Going Back To An Office
I’ve read a lot of articles about how to prepare yourself for working remotely. After all, with high-speed internet, laptops, and Slack, working from home is “really having a moment.” So, naturally, the think pieces, articles, and listicles have ensued. Some of them explain how to use technology to aid communication, many warn against overworking, and ALL OF THEM stress how important it is to put on clothes and act like a human being like it’s the most ground-breaking advice you could give an adult person.
Truthfully, like most self-help career listicles, these articles are stacked with superficial garbage tips. It’s a lot more nuanced than making to-do lists and putting on jeans. I know, I did it for the last five years –– half of my professional career.
When I used to tell people that I worked from home, they were intrigued. How did I do it? Did I hate it? Was it distracting? Didn’t I hate not getting out of the house? How did I not go crazy from not being with people?
Well, firstly, no I loved it. I never felt the need to get out of the house, was surprisingly exhausted by the amount of communication I had without ever physically seeing anyone, and some days I never put on real clothes. I do think it’s important to note that I wasn’t working from home and working for MYSELF. I was lucky enough to find myself fully employed at two remote agencies in the past few years. I was expected to be online by 9 am and available until 6 pm, just like any traditional office job, except my commute was 10 seconds and meetings usually took place over the phone, chat, or video and sometimes guest starred my cat.
Working for yourself is surely a whole other ball game when it comes to discipline, distractions, and figuring out how to make it function. For me, it was the same as when I was in an office, only I was by myself most of the day. How do you not go crazy WITH people all day?? While it’s not for everyone (as with literally anything outside eating and sleeping), I always found remote work to be productive and satisfying.
In the spirit of useless listicles, here are my top 3 tips to working remotely:
Create as much of a dedicated workspace as possible
I know, this is on every one of the lists I’m railing against, but I’ll try to be more specific. I’m very lucky to have a second bedroom that is used as a dedicated office. I found a big professional lady desk I love, bought an expensive ergonomic desk chair off Craigslist, piled on the dumb pink stationary that brings me joy, and invested in my tech with a docking station and big ass monitor. When I lived in a one-bedroom apartment by myself, I carved out a section of my living room to house a desk and as much of an office as I could comfortably fit, both in function and design. Regardless of your space, it’s going to cost you a decent chunk of change to get set up properly, but it’s necessary (and a tax write off 😎). Do it. Spend the money on your space. Bottom line: try not use your couch as a desk. It keeps you from getting too comfortable, it’s bad for your back, and mostly, it blurs the lines of relaxation and work and will quickly turn one of your favorite spots into a confusing place.
Turn your video on during Google hangouts
I can’t tell you how many meetings I sat through while static profile pictures pulsed at me while someone talked behind them. The whole reason for using the video chat is for the VIDEO. I want to see you. I want to remember you’re a human being so I don’t get mad and dismissive when you forget to reply to my urgent email. I want to read your body language to know when you’re about to speak so we don’t talk all over each other. I want to make it harder for you to be passive aggressive because you’re looking me in the eye. Bottom line: get over yourself. Would you hide your face during an hour-long in-person brainstorm?
Enjoy the flexibility
Obviously, the best, most desirable thing about working from home is the flexibility! TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. Do your grocery shopping in the middle of the day. Take work breaks by throwing in a load of laundry. Take therapy instead of lunch. Bottom line: this is as valuable as currency. Treat it as such and don’t forget it.
That all said, I just took a job that requires me to be in the office. I’ve been there just over a month now and…it’s totally normal. I don’t know why, after 32 years on this earth, why I’m still so surprised at how adaptable humans are. After two weeks, I looked up and thought, “Welp, ok, this is my life now.” And then I moved on.
Don’t get me wrong; I was VERY apprehensive about making the transition to office life. As an independent-to-a-fault person, I was extremely nervous about feeling a loss of control, relinquishing my time as no longer my own. It was intimidating to interact with people all day every day. Overstimulation is R E A L. And duh, public-ish bathrooms. I forgot to mention how nice it is to use your own toilet all day. It’s really, really nice. Especially when you’re over 30 years old and digestion becomes a complete guessing game.
