I hate working from home — how can I make this better?

A reader writes:

I recently started my dream job about a month ago — great title, pay, and benefits in a field I am passionate about! The only problem — I now work from home.

I know, I know, most people think of “work from home” as a huge perk, but I am finding it seriously isolating and am starting to wonder if I made the wrong decision taking this job. I miss interacting with people and having a reason to get ready in the morning. I thrive off of meetings and the hustle and bustle of the work day. Worst of all, this is a newly created job and I don’t have a ton of work to do yet. Put frankly, I am bored out of my mind. Strangely, this boredom makes it hard to get motivated when I actually receive work to do. What are your tips for working from home? How do you stay motivated and engaged without constant meetings to break up your day?

My tips for working from home without losing your mind are here, but I’m someone who loves doing it so you might need different advice. I’m going to throw this out to readers to weigh in on, especially readers who can relate to feeling bored or isolated when working at home. What’s your advice?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 286 comments… read them below }

  1. Sarah*

    Does your town have any coworking spaces? I have always felt if I ended up with a WFH gig I’d end up spending the money for a really basic membership just to have people to interact with. I absolutely hate working from home for more than a day, so I totally feel you on this OP.

      1. Sarah*

        Hahahaha, love it! I’m a complete extrovert and after getting snowed in for two days last week, told my boss, “One snow day is great! I love it. Two days and I start getting irritable, and after 3 I start talking to the birds that land on my windowsill just for some company.”

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, I always thought working from home would be amazing, but one time my firm had me doing tax seminars online from home for 3 weeks at the same time my ex-husband went on vacation with friends. I didn’t talk to anyone for days, I started to go nuts.

          If I had roommates or more immediate family, I think it’d be okay, but…

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Being unemployed forever made me want to come in the office at Exjob. Now that I’m stuck at home again for even longer, I’m about to go stir crazy. But I like having the option to WFH when the weather is bad. Coworking space sounds great.

              1. Goya de la Mancha*

                awww! Does your public library have any “work areas”? Our (free!) library is generally open to small talk in the general spaces and has a “quiet zone” instead for the small amount of people who need actual silence.

              2. The OG Anonsie*

                HAH! This is exactly what I did when I was working from home full time. “Oh it might be nice to do that every once and a wh– oh to hell with that, what a supreme waste of money. Who do these people think they are??”

                Protip, there are a lot of freeeeee coworking meet ups in various cafes and places like that that long predate these fancy coworkering company offices. There are also virtual coworking groups where people do a large group Skype call at a scheduled time and have sort of a pep talk chat about what everyone is doing and what their plans are, if that’s something you like to do.

                1. Original Poster*

                  I never heard of these! Where can I find free coworking meet ups or virtual coworking groups? What a great idea!

                2. The OG Anonsie*

                  A lot of them float around without being advertised, but ways that I’ve heard of them before: Finding them on Meetup or Facebook events, talking to people (networking events, friends, family) and hearing about what they do, and work-related message boards and places like this.

              3. zora*

                Or are there any universities/colleges near you? There are a couple of colleges with nice loungey areas/lobby areas with seating and tables near my office, and they don’t ask for ID at the front door, so if you know they are there, you can really just walk in and use the space as much as you want during normal open hours.

                Although, you need to be a student or employee to get wifi access, but some might have public wifi, or it could be an option if you have offline work to do or can use your cell phone as a hotspot.

          2. Kelsi*

            Agreed. I’m an introvert, but I’ve discovered it’s good for me to have work that forces me out of the house. Because like…I’m not voluntarily going to leave, and the longer I am home the less I want to go out, but it’s NOT good for my emotional health. A few days? Great. More than that and I start getting lethargic and lonely but unable/unwilling to go out and do anything to remedy the problem.

            1. Jojo*

              omg you just described me to a T. Luckily my partner is super extraverted and adventurous so he pushes me to get out of the house. We go through a ritual of “but I want to stay in and watch competitive baking shows!” “no, we’re doing this, you’re going to have a good time”, and then usually I do and I’m glad for it. He lets me have my downtime but makes sure I don’t go overboard.

            2. Jojo*

              But so work-related, we actually have a pretty loose wfh policy but I specifically told my boss from the beginning that I “don’t like working from home” so I don’t let myself do it too much. So tempting not to have to get out of my pajamas but then my mental health starts to suffer and I don’t feel as committed and motivated to do my job.

          3. einahpets*

            Actually immediate family can be a blessing and a curse in terms of a work from home gig.

            I have two young kids, and at a previous job sometimes would have to take early morning calls from my car in the driveway because otherwise there was too much risk of a kid barging in to declare loudly about needing to go potty, etc. Even with my husband at home to get the kids ready/take them to daycare, the kids could just sense that there was something I was doing that they couldn’t do and they wanted to hover and interject whenever least convenient.

            I actually just rejected a job offer that would have involved a lot of work from home mostly because of this. Maybe when the kids are older and/or we can afford a house with a separate office with a sturdy sound muffling door that locks I can do the work from home again.

        2. Mabel*

          I’m so glad to see that this is normal for extroverts! I get so lonely when I work from home more than a day at a time. Also, I just went through a relationship breakup, so now I never want to be alone. Argh.

          1. einahpets*

            As a total introvert, I’ll say that even I reached my limit of three days a week max for working from home. There were a few weeks at one point where I worked remote all week and by the end I was a little batty. Even introverts need a change of scenery / someone to listen to and/or occasionally talk to eventually.

          2. Optimistic Prime*

            I’m an introvert and I think this is pretty normal for lots of people. I like working from home for like a day or two but after that I start to miss the buzz of the office. Now, I do want to work in my office and have people leave me alone…but I do like being in the *presence* of others, lol :D

    1. Adlib*

      Seconding this! If I hadn’t moved into a new office space last year, I’d be renting space at a coworking spot. I’m in a mid-sized Midwestern city, and they’re popping up everywhere! I’ve spent time at nearly all of them, and it’s quite a nice change from the tedium of working from home.

