The Home Office: A guide to working from home and keeping your sanity

Proof of the overly affectionate cat

Before recently moving into a bigger apartment that allows me actual dedicated office space—Okay, so it may not be a corner office but at least I have a window—I began my business working from a 660 square-foot apartment with no air conditioning and an overly affectionate cat. My generous neighbor, Steven, allowed me to use his internet, but this required me to sit on the far corner of my bed to get any sort of signal. The first two months of opening my business, I spent quite literally working from a bed in an 86 degree apartment with a fuzzy gray cat as my only semi-human interaction most days. If Forbes Magazine featured a list for the career field of bedridden sweaty cat-ladies, I was sure to rank at least in the top 10 by this fall.

Luckily I found sanity working from home, abiding by a few standards I put in place for myself.

Shower and put on real pants every day—This may sound obvious, but believe me, when you first start working from home it’s easy to jump right on the computer and not bother getting ready like you were going into an office. While I may not do my make-up or wear skirts and dresses like I did at my old desk job, I still feel so much more professional and business-minded when I’m cleaned up and presentable.

Try and schedule a different appointment each day—This can range from a casual meeting over coffee, a conference call or a professional pitch to a client, but I give myself a reason to get out of the house and interact with the world each day. It also helps to provide more structure and gets me moving whether I feel like it or not.

Set regular work hours and stick to them—Working from home allows me a great deal of flexibility. I can run an errand, go for a walk or grab groceries whenever I choose and then work late into the night or early in the morning to make up for it. However, I’ve found this to be a trap and before I knew it, my evenings and weekends were non-existent. It’s much better to set regular work hours (it’s doesn’t have to be 9-5, but whatever works for you) and then stick to them. By structuring my day like a “real job” I reinforced the mindset that working from home is indeed a very real job. It also provides me with a predictable schedule that allows for me to be social with friends and family who are only able to do things during the evenings and weekends.

And during these work hours, only focus on business work—Working from home makes it tempting to do laundry, clean and organize (not to mention nap) when I should be focusing on client work. While a little multi-tasking can be productive, it’s also a great way to procrastinate. Throwing in a load of towels is easier than sitting down and writing that media pitch I’ve been putting off—so when I know I’m using these household chores to put off my real work, I nip it in the bud, close my office door and focus solely on Bennis Inc until my work hours are over.

Working from home certainly has its benefits—flexibility, no overhead cost for office space, comfort and freedom. But it takes discipline and dedication to make it successful and stay sane in the process. If there’s any other “home-workers” out there, I’d love to hear your own tips and tricks for how you made it work for you!

My cat, Pinot tried, but only made organization and sanity lost causes in my old apartment.
My cat, Pinot tried, but only made organization and sanity lost causes in my old apartment.
Now in my new home office, and still staying true to my work standards, Bennis Inc is running much smoother.
Now in my new home office, and still staying true to my work standards, Bennis Inc is running much smoother.

24 thoughts on “The Home Office: A guide to working from home and keeping your sanity

  1. Yep, another pajama person here. The thing is, my most productive hours are from 6AM to noon, so I hate to waste time with stuff like, you know, getting dressed! And as far as working with cats goes, I’d love to be able to toss mine the car keys and tell them to go amuse themselves. It’s hard having a serious conference call while they’re chasing each other around the house, knocking over furniture!

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog. I really enjoyed this post. I work from home as well and I must say that the temptation of sweatpants and my raggedy tshirt are too much for me most days.

    I think all your points are spot on but the old adage says, “easier said than done”.

    I look forward to reading more of what you have to share.

    – Will

    PS. I’m Toronto born and raised, but the Steelers will always be in my heart. (noticed you’re from Pennsylvania) GO STEELERS!

  3. This may come as a surprise, but occasionally I imagine what my life would be like if it were completely different. During one of these adventures into Dreamsandaspirations Land, I came to the realization that I absolutely need to start my own company. I also decided that it would need to be some form of consulting where I would be able to sip a cup of coffee in my home office in front of my laptop while sporting a ferocious bun on top of my head. I think that everything you just posted was amazing.

  4. I will say that I change out of jammies…and into sweats or yoga pants. That’s as close to real clothes as I get. lol.

    The cat issue you have, I have. Mine just plops her big, fuzzy but down on my netboook and won’t move until she’s had enough petting and ear scratches.

  5. Great recommendations! I currently have a 4-day workweek with Mondays off. On Mondays I have non-job work to do and I find treating it like a normal workday–sticking to my schedule as if I have to “leave for work” at a certain time–is so important to having a productive day. No PJs for me!

  6. Steph,

    I work from home every Friday and sometimes 3 days a week. This week I’m home 4. I must say, all your comments are very true. I bet you and I can rank up there for sweaty cat ladies, but hey it is truly worth it. I honestly find myself sometimes more productive then being in a tiny cubicle surrounded by other people who are a bothersome. Tips from me to you, being that both of us handle the fun life of a PR professional:

    1.) Waking up and absolutely having coffee or tea.
    2.) Making sure to have a balanced breakfast full of fiber and fruit.
    3.) Leaving my home/apartment during lunch to get away from that sweaty/cozy spot I left on my bed, table, or couch.
    4.) Avoiding putting the laptop on my lap – Britt my twin said it can lead to infertility?!
    5.) Cleaning during lunch. This has helped me continue being motivated to do work for the second part of the day…
    6.) Burning a candle (or two) especially around this time of the year. Oh how I miss the smell of Fall in PA. 😦 But CT is pretty similar!
    7.) Of course, making a “To Do List.”

    I’m sure there’s more I could think of, but that’s just some to help you out. I’m on my bed right now with a pillow propped under my computer and my cat Nugget is watching Food Network. So typical.

    Hope all is well! Keep up the good work.

    xoxo,

    Steph

    1. It’s great to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog. It’s all very new to me, but I’m really enjoying it. Aren’t we lucky to have flexible work schedules? It takes discipline (and your tips were spot on!), but with a little organization, it isn’t all that bad 🙂

    1. Thank you! But I have to be honest–some days the temptation to work from the living couch is too great and I don’t even use the office. As long as you’re doing what you love, you can work from anywhere I suppose.

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