I liked being able to leisurely feed out of the kitchen all day long like a grass-fed cow. I liked not wearing makeup. I liked being able to work without anyone bothering me. I liked taking yoga as a lunch break. I liked having Hallmark movies playing as ambient noise. Man, I liked sweatpants.
So, to assuage my anxieties, I did what I always do when I’m feeling out of control. I bought a bunch of shit. In this case, in-office supplies.
Here are my recommendations for adult back-to-office shopping:
A New Bag
Start with a new bag to tote all your new crap. Get yourself a grown-up person’s bag you’re excited to hang on your shoulder. I splurged on an all leather backpack that’s chic as hell. It barely fits the 15″ laptop my work gave me, but I’m making it work because sometimes fashion trumps function.
Notebooks & Pens
Everyone loves the smell, the feel, and the optimism found in a notebook. I love blank notebooks so much that I literally hoard them in plain sight. They remind me of all the creative ideas, projects, and problems I could solve within the covers. It reminds me of back-to-school shopping as a kid. Even if you already have enough notebooks, buy more notebooks specifically for your new job. I have notebook ADD and get bored with the size, texture, and pattern about halfway through, so I usually have a few going at once. And pens, get lots of fun colored pens. In an office, you meet more in person, which means fewer laptops and more handwriting. I went apeshit at Paper Pastries (and you can too).
My insanely organized friend Taylor introduced me to the world of pouches. I had always SEEN pouches but didn’t understand the power of the pouch until I started to prepare for going back to an office environment. Firstly, I didn’t know there was a life where my shit wasn’t covered in rogue bright green gum pieces and free floating around in my bag all day. Secondly, it’s a great way to transition into an office because it allows you to bring the essential creature comforts of home with you in a sane way. Get yourself a couple pouches to throw in your cool new bag with different uses like makeup, pens, and even a portable medicine cabinet.
Don’t be afraid to decorate your new desk situation. Having worked from home for quite a while, I created a pretty ideal workspace for myself without any inhibitions, restrictions, or fear of judgment from other coworkers over my cartoon cat mouse pad. I felt a little self-conscious about bringing in my own organizational props and flair, but I knew that making my space my own would make the transition easier. Set up camp and stay a while.
Armed with all my STUFF, I went into the office. Then, I went in again and again. Now, it’s just my routine. Like I said, humans are pretty freaking adaptable. In fact –– and I really can’t believe I’m saying this –– I’m kind of glad to be going into an office every day. No one is more surprised by this statement than me, the homebody who somehow got away with being a remote employee for half her career. Seriously, I was the poster child for a remote lifestyle in leisurewear.
Ok, I love lists dammit, and things are just better in threes, so here’s one last listicle of my transitioning from home to office takeaways:
- As much as I love being at home (I once didn’t leave the premises for 72 hours), it’s actually pretty nice to leave the house every day. I appreciate it so much more after being away for several hours.
- Even though I worked pretty hard to establish boundaries while working from home, I mentally feel a difference to have my work not live inside my home. I sincerely thought I was totally mentally and emotionally clear while working from home, and only realized I wasn’t until my situation changed.
- Yes, my free time is more limited, but I definitely use it more wisely. I’m efficient AF right now.
- I actually make time to try and cook. If I don’t….then I don’t have lunch.
- My clothes hoarding is finally paying off. I love clothes, but my shopping was going to waste while working at home because I never wore any of it. I have a whole new appreciation for what’s in my closet, and I’m enjoying having a reason to put together new outfits.
- Working in a creative role, I’m realizing how being in person, in an office is REALLY helpful. I still wholeheartedly believe it can be done remotely with due diligence, but there some aspects of collaboration that cannot be replicated via technology.
- I’m more productive in both my on the clock professional work and my off the clock creative projects (hello, look at this badass blog) because of the physical separation. I feel more invigorated and focused in both areas, and am able to allow them to fuel each other instead of forcing them to compete for my time and energy. Both carry equal weight for me!
- Even though I miss hanging out with my cats all day, there’s an office dog with whom I am obsessed.
So, there you have it. Both working remotely and in an office are great experiences with unique pitfalls. Neither one is superior to the other, but rather should work in tandem. In an ideal world, you’d get the best of both. But, most of the time you don’t get to have your private toilet and dog in a sweater too.