    2. Else*

      I love working from home and seriously miss it now that I’m in a job that isn’t friendly to it, but I agree – look for a coworking space if one exists. Even if you do like working from home, it’s great sometimes just to be in a different place for some structure and company. If one doesn’t exist – try your library.

      1. Original Poster*

        Thanks! I will look into these. Only issue is that I work in HR and need to have confidential conversation once in a while. Still worth looking into.

        1. Else*

          Yeah, that’s an issue – there are generally study rooms available at libraries or phone rooms at co-working spaces that I’ve been to, but you have to schedule them in advance. If you can know when you’re going to have to use the phone, or you’re close enough to hop home quickly or make calls from your car, it still might be okay. Good luck! I’m far more of an introvert, but I do like seeing my colleagues in person once in a while. :)

        2. Rookie Biz Chick*

          I really love the co-working space trend. The space at which I’m a member has a few phone booths for 20-minute calls – probably a 4’x4′ room with a door and a tiny ledge to take a call or webconference in private, as well as smallish conference rooms to duck into as needed.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            The open-office space I work at two days a week also has these phone booths. They crack me up but they are super useful. They also have a plug in them so you can plug in your laptop, and a small stool that is designed to be comfortable for about 30 minutes max (probably to discourage people working in there longer-term).

    3. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      Back when I was in the private sector, I had the option of working from home, but just like the OP, I couldn’t stand it. I got a full time office in an executive suite set up, and it was very reasonable price wise, and let me interact with a bunch of people, some of who sent business my way.

    4. The Other Katie*

      This is what I was going to suggest. Working from home doesn’t have to be from home! A coworking space is an expensive, but it will also give you office-like resources and equipment and social interaction throughout the day.

    5. Llama Wrangler*

      If your town doesn’t have coworking spaces, do you know other people who work from home? (Or are students? Or are job-searching?) You have to be much more disciplined if you’re coworking with friends, but I find doing it occasionally (no more than 1-2x per week) can be a really good change.

      1. Traveling Nerd*

        Sometimes jobs also allow you to expense coworking spaces – it could be worth asking your manager if they would cover all or part of the cost. There are some very nice ones around the world! I have used them when traveling on vacation and want to take fewer days of PTO.
        In San Francisco, because office space is so tight, some small companies will also lease out desks in their offices – I’ve seen these ads on Craigslist – so you could check there as well.

    6. JR*

      Similarly, cafes can be a great option – you’ll rack up some costs with buying several cups of coffee, but might be cheaper than a co-working space, and of course easier to find. (Though the tip about not snacking all day goes double if you’re working at a cafe!) Unless I have a lot of calls, I almost always work from a cafe versus from my home office – usually one in the morning, then a different once in the afternoon, to keep things interesting and so I don’t overstay my welcome. I also have half a dozen local friends who work from home, so we try to get together for lunch periodically. Finally, I often leave iMessage open when I’m working and chat occasionally with friends – as long as I’m not doing something that requires heavy concentration, this doesn’t distract me too much and gives me the kind of casual chit chat that I’d have in an office.

      1. Original Poster*

        great advice, thank you! I should try working from a cafe once in a while, would help break up the day.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        In grad school, I needed to do a lot of independent work, and often didn’t feel like enduring the schlep or costs of commuting to campus.

        I found myself at my local grocery store frequently. They have a huge cafe seating area upstairs, free wifi, and coffee refills are 64¢. I could get lunch at the salad bar or hot bar as well.

        It was jokingly referred to as my field office, and now I have several friends who use the field office as well.

        It surprised me that I was able to be as productive as I was, because I tend towards introversion. The relatively quiet background noise actually helped me focus, and not being home meant I couldn’t *just start a load of laundry and do this and that* before getting to my work

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          I’m introverted as well and I wrote much of my dissertation in coffee shops. Pure quiet drove me crazy, but the incoherent background buzz of a coffee shop was just perfect to help me focus. The steady supply of coffee didn’t hurt.

    7. Triple Anon*

      When I worked from home, I would go to different coffee shops and places like that. I actually focused better there than in the office.

  2. Snark*

    I have a good friend who’s pretty extroverted and also a teleworker. His sanity got saved by the opening of a coworking space nearby, so he can go there and there’s folks around to occasionally chat with and so on.

  3. Jascha*

    You can break up your days yourself! Does your job involve meetings? You can schedule a daily catch-up over phone, Skype or instant messaging with anyone who works closely alongside you. You can contact clients at regular intervals throughout the day, instead of doing it all in one go. You can work to the Pomodoro method (twenty minutes on, ten minutes off) or switch between tasks at regular timepoints if that’s possible in your line of work.
    Also, have you considered working from “home?” You can spend part (or all) of your day working in a coffee shop or library if you prefer, or even rent a co-working space where you can spend your day in an office surrounded by people. Perhaps you can even join a relevant group in your area (in my profession, for instance, we have local and regional organisations in which many people work from home and will happily meet up once a week or have individual “co-working” times in public or organisation-owned places).

    1. Beans on toast*

      Seconding cafes. I saved my sanity by getting up to go to “work” at my local cafe for breakfast every day, then nursing a drink until lunch. (I didn’t feel comfortable taking a table for their lunch rush, even though it had spare tables the rest of the day.)

      Doing half-days at work got me up, dressed and showered every day, and gave my day some structure, and noise and human contact. It only takes a week or two to become a ‘regular’ and after that, the staff and other regulars will start to talk to you

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It might not work for everyone, but our local library was renovated a few years ago, so it’s quite nice, and the wifi is quite good. I can usually work silently, but I do have a headset, although I’d hesitate to participate in a conference call at the library. I also wouldn’t worry about parking my butt there all day like I would at a coffee shop. But then, I can walk to our local library, and I volunteer there.

