I couldn’t resist.
Work-from-home tips articles have to be one of those topics that make you ask “WTF?”
The serious articles (yes, they actually exist) that cover “tips for working at home” will discuss at length how you need to ensure you have your own space free of distractions, yadda yadda yadda.
If you’re vulnerable to distractions like playing video games, straightening picture frames, scrubbing ketchup out of your favorite armchair and mowing your lawn into a checkered pattern you ain’t into your work.
I worked at home for 4 years. Was it an adjustment?
Are you kidding me? It’s like being on perpetual vacation. I’m not joking. It was amazing. I say “was” because I’ve since leased an office.
Whoa, if it’s so great working at home, why the office?
It’s simple. Cabin fever. Plus, my office building has a gym and is in an area with plenty of great restaurants nearby.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I loved it. I was my own boss doing what I enjoy. When leasing an office was an option, I did it. I still go the office. One day maybe I’ll return to working at home.
My point is there is absolutely no adjustment needed for working at home. You don’t need any tips or tricks. It’s as good as you imagine it to be.
Nevertheless, I have to weigh in with some useless pointers that amount to ridiculous pitfalls and precautions. Here goes.
1. Don’t forget to shower at least once a week
You’ll be amazed how many days can go by before you realize “dang, I haven’t showered in 5 days.” Actually, if you don’t realize it, anyone who comes near you will tell you.
You solve this perpetual problem by putting in a recurring reminder in your digital calendar reminding you every other day to take a shower. Problem solved. How could we possibly get by without computers?
2. Load up on loungewear
After a few months, I headed to Men’s Work Warehouse and loaded up on some plush loungewear. I’m talking stuff you can’t possibly wear outside of the house.
No, you’re not going to wear jeans and a collared shirt. You’re going to find the most comfortable clothes you have and wear that for weeks on end. Trust me, go buy more because you can’t live in the same outfit for more than 4 days.
3. Get a bed lounger
Check this bad boy out:
Yes, we own one. Yes, I used it a lot which meant I worked in bed. Not always, but sometimes the thought of actually getting out of bed was simply too much.
You too will have days where you won’t want to get out of bed. That’s when you’ll thank me for buying a bed lounger.
Or better yet, get one of those beds that with a touch of a button move into an incline sitting position.
4. Just for fun see how long you don’t leave the house
Forget training for a triathlon or marathon.
Put your endurance to the test by seeing how long you don’t leave the house. Surely you can make it 3 weeks.
It’s all in the preparation. You need non-perishables galore and you’re good to go.
Actually, in many places, you can have groceries delivered so in theory you never have to leave your house.
5. Buy a laptop
After you finish your record stint of not leaving the house, you’ll crave getting out. That’s when you can drive coffee shops crazy by loitering in them for hours on end spending only $4.
Be warned though. Coffee shops in my area are turning Wifi off during peak hours or limited Wifi access for a set duration. They’re tired of the gig economy getting free office space. I don’t blame them.
6. Do the coffee shop crawl
The way you maintain good relations with your local coffee shops is you do the coffee shop crawl. 2 hours in one. 2 hours in the next. On and on until the end of the day. That way you never overstay your welcome.
The downside to this is you need to buy something at each one which ends up costing more than nursing a $3.00 coffee for 6 hours in one coffee shop.
If you do the coffee shop crawl buying a coffee at each place, it’s still far cheaper than leasing an office.
6. You’re the “go-to” person
When people know you’re self-employed, especially self-employed and working from home, people think you’re perpetually available.
The truth is you are but you aren’t.
This is good and bad.
It’s good because you can say yes to impromptu invitations to go to a killer lunch buffet, movie, sky-diving session or a mid-afternoon pub crawl.
It’s really sweet when your friend, a recent Price is Right contestant, wins airfare and a 7-day stay at an all-inclusive 5-star Carribean resort but the plane leaves tomorrow. You know you’ll make that free trip work while most other people can’t
It’s bad because these invitations could become so frequent you don’t work.
It’s worse when you’re always the go-to person to help people move, watch their kids, take people to the airport, pick up prescriptions or go to their house to sign for an important delivery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping people and I’ve actually done pretty much all of the above in a pinch.
You might read this and think, oh, I’ll just say “no, I”m busy.” The fact is it’s hard to say “no” to these requests because people are in a jam and they know that you can actually help them.
And no, people don’t ask people who are at real jobs to do this stuff because that would be taking up one of their vacation days. The perception is people who work at home have unlimited vacation days.
7. Eat something other than cereal
I love cereal as much as the next person, but cereal consumption can get out of control when you work at home.
For me it got to the point I ate the stuff out of mixing bowls. A box would last 2 to 3 meals.
My idea of a healthy meal was adding a sliced banana.
8. Be prepared for accidental graveyard shifts
Time almost become irrelevant. Before you know it you’ll sleep in longer and work longer until you finish work one day bleary-eyed and see the sunrise.
Unless you’re an extreme night owl, that kind of schedule is hard to maintain. It might take some serious adjustment to get back on a regular schedule.
My solution: Set an alarm. I set an alarm to this day so I maintain sleeping hours that work best for me.
9. A kegerator is not necessarily the answer
If you like drinking, during the “work from home” honeymoon period you might find yourself intoxicated more often than usual.
Unfettered schedules with no supervision can lead to frequent drunkenness.
Enjoy the party. At some point you might think a kegerator is the solution, it’s probably not.
10. Clients don’t want to tromp through your house and say “hi” to your screaming 3-year-old
If you have clients, I’m telling you they don’t want to tromp through your house to get to your office. It’s uncomfortable.
Either have a home office with its own entrance, rent a local boardroom in a shared office arrangement or meet at a coffee shop. Resist the urge to bring them down to your dark, stinking home office in the basement.
11. Get a dog
If you end up never leaving the house with grocery delivery, it’s time to get a dog. At the very least you’ll go outside once or twice a day to walk it.
12. Your entire mortgage or rent is NOT tax deductible (and neither is your cereal, bed lounger and dog)
In most jurisdictions, you can write off part of your mortgage or rent for the home office portion, but it doesn’t amount to much of a write-off. It’s actually a small amount. Don’t claim your entire mortgage amount or rent or all other household expenses as business expenses. Your home is still your home.
If you really want to enjoy tax benefits, give up your house or apartment, rent a commercial office and sleep on the sofa. Even then, you need to run this by your accountant. You’ll also not want to get busted by security.
That’s a wrap. While working from home has its fair share of challenges and pitfalls, when you prepare properly, it’ll be smooth sailing.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.