Working from home sounds like a dream. But like anything in life, it certainly has its challenges. I have been working 100% remotely for a little over two years now. When I started, we did not have an extra room in our home for my office, but we had a larger closet off of our garage. It was about 6ft x 4ft, with no windows, and it wasn't the best insulated. I put a desk in there and ran an extension cord and got to work. This was not ideal unless I was dreaming of becoming a sardine, or maybe a frozen food in a walk-in freezer since I started mid-Fall.
A few key things I learned rather quickly about working on a distributed workforce:
1. It’s smart to set dedicated hours. I needed to set my hours that I intended to work and stick to them. I shot for 8am-5pm, and if my workload demanded that I put in extra hours I would wake up early, or work after the kids had gone to bed as to not cut into my work/life balance. I learned it is key to not make a habit of this though and stick to the 8–5, or whatever hours work best for you.
2. Finding a dedicated workspace makes a difference. Preferably, use the same place in the home every day. Obviously, one of the benefits of working remote is that I can go anywhere I would like, but for me personally, I only do that occasionally. I predominantly work in my home office as much as possible. There is something to be said about your work space being your WORKspace. I like knowing that I only work there, and only do work there. This provides an invisible barrier between your work and life. Trust me, you must keep the wolves at bay otherwise you will continuously put in 80+ hour work weeks and neglect other facets of your life. Not to mention you will burn out quickly!
3. Setting boundaries can be a challenge. “Daddy works from home” doesn’t really translate well to an 8-year old, a 5-year old, and two toddlers. In their eyes, it means I am not really at work. They do not treat me as if I am at work. They have a game they want to play, they want a snack, one is mad the other is looking at them. “Hey Daddy! Hey Daddy! Hey Daddy! Hey Daddy!” Or if they do ignore me, they are still trouncing around the house apparently being chased by wild elephants and hyenas! Then my wife starts watching The Office while making brownies, and lasagna! How dare she! She knows I love Steve Carrell, homemade Italian, and chocolate treats! ARGHHH!
My solution to these three large metaphoric tent poles of working from home, and the well-intended distractions? Shedquarters!
I had a shed made from a local Amish company. It is fully insulated and has electricity. It is also portable to a certain extent. It came in one piece, and they unloaded it off the truck and put it in its new location. They will move it to a new location in the event I relocate for $250. Custom built, it has two large windows, a large 36” door, window A/C unit, and small space heater. I was in business! 8ft x 12ft. is room for a large desk with my four monitors, two bookshelves, and an over-stuffed chair for my Administrative Assistant, AKA my dog Baxter who mostly naps the whole day.
Now I have a dedicated workspace where I only work. It is free from distractions. I can go inside the house if I need to meet a contractor, a delivery, or my kids getting off the bus. The baby monitor signal reaches my office in the event my wife wants to run some errands while the babies nap. Yes, that is plural. We had twins last year which is an added benefit or detriment of working from home. I haven’t decided which yet.
Shedquarters also adds a certain psychological benefit. It is a subtle shifting of gears and mindset. Inside the home I am immersed in my family life. In my shed I am at work. Period.
It is my Shoffice, my Shedquarters, my Fortress of Solitude. It works for me and allows me to very effectively separate my work from my personal life while enjoying the outdoors.
After all, the great Roald Dahl, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs flourished working in a shed. So why can’t I?