      1. pope suburban*

        I second the library idea. The first one I thought of was actually my university library, where there are always a lot of other people around and working, but not at such a volume that they would be distracting. There were a couple of open spaces filled with shared tables that were honestly a lot like open-plan offices. Something like that could be a good fit for a teleworker.

        1. Kath*

          University libraries are great! Just one caveat if you’re not affiliated with the school – college libraries are often open to the public most times, but during finals weeks in winter and spring they might set up ID access at the door, or roam and check more for student/staff IDs. And even if they don’t close to the public at those times, it might be much more difficult to snag a seat. (And the atmosphere inside a college library at finals time is pretty undesirable anyway, TBH…)

          Generally, it’s good be aware of any relevant guest policies if you’re considering teleworking at a college you’re not affiliated with. :)

      2. Parenthetically*

        There’s a university near me that recently redid the first floor of their library, and it’s amazing! They have a whole honor-bar thing with coffee and snacks, there’s no whispering allowed, only normal volume conversation. Plus there are great big study tables AND little quiet carrels tucked in corners, and there’s a lounge area with vending machines and magazines and comfy couches with big ottomans, and a little museum of antiquities and cool manuscripts… basically it’s a teleworker’s dream location.

      3. The OG Anonsie*

        Oh yeah, there are some real nice libraries around a lot of cities. I think in recent years there’s been a bit of a trend of libraries trying to have nice meeting spaces, since that’s a service they can provide that’s still difficult to get elsewhere.

    3. Thlayli*

      I also used to go to coffee/shops / libraries when I was working on something that didn’t need a lot of phone calls. I am a person who needs social interaction even if it’s just to see and feel other people around (not physically feel, just like the ambience of them in the room). Stick in headphones and get down to it. One caveat – DONT set up your laptop on a low coffee table or you will get bad back pain after a couple hours!

    4. Original Poster*

      This is great advice, thank you! I should look into all these options. I really like you professional group recommendation, would be a good chance to run ideas by others!

    5. Grace*

      I 100% second this comment!

      I’ve been a full-time remote worker, a freelancer from home, and now a part-time remote worker, so I know the feels. Also, I just started a new job and don’t have enough work to do, and OH BOY did it throw me for a serious emotional loop.

      Here’s what I’ve learned:
      – Co-working space (and/or library) — great for feeling less alone, feeling more accountable.
      – Cafe — great for feeling less alone and breaking up your day, not as good (for me) in terms of accountability.
      – Do you have any other freelance/remote worker/unemployed friends? I had a friend who used to come over and apply to jobs while I worked. She definitely motivated me to focus a bit more, because I was too embarrassed to get up and open the fridge every 15 minutes like I usually do (looking for magically-appearing food? who knows)
      – Daily walks at the same time, if you can. It breaks up your day, it forces you to leave your habitat, and (for me) they can be really helpful clearing out the mental cobwebs.
      – Pomodoro has really helped me get on track in terms of forcing myself to start on work that’s boring/confusing/unclear/overwhelming. Even if you weren’t suffering from remote worker malaise, I’d still recommend it!
      – Weekly (or more often) check-in meetings with coworkers via Skype. Having to be awake, coherent, and presentable for a 9am Monday meeting did wonders for starting my week off on the right foot.

      Not having enough work and feeling like you’re in an echo chamber of your own thoughts can be really agonizing! I fully sympathize. I spiraled into a pretty deep depression for the first 3 months of my job. It felt so silly to be so depressed over being bored at work, but it really cut at my feelings of professional self-worth and purpose. So, perhaps when you’re finally feeling challenged and needed, some of these remote working issues will resolve themselves.

      Anyway, I hope any of this was helpful, and I hope things start looking up! Working from home can definitely be really tough, and it’s even harder if everyone’s scoffing at you for complaining.

  4. Christy*

    I go to the gym every day so I always get out of the house and see someone. When I’m super bored at home, I work on my running house to-do list–so I’ll do dishes or laundry or something so I’m still accomplishing something.

    1. Paige Turner*

      Yeah, I was thinking that OP might like one of those 8am fitness classes at a local gym or community center.

    2. Curious Cat*

      I second going to the gym! When I telework I like to take what would be my usual lunch break and spend some time running or doing another workout. Helps to break up the day and makes me feel invigorated for the rest of the work day. (and it’s nice to get into the gym since I am a constant snacker when I’m at home.)

    3. Katastrophreak*

      Just came to say this. Friends of mine swear by this – wake up, exercise, shower, coffee/ breakfast, and work until lunch.

    4. oranges & lemons*

      Yeah, I work from home and I love it, but to make it feel less isolating, I’ve joined a lot of classes, meet up with friends often, and usually take a mid-day break to walk around my neighbourhood. Personally I prefer to be social in my private time and live in a fortress of solitude while I’m working, but I’m an editor, so my job lends itself to that.

    5. The OG Anonsie*

      This was going to be my suggestion. The thing that made working from home feel good to me was the luxurious feeling of going to the gym in the middle of the day when everything is abandoned. Oh man.

      1. Original Poster*

        Yes, I really NEED to get a gym membership, I think this would help a lot, break up my day and interact with other humans. Only thing holding me back is being pregnant and not able to work out (doctors orders)…. but that will change in about 7 months or so :) For now, I AM able to take easy walks around my neighborhood, which does help a lot.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          Could you go to a gym and float around in the pool? That might not be much more strenuous than walks around the neighborhood.

        2. Khlovia*

          Check out whether your local community college offers a one-credit pass-fail phys ed course that requires only a couple or so hours of attendance per week, **at the student’s convenience**. It’s likely to be cheaper than membership in a gym and it also comes with a pool attached.

