Working remotely: Life from my dining room table

My best work buddy Althea, who likes to walk on my laptop and send emails when I’m not looking.

I never considered working remotely until my husband’s career rudely uprooted my happy Boulder life. Sure, I’d done my share of working from home – as everyone with a laptop and cell phone knows, the concept of an office and a traditional 9 to 5 workday has become rather fluid in recent years. Nonetheless, my experience consisted of an occasional day here or there, a late-night push to meet deadlines from my kitchen table.

So, when I learned I was moving to Alamosa, a remote town nestled in the vast mountains and plains of southern Colorado, I was positive that my job as I knew it was over. I started looking for a new one, but that proved tricky. I did find jobs but they weren’t exactly in my career field.

view of Mt. Blanca
A long way from Boulder – view of Mt. Blanca from Alamosa’s plains

Chili’s hostess? Check.

Potato farmer/rancher? Double check.

PR & Marketing? Not so much.

I jumped at the chance when FIG offered to keep me as a remote employee – In fact, my immediate reaction was to break into less-than-graceful cartwheels around my living room, scaring the crap out of my dogs. My next thought was, ‘Can I really do this?’

The answer to that question was yes, I can do this and in fact, still am doing this. Working remotely comes with many perks, but it also carries its own set of challenges. So, for your enjoyment and enlightenment, here are some lessons I’ve learned from life at my dining room table.

my work from home life
Hangin’ in my “office”
  • Create a space that works for you. My ideal office is my dining room table. This might seem silly as my home has plenty of bedrooms that could easily serve as an office, but I just can’t do it. Bedrooms feel small and claustrophobic; I much prefer to be in an open area with lots of light. It means my husband and I eat most of our meals in our living room, but that’s a price I’m willing (and he’s forced) to pay. Whether it’s at a coffee shop, in an office, or on your couch, figure out what you need to work remotely, then make it happen.
  • Make peace with your coworkers. I’m not talking about coworkers in the traditional sense, as mine are perfectly lovely. I’m talking about the people that call your office their home and may not understand or care that you’re trying to focus on a complicated report or are in the middle of a client meeting. People tend to assume that because I work from home, my schedule is somehow more relaxed. I’m lucky enough to work for an agency that affords its employees flexibility, but come on guys, I’m still working. Case in point, my old roommate used to open the door yelling when he’d come home for his lunch break. Every. Single. Day. I finally got in the habit of texting him if I had a meeting – it was literally the only way he could remember not to bellow his greeting. Relatives can also be tough – they usually mean well, but it can be hard for your mom to sit quietly in the living room waiting for you to finish work when she hasn’t seen you for months. My advice? Set clear boundaries and enforce them. If you have visitors, create an itinerary of fun activities and kick them out.
  • Don’t forget your furry family. These guys can be more challenging than actual roommates/family because they honestly don’t get why you can’t play with them. One of my favorite things about working from home is that I can cuddle my pets if I get stressed or take them on a quick walk to clear my head. One of my least favorite things is the daily mail delivery – truly the bane of my WFH existence. My postal worker parks in front of our house then delivers mail to the whole block. This is especially wonderful as it means my dogs lose it for a solid 20 minutes while he makes his rounds. If I have meetings scheduled I lock them outside, and occasionally lock myself in my bedroom as well. I recommend lots of walks (tired dogs are good dogs) and patience. But I’m sorry to say the mail situation is incurable. Unless you can hire someone to walk your dogs at 10:30 every day or send them to daycare, there’s no fixing that problem.
  • Take a shower. Seriously, just do it. You don’t need to be the smelly girl who works all day in her yoga pants/hoodie and hasn’t washed her hair in a week. I’ve been there – it’s not great.
  • Stay connected. When you don’t see your coworkers in person every day, you need to make more of an effort to keep in touch. When I first started working remotely, I struggled with not being able to walk over to a coworker’s cube to just say hi and check in. It’s not difficult to recreate this scenario virtually, it just takes some planning and tools. Sometimes emails just don’t cut it. Be ready to hop on the phone, on Skype, or in the car to see your work family face-to-face.
  • Be resourceful. Weird things happen when you work remotely. If you live in Alamosa, the internet might just go down in your entire town for the whole day. This might happen at least once a month, so practice using the hotspot on your phone and make sure you have lots of data. Or, you might glance out the window to see a man climbing out of your back yard and your next-door neighbor yelling that he’s been robbed (yes, this happened last week). Always be prepared to contact your local police station when necessary.
  • Have fun. Working remotely is pretty great, so stop all this complaining and get back to hustling!

Share your best/worst working from home stories in the comments section below.

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