015: Lessons Learned Working from Home -- Part 1



In part 1 of a 2 part series, Justin shares five lessons he’s learned in the last seven years of working from home.




00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, community leader at the Productivity Guild and today we’re talking about the lessons I’ve learned working from home.

00:11 Today will be part one of a two part series. We’ve got a lot to cover today so let’s dive right in. Global Workplace Analytics tells us that working remotely has grown 140% among non self employed people since 2005 and in one year from 2015 to 2016 it grew 7.3% among non self employed and 2.4% for self employed. This is a trend that’s going to continue and it’s a relatively new phenomenon that we’re still trying to figure out the best way to approach things. Clearly it helps people be more productive because they’re not in a noisy interruptive office environment, but there’s challenges that people have working from home that are new and different, such as a lot of people working from home can deal with loneliness or depression because no longer are there as many water cooler type conversations or spontaneous relationships formed from working in the same office.

01:06 You have to be so much more intentional with your relationships working from home. While it’s still possible to build some of those random type relationships in a work from home room, working remotely type scenario, it’s primarily through digital means, which is that much more difficult. I’ve been a remote worker for the last seven years or so, most of which started working from a small branch office of a corporation where none of my coworkers were, meaning my whole team was co located somewhere else and I was the sole person in our little branch office here. Then I started working from home part of the time and then the rest of the time in that seven years is as self employed working from my home. And so this whole episode is really a summary of some lessons that I have learned over the last seven years that have made me more effective as a remote worker.

01:55 Let’s dive right in. Lesson number one, be intentional with relationships. Now you might feel satisfied working remotely with chat conversations and social media interactions for a while. I know I was, but long term you still need deeper relationships. You still need those people you can have longer conversations with about work and non related things. So that’s why intentionality with relationships through scheduled phone calls or lunches or joining a group, which meets weekly. These are all ways to get deeper connection with other people. And if you’re living in the same house with other people, a significant other or children take breaks to chat about your day with them. It’s totally okay to step away from doing your work when working remotely, having some conversations with the people around you because it’s not just about getting the work done, it’s about living an effective life. And part of living an effective life is having high quality relationships and that’s the only way that you can. Many of us, especially when we get into adult life, most of our relationships can revolve around work and working remotely then therefore really puts a difficulty in building some of those relationships. So be intentional. Find things outside of work to get connected with people, scheduling lunches with friends, phone calls with your coworkers, video calls even and just talk. You know, you can talk about work things. You can talk about non work things, but just be intentional about forging those deeper connections because you’ll be more satisfied in the long run with both your work and your life.

03:23 Lesson number two, get outside. Going outside for walks during calls if that’s okay with your superiors and peers. Bringing your laptop out onto the deck into the sunshine and getting some work done or other modes of getting outside will definitely help your emotional and physical health immensely. I know especially where I live, winters are very difficult so it’s difficult to get outside and I noticed the difference for me in my own emotional health during those seasons working remotely. Back when I worked in an office, it was a little different because you still had people you could joke around with or have conversations with there, but being remote and in the little room in your house can get a little draining. And then so when you have the opportunity, make time to go outside, make time to spend time in nature because that is rejuvenating for a lot of people, myself included.

04:12 Lesson number three, change it up. If you’re able, use a laptop for your work so that you can pick that up and go to a coffee shop, a coworking space, or the park when you’re getting some brain fog that settles in. I know many of us have those times where you just can’t focus anymore because you’ve spent all your energy and so you need a change of scenery or a change of modes to get yourself back in the groove to be able to do something. Well, I know that if you’re working in an office, a lot of times you’ll get up, go have some coffee, go talk to a coworker at a cubicle down the aisle or whatever it is, but when you’re working from home, you can’t do that. So changing location, especially when you’re at home for work, after you work, while you sleep, while you eat, etc, etc, will help you refocus and recharge. Just that change of environment I have found has helped me refocus or just get a different perspective on the situation or even just renew my motivation to keep working.