        3. The OG Anonsie*

          Is it just strenuous exercise or would something like prenatal yoga be ok?

          For me the most important things are 1) it’s at a set time or window of time, 2) it’s around other people, and 3) it makes me move around in a way that I would not normally be moving so I don’t feel so static. If you’re really restricted in physical activity your options there may be pretty limited, but if you’re able to do very low stress activity I would suggest looking at some yoga studios and seeing what they offer. I’ve been recovering from some nasty injuries recently and I discovered a lot of studios offer not-exactly-yoga-classes with not very clear names like “gentle” or “restoring” that are essentially just some very light stretching for people with big limitations to just do what they can do. A lot of them cater specifically to folks in the middle of serious medical treatment, recovering from some injury, elderly people, etc. as a space to just move a little bit and relax.

  5. Jareth*

    My friend ‘walks to work’ — he’ll take an orange or a cup of coffee and walk around the block in the morning so he 1) gets dressed and 2) starts the day outside of the house before going back to the house and his office. His office is dedicated, only for work, only there when he works, and that separation of space plus coming to the office only after a ‘commute’ helps him get in gear.

    As for social isolation, I work in a factory where I see no one all day. I’ve been making plans with my personal friends more and investing in my relationships so I can be alone all day at work but get to interact with my favorite critters after work.

    1. Midge*

      I know someone who does the “walk to work” thing, too. She takes a 10-30 minute walk around the neighborhood, gets a cup of coffee, and that’s her “commute.” Then at the end of the day, she takes another 10-30 minute walk around the neighborhood to “commute home.” It seems like a nice way to separate working from home from just being at home.

      1. Koko*

        Ha, I unintentionally do a version of this because I have to walk my dog every morning before I start work.

        1. Trig*

          Yeah! Morning dog walk, chat with the other dog people at the park, then home to work. Lunch break involves playing with (and maybe talking to…) the dog for a bit. Then evening dog walk before dinner.

          So, OP, get a dog! Ha.

          (I also have at least one daily web meeting, and am on IM with a coworker or two. As an introvert, that’s plenty of social interaction for me.)

    2. Snark*

      This is also a great tip. It really, really, really doesn’t work to just sack out at the kitchen table or the couch and work – all the teleworkers I know who have been doing it for a while have an office set up that is dedicated for work, and that’s all they do there.

      1. oranges & lemons*

        Yeah, my apartment is pretty small, but I’ve still dedicated a desk in the corner with all of my work stuff, so it doesn’t invade the rest of my life. I don’t use it for anything else (and I have a separate work computer).

    3. Adlib*

      I really like this!! I WFH one day a week (yay Fridays!), and this is such a great idea. I’ll have to try it!

    4. The Person from the Resume*

      Re: social isolation

      I’m an introvert so this affects me less than the LW, but even I have made an effort to be more social in the evenings. I play in a coed sports league one night a week and that’s great because unless it rains out that’s one night a week with social interaction. I also have monthly events I pretty much attend without fail. I call friends in the evening just to talk to people after a quiet day.

      Does your work have meetings where you interact with people. Most days of my weekdays except Friday still have me interacting but the teleconference interaction is very different than in person. One of my old teams used to have personal discussions at the start of meeting for the first few minutes. That doesn’t happen on my current team meetings, but it still happens in my 1-on-1 meetings.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I also upped my commitment to socialize outside of work. I do a weekly D&D night, a yoga class, and I volunteer at a animal shelter a set day a week (even though I could go there whenever, I have a set day and time I go).

        Also, sometimes I’ll call a coworker I could technically email or message for work stuff. If it’s going to take a few minutes to explain, I’ll just call their desk and see if they’re able to go over it with me.

    5. LSP*

      My husband, a software developer, has two offices in the house. One is for work, and when he is not in there working, he closes the door and we pretend like it doesn’t exist. The other is on a separate floor, and that’s where he has his gaming computer and VR set-up. We’re fortunate to have room in our house for all of that, and when we were shopping for a house, we specifically wanted space for work/life separation.

      He would probably spend all day working in his robe if he didn’t have to drive our son to pre-school each day. Of course, as is the way for many in his field, he is happy to sit in a dark room, speaking to no one all day, and just doing his coding.

    6. Vin Packer*

      “Walk to work” is an AWESOME idea. Doing this starting tomorrow.

      Having a dedicated office space has also made a big difference for me. “A room of one’s own” and all that.

    7. Curious Cat*

      Agreeing with everyone else, “walking to work” is such a fabulous idea! Absolutely incorporating that into my telework day.

    8. EddieSherbert*

      +10 to the separate office space dedicated just to work – I had my desk in my bedroom for awhile and it drove me nuts literally being in the same room I sleep in! I moved it to the guest room, which I never personally used, and am doing a lot better now that I have a designated working space.

    9. Julia the Survivor*

      I also don’t like isolation and when I was doing data entry and such, I developed a lot of social and evening activities so I wouldn’t get depressed and cranky.
      Now I have a higher-level job I can’t go out on weeknights, but I go on weekends at least twice a month and stay in touch socially on Facebook every day. I’m thinking of going back to some of my previous activities or getting more involved politically too.
      I inherited my analytical mind and I’m pretty good with computers, but I decided not to go into coding because it’s too stressful – and the isolation would get me! :)

    10. Mr. Rogers*

      I came in here with some advice as a WFH person who took a couple months to adjust…… but wow this is genius. Stealing it immediately!

  6. DCompliance*

    I almost sounds like a big part of the problem is that you don’t have a lot of work to do yet. Once things get going, this problem may go away. As far as being motivated to the work assigned to you, you can try scheduling an appointment on your calendar so you give yourself a set time to complete your work. What to do when you are bored? Listen to a podcast….still waiting on the Ask a Manager weekly podcast….maybe some day.

