I’ve been working from home for six months now, and I’m enjoying it far more than I thought I would. When our office first began working from home, I was worried that I would struggle. As an extrovert, would I be able to handle being isolated from my coworkers and friends? Would I still be able to be productive at home? How would I maintain work/life balance and distance myself from my work when my work was at home?
While I feel like I’ve been able to avoid any major pitfalls and have acclimated to working at home successfully, there are still ways that I could improve my work-from-home situation. The majority of these improvements could be achieved by having an at-home office. I would never have imagined that I would tire of working in my favorite spot on the couch in our living room, but it’s becoming clear that, if I plan on working from home for the foreseeable future, I’ll need a real at-home office.
This isn’t really achievable since Dan and I currently live with my parents, so until we move out, I’ll have to wait for a full office and just keep gathering things that will eventually go in it. Although I’m nowhere near an expert when it comes to working from home, I have gathered a list of reasons why having an at-home office seems important…from someone who doesn’t have one but really needs one.
This is undoubtedly my largest struggle while working from home. Like I stated above, I work from the couch in our living room, often with my laptop resting on my lap or the armrest of the couch. Because of how soft the couch is and how low my laptop sits, I spend all day with my spine c-curved. Up until now, I haven’t noticed much of a difference, but recently, I feel myself hunching more and my lower back bothers me somewhat. Obviously something has to change here or else I’m going to permanently ruin my posture. I will probably go out and buy an office chair with lumbar support sooner rather than later, but the fact remains that I don’t have an office in which to keep it. I still plan on working from my living room, which means that I will need to move the chair out every time we need that room tidied for something else.
Your Zoom Meetings Can Be (At Least Somewhat) Professional
My couch is not only not great for my posture, but it’s also not a great setting for Zoom calls and meetings that involve video. While my living room is not the worst backdrop for these calls, it would still be better for my coworkers to see some sort of bookcase or plain wall behind me as opposed to drapes and the occasional family portrait. Hell, even when I take meetings in my room, I can’t take them at my desk because then my coworkers would see my room which has been a mess since I was like…first able to acquire things. Some day, I may write about the sentimental hoarder that I am and my various attempts to clean my room (all of which have been utter failures), but for now, just believe me — it is not the ideal backdrop for a Zoom meeting! Instead of using my brand new desk that Dan got me, I’ve been taking TV dinner trays into my room to prop up my laptop and have meetings. At least the nameplate that Dan got me for my desk has my name spelled correctly, amirite?
Another thing that can make Zoom calls imperfect is when they are interrupted by someone else in your household. When you’re living with others (children, especially, although that is not my situation), there’s always a possibility that someone will start talking or walk in when you’re on a call. At the very least, with your own at-home office, you can set boundaries a bit better and separate yourself from the riff raff. Especially with a door, it’s much easier to separate yourself and set those boundaries with the rest of your household so that they can use all of their common spaces, and you can stay in your office (hopefully) uninterrupted.
This can also help you create boundaries for yourself when it comes to your working hours. It can be hard to pull yourself away from work when working from home, so having one specific place where you get work done can enable you to separate yourself a bit once you leave your at-home office. It’s far easier to make the decision to unplug completely when your work spaces and relaxation spaces are different.
Better Bed/Couch Hygiene
While I have been fairly successful creating those boundaries and stepping away from work in the evening and on the weekends, it seems as though I can’t escape the feeling of needing to be productive while on the couch. When I unplug for the day, I often don’t physically move — I just close my laptop and set it aside. I don’t go into another room or do anything else to distance myself, I just start decompressing in the same room where I was just working. This just isn’t good couch hygiene!
If you’re not familiar with good couch/bed hygiene, it’s the idea that when you use your couch or bed regularly for anything other than their intended purposes, your brain will start to associate those places with those other activities. For example, while I used to only use my couch for relaxing, I now use it for working as well, so it’s possible that my brain now associates my couch with work, and not with relaxing. It’s hard to tell whether or not working from my couch is affecting me in a huge way, because honestly, I always felt guilty for not being productive while sitting on the couch before. Then again, I always have done my freelance and blogging work on my couch, so maybe I never had good couch hygiene to begin with…crap.
A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place
One of the largest problems with working somewhere in a house that is not meant for work is that, eventually, those rooms will need to serve their intended purpose. Whenever we use the dining room table, my dad has to clear all of his work materials off of the table and bring them upstairs. I don’t have nearly as much stuff, and the living room doesn’t have to be cleaned out nearly as often. That said, though, there’s nothing like wandering downstairs exhausted early on a Monday morning to remember that you moved your laptop upstairs for the weekend! With an at-home office, my work supplies would have a home and wouldn’t need to be displaced when other rooms in the house needed to be used.
While being able to work from home is an awesome, pantsless blessing, obviously there are some challenges to working from home that you don’t necessarily have when going into the office for work. I am looking forward to the day when I will have a workspace in my home so that I can properly separate my work and home lives, but until then, I will have to make the best of my couch desk.
Have you been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic? Do you have an at-home office? If so, do you like it? If not, do you wish you did?