freelancing, working from home without losing your soul
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How to Work from Home: the Dark Side

Jen - The IT Crowd

Last week we started exploring the fabulous work-at-home universe and we found out that it answers the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. But, there’s a but, my dear Frodo.

Like each and every mythical city of gold worthy of the name, the road to El Dorado is paved with danger. To begin with, isolation enhances weirdness and if you don’t set some boundaries you’ll run the risk of turning unknowingly into a dickensian character, one of those who surround themselves with cats and stop going out of their houses and whose part is eventually played by Helena Bonham-Carter. It only takes a moment!

Sensitivity intensifies, sheltered under the bell jar of a reduced aggressive charge, until your skin turns into a thing as delicate as fairy hair, and falls apart if you leave it out in a summer breeze. In similar states of mind, a mere nothing – an email with the word “ASAP” – and you curl up and whimper for 15 minutes.

Bambi, l'uomo è entrato nella foresta

“Bambi, man is in the forest”

Social relations, as a matter of fact, have this huge standardising drive that forces you to smooth your spikes a little for the sake of interaction. When you’re on your own and without feedback, your extravagance genes are free and at full gallop, and that’s how your wild things gain the upper hand. Rousseau would have adored you unreservedly, but I’m not sure uncle Jack is ready.

“I’M MY OWN BOSS AND, GOD, I CAN BE A REAL DICK!”

When time is not checked by external tools, excess is constantly around the corner. Our brains working more or less like those of the stupidest of lemurs, when we’re employed within a framework our sense of duty dozes off once we’ve punched out and then eventually falls into a coma on our way home. When your home is your workplace, your super-ego can bark with hostility at anything work-unrelated. It wants you to sit down at your computer with your first coffee in the morning and get up at the last stage of visual acuity loss.

You could feel guilty while engaging in any other thing – manicure, oral hygiene, getting dinner ready or watching adorable clips of polar bear cubs. (Don’t you just adore bears?) The trick in this case is to teach your sense of duty that work and all the rest of your tasks and routines have the same priority. For example, for some time I setup calendar entries or phone reminders for insignificant stuff like “Read” or “Lunch”. I know it sounds absolutely preposterous, but it worked for me.

Or, in a senseless stroke of cheeseparing, you could persevere in being your company’s CEO, IT dept, sales, cook and janitor. At that point, start expecting a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past. And the failure of your company, as you would have neglected your true job and lost time in unproductive tasks which could have been safely commissioned to somebody else. Get help! If you have kids, call a baby-sitter. A designer will make you a better business card, believe me. Entrust your financial statement to you accountant; call a techie if your computer breaks down; and unless you’re one of those nutcases who use home-cleaning to loosen up, let a cleaner dust your bookcases.

Let’s switch to grooming. I know that the pajamas-fridge-computer Axis can be tempting, for those of you who cuss at the mirror while tying their tie or catch the tube in Rome in August in a tropical wool suit. However, this abasing image has lost any romance, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s not forget that human beings are capable of any aberration, and that letting yourself go completely won’t help you maintain your delicate psycho-physical balance.  It’s only a minuscule step from civilized creature to abject beast with glottis atrophy and no control over their bladder.

Let’s figure out how to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying you should wear a tie to answer your emails, but at least trim your beard every once in a while!

Sensibilità

Jen from The IT Crowd is not a home worker but she’s the perfect paradigm for certain states of mind. Don’t know The IT Crowd? Come back when you’ve watched it all.

And then there’s the matter of self control. Work junkies fare better in structured environments, as it’s easier to find a charitable soul who’ll kick their ass and send them home after the odd ten hours in the office. Nobody will do it for you if you work at home. For that reason, it may help if you separate your work environment from the rest of your life: don’t let your home look like an office.
(And don’t eat at your desk for any reason!) 

Don’t engage in 12-hour marathons: in the long run your yield gets far worse and – dude, you get sick! Spare yourself a carpal tunnel and clinical anxiety: keep track of time, set boundaries and strive to respect them until they’ve became a routine. Your hour range will sometimes go to hell (when there’s CES, or IFA, or GamesCom, or when you’ll get distracted by beads and mirrors or shiny YouTube videos), while at other times you’ll be finished by 4 pm, free to run through the fields.

If you feel the anxiety rising and the conviction that the world will fall apart if you stand up from your chair, you may consider the possibility to seek help: talk to somebody – a priest, a therapist, you can even write to me. And get a smartphone to read your emails when you’re not home.

Which reminds me about our next topic: work tools.

This post is also available in it_IT.

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