    1. Anon Anon*

      I agree about the lack of work being an issue.

      I work from home a couple days a week, and as long as I’m busy it works great. When things are slower, there is more temptation to do non-work related things (although I find that to be a temptation in the office as well!).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, this was a problem for me as well. I would save back some non-essential ongoing projects to do when I worked at home, if I knew I was likely to do so that week because of weather, service visits, etc.

      2. Overeducated*

        Yeah, I work from an office and I’m in a slow period right now where I really have to work to fill up my days while I wait for approvals from busy people on high…I have very little motivation to even do the work I have. Location might only be part of the problem,

    2. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Until your workload gets up and running, is there some sort of continuing education you can do? My local community college has a pretty decent selection of online classes. There are assignments due on a weekly basis so that might help you structure your time. You might also be able to audit them so if your work does pick up mid-term, you don’t have to withdraw or get an F or anything.

      1. Mananana*

        I came here to suggest continuing education as well. Check out the courses Harvard offers for free by googling “Harvard Extension School’s Open Learning Initiative.” Find something that applies to the work you do, whether it’s improving your Excel or Word skills, or picking up a Advanced Spout Design course.

        (And count me with those who enjoy 1 or 2 days WFH, but after that go a little stir crazy. My dogs are great companions, but I become a cling-on as soon as my DH comes home from work.)

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      I agree. I think op is coming to the conclusion that work from home is the cause of her boredom but it may be the lack of work! Maybe OP would be happy if they more to do!

    4. Julia the Survivor*

      I spend a lot of time at the computer, and listening to music helps!
      Also surfing, Facebook, personal projects? I can think of a million things to do with downtime! OP, you’re lucky! I only have about 1/2 hour during lunch for these things!

  7. it_guy*

    I’ve done the Tele work gig, and the only thing in addition to Alison’s list is to have an office space set up so that you have a clear if only mental boundary of work and home.

  8. Nicole*

    Kind of a tangent based on the advice in the linked post, but I work from home 100% of the time when I’m not traveling. It’s amazing how many people question why I have my 5-month-old son in daycare while I work. I don’t think a lot of people understand that working from home is not code for “doing whatever you want around the house while still collecting a paycheck.”

    1. Midge*

      When I was in college, one of my professors had a baby right around the time she went on sabbatical. She spent that semester working on her book, and had her kid in daycare/with a babysitter during the day. At the time I didn’t get it, but now that I’m working it seems like such a smart idea. Otherwise, how would you get any work done?

      1. Nicole*

        Totally! And in my role, I’m on calls with clients 4-6 hours some days. That’s just not possible while trying to care for a baby at the same time.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          Heck, my coworker works from home and his wife is a stay at home mom to their several (three I think?) young kids. Sometimes HE has a hard time getting work done — he’s been known to hide in the garage for conference calls because sometimes the background noise level of kids existing is too high.

    2. Snark*

      I worked at home Monday, as I’m a federal contractor and had no office open to go to. My parents offered to pick up my son and take him sledding, and asked me to pick him up from daycare at like 2pm so they could just stop by the house. I had to be like, Mom….I’m at work. I’m not just killing time, I’m elbow deep in a crate of documents and I can’t just interrupt that to save you 15 minutes. I appreciate them taking him to do something fun, but sheez.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        My parents legit took a year of me working from home and many repetitions before it finally settled in that working from home has WORKING in its name and I am WORKING and I can’t just interrupt it to go to lunch or go shopping or walk the dogs. A full year of my parents being offended that I said no every time they asked me to do something during work hours on a weekday. They are (ostensibly) intelligent people and I am very blunt (literally my response was ‘no I am working’ most times) but they just did not get it.

        1. Coalea*

          I had this issue as well. My parents would call me during the middle of the day just to chat (something they never did when I worked in an office). It took a little while, but they eventually understood that although my location had changed, my activities had not.

          1. Beatrice*

            I blame TV.

            My in-laws are a whole batch of people with jobs that are not white-collar Monday-Friday 9-5 workers (farmers/nurses/law enforcement/church ministry/retail/SAHM). They honestly thought my white-collar M-F 9-5 job was the TV variety – that I could leave early when I wanted, take long lunches, take the day off last minute to go shopping, fake sick to get off work, and take long personal calls anytime/anywhere. It took years of refusing invitations to midday activities, declining calls during the workday, and not answering texts, to get them to realize that my workdays are actually hella busy and I don’t sit around painting my nails and playing pranks on my coworkers all day.

        2. Erin*

          I can relate to parents not understanding work situations that aren’t typical. I usually work later in the day, go in around noon come home around 9. I love it, I feel like I can get so much more accomplished before I start my work day, and I can just come home and relax. I love my schedule I have more energy, I’m healthier because I have better sleep and I work out before work, I also clean up the house because I’m not in a rush. So I sleep from 11:30-12:00 to 7:30-8:00 am. It’s taken years for my early bird dad to stop calling before 8am unless it’s an emergency. My in laws who keep Amish hours have just got the hint to not call us at 5:30 am, honestly that’s feels like my 3:00 am.

          1. kitryan*

            This is my exact schedule! Other than three other people at my office I don’t know anyone else who does 12-9pm. I love it too. I do work 10-7 two days a week so I can occasionally make evening plans.
            On the flip side from some other commenters, I’ve had a hard time convincing my parents that the occasional phone call or text sent to them during working hours, especially when working from home, isn’t going to get me fired. Which is odd since my dad was an executive his whole career and I used to call him at least once or twice a week at his office, usually to tell him stupid kid stuff, and I have sterling performance reviews.