05:07 Lesson number four, set work boundaries. Especially if you work a salary role or if you’re self employed, it can be very difficult to stop working at an appropriate time. For those of you who are self employed, it can feel like you’re working all of the time because your job is part of your life, your work is part of your life at that point, but you still need to set boundaries. So a few ways that you couldn’t do that is to have a dedicated space as a work zone. Many people in who are talking about remote work say that this needs to be a dedicated room. Well, while that’s ideal, it doesn’t have to be and I’ll raise my hand as the first person to say that because as I am here right now recording this podcast, I’m recording it in a corner of my master bedroom just because my wife and I do not have the space in our house for a separate office at this point. However, if you can set a space where you can close the door and do work, it works so much better because then you can kind of section that off. You know like the corner of the room that I have my desk and right now he is my workspace. I’m not, I don’t use it for anything else. And so even just that mental shift of this is my workspace, even though it’s right next to my bed where I sleep, it still helps me disconnect from it. So do something like that, have a separate space you can have as a work zone so that when you walk away from it you’re done with work. Additionally, I found it helpful to decide my office hours. So these are the hours of the day that I’m working and then I am generally not working outside of that. So as a self employed person, I tend to work from about eight o’clock to about four, four 30 in the afternoon. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but to be honest with you, when you are getting stuff done and you are focused, it’s amazing what you can get done in a short period of time. I go back to Parkinson’s law all the time where the work expands to the time allotted to it. So if you don’t set beginning and end times for your work day, it will expand eventually to eat your entire day.

07:03 Lesson number five, work with your significant other. No, I’m not saying that you need to work with your significant other in the house, you know with them next to you or whatever that some people that might work, that’s fine. But no, I’m actually more talking about that. If you have a spouse or significant other at home and especially so if you have kids, it’s important to have discussions on boundaries with them being at home and you working at home, especially regarding interruption. It may be helpful to have some kind of a sign such as the office door being closed, to note that you can’t be interrupted right now or during certain hours such as eight to noon because those are your best work hours and if you get interrupted during that timeframe, you’re actually losing out on a lot of productivity and a lot of getting your best work done. Keep in mind this is not a onetime one size fits all type of conversation. It’s an ongoing thing because needs change all the time between significant others and children and you know whatever’s going on in the house that given week. And so there may be a week where you need to say, okay, interrupt me at anytime during this because so and so is sick or something like that. But it’s an ongoing conversation to have between you and your significant other or spouse just to say these are what the boundaries need to be so that I can get work done so that you get what you need in the process as well.

08:21 Well that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or if you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more, consider signing up for a Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Get a free month trial using code PROCESS19. Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. My name is Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.


I’ve been approaching this by being open about my current situation. I can’t assume that my remote relationships will be aware of any setbacks such as medical emergencies, personal problems, or seasonal situations that I encounter.

My writing tends to slow down during the Christmas and I have to inform my team leader and colleagues that my production will be reduced at this time.

Clarifying my situation and be coming intentional with my relationships has helped to manage expectations.

I’ve also had several situations such as family medical emergencies and typhoons set me back as well. But being able to coordinate with remote HQ has helped my workload. I’ve been busy taking care of my personal emergencies and my clients/coworkers have been very accommodating.

When I duo feel like my situation has gotten a bit too crazy, it might be time to pass off responsibilities instead of leading a client on and promising that I’ll return soon.

I’m trying to work on this myself! Do something besides what my job entails me to do. I won’t feel guilty if I decide to get a workout or a cup of coffee with friends. When I have my favorite sports hat on, my wife and kids think twice before asking me anything. Most of the time it works. Sometimes it’s an emergency and I’m the only one that can help. I try to be flexible but I do tell them that I have to make up for my work time later in the day. Thankfully, they’re very understanding.

Variety is the spice of life. I do get stuck in a rut every once in a while. I try to practice this method as well. Sometimes working in a hotel lobby or coffee shop gives me enough stimulation to keep me working.

I have found difficulties with work boundaries myself. Part of it is about feeling guilty that I didn’t get enough done in one day. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. I have to be content with what I’ve already accomplished (provided that I didn’t burn a whole afternoon on Netflix :flushed:).

For me, some of this relates to Lesson one - be intentional with relationships.

Thanks for helping some of us who work remotely in dealing with our struggles and challenges that comes out of nowhere. Looking forward to part 2!

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