Back in 2011, my work life took an interesting change. The Walt Disney Studio Lot over in Burbank was renovating and the majority of the studio employees were working a few miles away in various high rises. As the studios got closer to completion, my manager called us in, sat us down and told me something that would change my life. It seems they underestimated the amount of cubicles in the tower building and they don’t have enough room for our team – starting in 2012, we will be working from home. From Home. Now, let me back up a little bit and explain why my brain more or less exploded. The job I held before Disney was with a company called Internet Brands – I was a data analyst with their travel and leisure department; I loved my job until I ran into some issues I couldn’t shake and that Spring I was advised by my doctors not to drive. My employers were as accommodating as possible, granted I could get my work in. But eventually, that relationship began to strain and I was traveling three hours a day on public transportation to make an appearance in the office. On top of that, working 35 hours a week meant part time…which meant no health care. Needless to say, when I was hired by Disney, I thought I was saved – saved from a strange form of solitary confinement that I certainly didn’t sign up for. So, there I am – a year later – hearing that I’m going right back into it. The fortunate thing is now that I’m older, working from home doesn’t carry the same connotation of doom and social withdrawals that it used to. But that’s because I work on enriching my life in other ways: I love that I don’t have to wear real pants, I go out and rage on Monday nights and damn right I’ve marathoned my way through a lot of great TV shows. But real talk, I’ve also been able to hone in on is how to make myself into a better employee without the corporate community watching over me all the time. Over the two years I’ve worked from home I’ve learned some tips and tricks on how to maintain the wonderful corporate atmosphere of the Disney Studios within the confined square footage of my apartment. Sure, I could (and have) gone absolutely stir crazy in the midst of a killer, all night project – but overtime I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that help keep me sane and I wanted to share them with the rest of y’all.
(1) Wake and shake. Pick a power playlist that’ll get you amped for the day. Whether you’re catching up on your favorite lifestyle blogs or getting a run in – stimulating your ear drums and brain will help your body wake up and leave you with some bounce in your step that’ll get you through the day.
(2) Breakfast – Fact: a kickass day starts with a well balanced and energizing meal. Yes, I realize that’s what they taught you in kindergarten but that’s when we learned about saying thank you, sharing and playing fair so I’m pretty sure it’s still valid.
(3) Play dress up. One adage I’ve heard through and through is to dress for the job you want – so if you’re sitting around in your PJs and feel lazy, guess what – you’re in the official “I’m a lazy college student” uniform so no wonder you’re acting like it. Hop in the shower, do your hair, add some makeup – make yourself feel fabulous and that’s how your day will end up; your mindset is your most important ally and if you feel awesome – well , you’ll be awesome. Added benefit: when your friends invite you to happy hour after work, you don’t have to think about getting ready.
(4) Work “normal” hours. Just because your work situation is unconventional doesn’t mean your hours have to be, too. Make sure you’re more than accessible for your colleagues to reach you and abide by the same general hours they do.
(5) Designate a “work space” within your home that doesn’t interfere with your personal space. Let’s be honest, it might not suit your social life to have a desktop and a printer in your living room but move that set-up into your bedroom and you have to wonder: do you really want your work to be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning? If so, good for you – but if you’re like me, maybe you should think twice.
(6) Get organized. Make lists. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. An organized work mindset is a productive and efficient one, and it ensures you’ll spend less time procrastinating.
(7) Take breaks. Get outside, meet a friend for coffee, go for a stroll! Might seem strange – especially since you have the ability to streamline important projects for hours on end – but breaks are necessary in order to get our priorities inline and reset ourselves. Some of the best strategies and ideas have come during downtime, so give yourself a break or two – you deserve it.
(8) Get a pet. With the amount of time you’ll be spending at your house, unless your housemates are (f)unemployed or work from home themselves – chances are you’ll be spending a lot of your time alone surrounded by electronics; trust me, I’m a pro. A sure way to brighten your day is getting a pet – bunny rabbit, cat or dog, it helps to have a companion…to boot, an adorable companion that you can cuddle with and doesn’t want to bug you about TPR reports. I love having my kitties around because they’re excellent distractions from a drab day. And if you’re a dog lover, with all the extra time you’ll be around the house it’s the perfect excuse to get a puppy and train it yourself.
(9) Make it a group event. This might not be true of your city, but Los Angeles has a disproportionate amount of people with unconventional jobs and work situations – so chances are, you actually know a few people who already work from home. Make it into a fun event and bring the gang together, you could even make some new friends in the process. Plus, misery loves company – especially the Monday after a really epic weekend.
(10) Call a colleague. One of my favorite things about being in the office is working next to some of my best friends; when I had to start working from home more, I genuinely missed interacting with them so we’d take small breaks in our day to call each other simply to say hello and talk about something other than work. And the thing about your colleagues, It helps having people in your corner that understand your situation, make sure you don’t shut them out just because you’re not in physical proximity to each other
(11) Be overly social. For me, lunchtime is when I miss the work office the most. It’s the perfect excuse to grab a few friends from your floor and forget about that 8-5 for a while with some good food and great conversation. When you’re working from home you don’t have the same luxury, so instead that new gastropub around the corner, run errands or head to the gym, surround yourself with like minded people and strike up a conversation. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels good to connect with someone – even if it’s just in passing. When the day is done, treat yourself to a beer at your local bar. Seems weird, but go out of your way to be in situations where you interact with strangers. That way, at the end of your day you’ll have talked to more than just your cats.
(12) Pick up a hobby. When’s the last time you finished a good book? Now that you’ll be spending more time around the house, you’ll have a greater chance of finishing one. Because you’re not going to be commuting in the morning or evening, you’ll have a host of extra time on your hands. Sure, you could use it to login early or work late – but why not be a little selfish and use those minutes for yourself? Become a wine or whiskey connoisseur, finish knitting that scarf you started last year, train for a marathon, get more involved in your community, start volunteering. Chances are, you’re not going to have your current job forever so make sure you see what your world has to offer before you get shoved back into a cubicle with a soul crushing rush hour drive.
(13) When work is over – make sure it’s over. Put your laptop away, file the last of the documents you were using – your work can invade your personal space during work hours but make sure to take back your domain after 5pm and unless it’s an emergency and you’d be in the office, leave well enough alone and attend to it tomorrow. There will always be more work – that’s why you have a job, right?