    3. Yvette*

      ‘ It’s amazing how many people question why I have my 5-month-old son in daycare while I work. ‘ When WFH first became a thing, the company I worked for required documentation as to childcare arrangements. It was made quite clear that working from home was not a substitute for daycare. People also seem to think that it is code for or “I am my own boss and set my own hours”. For many people WFH is about not having to commute as opposed to flexible scheduling.

      As far as advice, don’t forget to stretch your legs. My ‘office’ was in my master bedroom and I would make a point of using the downstairs bathroom just to get up and move. And make a point of running errands once a while in the evenings. When I first started I was doing my usual night grocery shopping and I realized that I had not been out of the house (other than the mailbox) since a week ago, the last time I went grocery shopping.

      1. K.*

        Yep, my best friend and her SIL both work 100% remotely (their companies are many states away from them) and their companies require them to show proof of child care each year.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        There are many evenings when my husband works from home and we will go out for dinner or just run some silly errand that could wait, just because he hasn’t left the house all day and is starting to go crazy. He often goes out for lunch, but sometimes he gets involved in work and then has a phone call, and it’s easier to just grab food in the house. On those days, he really wants to go out in the evenings. (And me, with my hour-long commute and inability to work from home, just wants to go to bed. I agree on the condition that he drives.)

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        Same here, but they take your word for it. You may not work and care for young kids. (They are ok with older kids who just need a responsible adult inhouse while they play in bedroom after school I think.)

    4. Snark*

      “It’s amazing how many people question why I have my 5-month-old son in daycare while I work.”

      Have….any of these people actually MET a five month old? They’re basically precious little black holes of pure need.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        And basically that until they’re many years older. I can’t imagine getting anything done when I work from home if my 2-year old were here, and it’ll probably continue until she’s in school and can keep herself occupied for hours at a time, and even then the temptation to try and interrupt me will probably be too great to pass up.

        1. Snark*

          Oh yeah. Mine’s closing on four and we’re still his outsourced emotional stability, entertainment, and butlers.

          1. einahpets*

            Hahaha, this sums up preschooler parent expectations perfectly.

            The one and only time I’ve worked from home successfully while my 4 year old was at home sick is when she literally was just sick enough that all she wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch Netflix. Even then, it was a long day of work with lots of breaks to get fluids in her, change the show when she croaked out her request, etc. If she’d been any sicker or any less sicker it would have been a no go.

        2. Catabodua*

          I have an 8 year old. He can keep himself occupied for a while, but after about 2 hours he starts bugging me about when I’ll be done working so we can play. A lot of it is we’re just not home together often enough and he wants interaction.

        3. Arya Snark*

          I know someone who got a WFH job and kept her nanny. Their house had a MIL set up with a separate entrance where she kept her office and the nanny kept the kids (then 1 & 3 YO) in the main part of the house. It was a couple of years before the kids knew she actually didn’t leave the house every day. I’m not sure if the younger boy even knows now!

      2. Amey*

        So much this. I have a 3 year old and a 10 month old and I cannot understand how some people work from home with small children (I don’t think most employers would allow it but I know of self employed people who do manage it – and I’ve also seen people feel it’s incredibly unfair for employers to require childcare for work from home.) I maybe get a shower if the baby sleeps but that’s not guaranteed – I can’t imagine having to work! And the 3 year old is almost worse because he basically doesn’t nap and insists on active conversation/participation in his games… I use daycare for my (part-time) job and work on my writing in the early morning and on weekends when my husband can be fully in charge of the kids and even then I have to completely lock myself away.

        1. Specialk9*

          My ex coworker freely admitted that she ‘used to’ watch her granddaughter on work from home days, ‘but not now of course’ (because integrity comes in phases?). But then she would answer all her day’s emails at once at 8 pm. Riiiiight.

      3. ZucchiniBikini*

        I never had my elder two in daycare while I worked at home, but I was working part-time hours in a job that required minimal availability at specific times (task-based work with tasks that were generally very independent / solo). I returned to work part-time between the two babies (when my eldest was 9 months old), at which time I was working 2 days a week in the office (kid in daycare) and 1 day a week at home, but I could spread those hours over 3 week days.

        After baby #2, I returned to work when she was 5 months old (eldest was just over two) working only 2 days a week, all from home. I made that work without childcare because I found it *was* possible to log 16 good hours of work over 7 days if I worked when kids napped, when partner was home at weekends etc – and my workplace did not care WHEN I worked, only that I got the stuff done.

        That said, I did have a reliable local babysitter who I used on average once a fortnight for 5-6 hours to mind the kids if I had to attend a meeting or training, do an extended phone meeting, or just put my head down and get work out. (Or, sometimes, nap, because with an infant and a toddler, this was frequently a necessity).

        Of course, this only worked because:
        a) my work, and my workplace, was extremely flexible
        b) I was not trying to do anything close to a fulltime load
        c) my younger child was a good night sleeper from a very young age.

    5. ContentWrangler*

      Those people are crazy. Having childcare must be crucial for working from home. My boss occasionally lets me work from home so I can dogsit for my parent’s puppy when they go out of town and even just a dog can be very distracting. Luckily with a dog you can put them outside and tell them to run around and eat dirt without getting CPS called.

    6. DMLT*

      I used to work from home and it was amazing how many people would ask things like “can you drive me to the airport?” or “Help me drop off my car for an oil change and pick it up again 2 hours later?” or “watch my kid while I have a doctor’s appointment?”

    7. Nita*

      Ha! They should try putting in 8 hours a day from home, with a baby, and see what they say. It’s possible, but I’ve done it and I’m sure it’s taken years off my life, and it put giant dents in my relationships with my husband and our extended family. Incidentally, the husband took over the child care when I went back to office work (but didn’t work from home because he doesn’t have the option). He was so impressed by how much care babies require, that he never asked me again why I hadn’t done xyz while I’m home with the kid. And when our second was born, he’d done a complete 180 and wouldn’t even hear of me working from home without backup child care.

