wear make up on work days (keeping it real here), but I wear actual clothes.  I think waking up and walking into a home office is a slippery slope.  One day you’re working from home, the next thing you know you’re that person on your street that no one has ever seen leave the house.  Clothes make you feel human.  Even if your kid tells you that you dress like a gym teacher.

I had a friend who worked from home and would put on a suit when she had an important conference call.  It made her feel more prepared and professional.  I do not do that.  All I can say is thank God most of my meetings are not video calls.

All in all, not too bad.  Right?  And trust me, I am NOT complaining.  I mean, my morning commute is about 10 seconds.  I only have to wear heels when I’m visiting a client or prospect out of the office (after 14 years of working in an actual office wearing very high heels, my feet are grateful for this benefit).  I’m not dealing with the office drama that exists in every office in every company.  My break room is my kitchen or Starbucks, so no drama there.

But I do have one complaint.  The ‘cookies in the break room’ email.  For some reason cookies don’t magically appear in my kitchen when there are cookies, cannolis, bagels, etc. in the break room.  I’m looking at you, Francine.