    8. Sled Dog Mama*

      Yeah, I just spent 3 days at home with the 4 year old due to hubby being out of town (I also needed the break because we had just finished super rush time at work). I can’t imagine trying to work with her nearby she’s pretty independent but man does she ask A LOT of questions. I got her to sleep last night and just sat for 30 minutes enjoying the silence.
      But in 3 days the only thing I did that her little fingers did not get involved in somewhere along the way was making a pot of soup and that was mainly because we’ve tried to get through to her that stove can cause big owies and she has to stay outside the line on the floor when mommy or daddy is cooking (yes I have an actual line of tape on my floor)

      1. Kind Stranger*

        Those first 30-60 mins after bedtime sticks… so nice, so quiet, must not move and ruin it all!

      2. A Non E. Mouse*

        yes I have an actual line of tape on my floor)

        I would just like to take a minute here to commiserate.

        There are things you 1) never thought you’d do and 2) never thought you’d have to say before becoming a parent.

        “Quit playing with your peepee” and tape on the floor? Yep.

        For our youngest we once literally used the upturned kitchen table across the entry to the kitchen one evening because he was trying to kill himself every three minutes while I had eleventy million things cooking.

        I had to climb over it each time I entered/left, but it was all I could think of at the time.

        1. Snark*

          I once literally tackled my son because he was six inches from grabbing onto a part of my charcoal grill that would have branded him for lofe.

      3. Big City Woman*

        “. . . yes I have an actual line of tape on my floor.”

        Brilliant! Anyone else reminded of Les Nessman?

    9. Kind Stranger*

      Ha. Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHA. Right, b/c it’s SO easy to get anything done with a kiddo at home. I worked from home FT for 6 months, and people asked why I had a caretaker for my 1 and 3 year olds… crazy!

    10. Overeducated*

      Most of the people close to me stopped questioning that when they saw how having no child care while trying to finish edits on my dissertation, publish, and apply for jobs with a newborn worked out. Basically whenever the baby slept during the day I’d frantically run to my computer and type as much as I could. I never napped, never got quite enough work done, and cried a lot from the stress and sleep deprivation.

      That’s also why I left academia, though. After I wrapped up those projects, I drew a bright line against doing any more work that didn’t pay directly for child care…and I haven’t since. Now when people talk about how “it must be nice to work from home so you don’t have to pay for day care,” I laugh and laugh.

    11. Original Poster*

      YES THIS!! I have a 2 year old and am currently pregnant – when I resigned for my new gig so many people said “yay, you get to work from home, you’ll save so much on daycare costs with your kids at home”… umm no. Unless my job involved hours of Elmo, my toddler would never leave me alone to get any work done! Ha!

      1. Specialk9*

        Daycare is also incredible, if you get a good one. They think up the wildest projects, and get them excited about language and learning and art, and they get socialization and training on how to act. I’m so glad my kid is being raised by experts! I have no clue.

    12. SittingDuck*

      Granted I only work part-time – but I do work from home with my 9 month old – and have since I ‘came back’ from maternity leave when she was 3 months old. I only do 5 hours a day – mostly when she is sleeping, but she is also a super easy baby – naps really well, and plays by herself (5 ft away from my desk) really well too. I do anticipate a time when things won’t be as easy – but the main reason I am working from home is the cost of daycare is too much to make me working full time in the office worth it. I have a incredibly supportive supervisor, and a big boss who is willing to work with me. I can (and do) work after bedtime from time to time to get all my work done.
      I think a lot of it depends on the baby – I’m blessed to have a super easy baby who (so far) has allowed me to get my work done with very few interruptions, and a very flexible schedule that I can change from day to day as I need to. I know its a VERY rare situation that I have, but I am so thankful for it right now.

      1. SittingDuck*

        I will also say – I have a 6 year old as well – who is in school most of the day – but on snow days and in-service days I find it MUCH harder to get all my work done – he is currently my ‘needier’ child. I do take time off when he is home sometimes to preserve my sanity.

  9. PugLife*

    I started working from home after I moved for my partner’s job. It wasn’t ideal, since I missed out completely on the social aspect of a job right after moving to a new state with no connections, but it pays ok. I try and plan a mid-day thing like going to the gym when possible so there’s a definite plan to leave the house. If it’s a day when my partner’s home (he only goes into the office 3x a week) I often go out to a coffee shop. Folding work into a packet of other tasks (laundry, cleaning, etc) helps me be productive & feel like I have a purpose. (I should note that I work 10-15 hours a week at a job, and freelancing work outside that, so I can get away with doing non-work things during my workday).

  10. all aboard the anon train*

    I work from home two days a week, but I couldn’t do it full-time because I live by myself and I rarely have meetings on the phone of Skype, so I’d go crazy from isolation. And I absolutely loathe going to a coffee shop and taking up a spot all day after only buying one drink. I think it’s so rude.

    But, I find taking an actual lunch outside of my apartment to be useful in breaking up the day. Sometimes it means going to the gym. Sometimes it means running errands. Sometimes it means actually going out to lunch or meeting up with friends for a lunch during their work hours.

    Spending the morning/afternoon/entire day at the library or a coworking space could also be helpful. I’d also look on MeetUp or LinkedIn to see if there are any WFH professionals groups – both for advice and because sometimes they have work hour meetups so everyone can WFH together.

    1. starsaphire*

      I use the two-hour rule for coffee shop working/studying. Every two hours, I get up to get a snack/new drink, or else I wrap up and leave.

      Works best, of course, when you’re coffeeing with a buddy so someone can watch your stuff. And as a plus, having a buddy is great for keeping each other on task.

      1. Breda*

        Yeah, same. It does mean I often spend $10 or more in a day, so it’s not something I can do every day, but sometimes you just need to get out of the house. (I only work from home on Fridays, so I don’t need the daily tricks full-time telecommuters do, but still.)

      2. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, I think the two to three hour rule is the way to go, especially if it’s a busy place. It’s different, I think, if it’s a slow place and there’s never anyone sitting down or waiting to sit.

        My brother is in the coffee business and he says a lot of the cafes and coffeeshops he works with lose so much business because people park themselves at table all day and only buy one drink, and other customers leave because they have nowhere to sit (I know I’ve left a coffeeshop when I just want to get a drink and sit for an hour with friends, but all the tables are taken). Some of the busier shops he works with actually have a three hour rule implemented.

        1. Parenthetically*

          There’s a place near the city center here that has very diplomatically-but-clearly-worded signs on the tables urging customers to be considerate of limited space and follow a “sip to sit” guideline.

        2. Koko*

          I know a few coffee shops who stopped offering WiFi to discourage campers who were hurting business, and a few others who have designated only certain seats for laptop use – if those tables are full you can’t take one of the other ones.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            I’ve seen more and more coffee shops and cafes in my city who got rid of WiFi for this reason alone. It sucks, but I honestly don’t blame them, especially if they’re indie shops instead of big chains like Starbucks.

          2. Specialk9*

            McDonald’s was offering free WiFi for awhile, trying to lure in the higher end telecommuters. Not sure if that was a short experiment or still a thing.

        3. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah it totally depends, obviously not all businesses are set up for all customers. Some places have the space and are happy to have regular campers, some will hate you for it.

    2. Anony*

      I work from a coffee shop sometimes as well. It is a good change of scenery that I find helps. It does get expensive though since I keep buying drinks there.

    3. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I think it’s rude to take up a spot all day with one drink, but then several local coffee shops offer “all day” refill prices on plain drinks (drip coffee, non-specialty tea), so at least some of them see customers like that as a net gain. I have a few friends who work two or three mornings a week from their local cafe, and who budget for a couple drinks and some breakfasty thing as their rent for those three or four hours.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I definitely think it’s a situation where you need to be aware of your surroundings and also gauge how the coffee shop feels about it. If they’re slow or have all day deals, they’re probably okay with you staying there all day, but if they’re glaring at you or constantly stopping by to ask if you need something, that’s their polite way to stay stop hogging a table from other potential customers.

        1. Snark*

          There’s a coffee shop near me that established a workroom in the back, with wifi and printer and tables with outlets, but they charge a reasonable fee for use, and they’ll ask you to pay it and head on back if you camp out at a regular table with your laptop for longer than an hour or so. It’s really a hassle, especially for small shops, if you settle in for eight hours at one of their ten tables, and people who might otherwise stay don’t. And they HATE that guy who buys a $2 drip coffee every two hours and just nurses it.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            Yeah, that’s the reason I don’t work at coffeeshops for longer than two hours at a time. I feel guilty taking up a whole table for the price of one or two coffees and from other paying customers. I’d rather use the library or something.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Absolutely. If there are people coming in to look for seats all the time but are blocked off by the row of people on laptops vs. if there’s a big morning rush and then it’s sparsely populated from 9-12 — key to not being hated. And it varies SO much from place to place! There are a few locally-owned places with multiple locations in my city, and the different locations would have WILDLY different etiquette around this stuff. I mentioned one in a comment above that has “sip to sit” signs on the tables, but another of their locations closer to the university campus has an upstairs where people will park for AGES studying, and that’s just part of the expectation.

  11. Environmental Gone Public Health*

    I know I get completely out of whack if I don’t have things to do. In previous jobs where I had downtime (unlike this one where I am constantly fighting to keep my head above water), I started off with finishing up my Master’s thesis….and then moved on to knitting. I just needed to still feel productive if I didn’t have actual work to do if I want to keep in the groove when I finally got a project.
    On the plus side, knitting worked really well when I started getting commission requests from coworkers. Now I have a side gig for custom items and pattern design.

      1. Environmental Gone Public Health*

        I am! The pattern design is just blossoming, I just started a group for test knitters and was very surprised at the support I got. I’m kixkatknitsshop on Ravelry. I have three designs upcoming, one design to be released at the end of February.

    1. Khlovia*

      Also OT, and very nosy: How much do you pay yourself per hour for the knitting? And have you ever figured out how many stitches per hour you can do? Asking for a friend ;-)

      1. Environmental Gone Public Health*

        I don’t go by hour. That’d make me go insane and no one would purchase what I make. I do 2-3x the cost of yarn. Makes it easier too if someone wants some expensive specialty yarn (looking at you, alpaca yarn!). I’ve also heard of people charging by the yard plus the cost of yarn.

        I knit Portuguese style now. When I was a thrower, I felt really flippin’ slow. I haven’t actually timed myself in Portuguese yet, but if I had to estimate, probably 40-50 st per minute. I can do a generic custom hat in an evening.

        1. Environmental Gone Public Health*

          Fun fact: timed myself at lunch. Approximately 38st/min knitting, 43st/min purling. Slightly skewed since I am at the end of a skein and the yarn keeps knotting and sticking to itself.

          1. Khlovia*

            Thanks! You’re about twice as fast as I am, I mean my friend of course. Boo. Portuguese style, eh? Hmm.

  12. AvonLady Barksdale*

    When I first moved to my current city, I worked from home full time (for the job I kept) and had next to nothing to do. It was a godsend at the beginning because I could easily do new-home things like unpacking, organizing, laundry, etc. but after a while it became a slog. To add to that, I really didn’t know much about my new city or my immediate surroundings, and I certainly didn’t have any local friends. I also couldn’t afford a co-working space at the time, nor did I know of any around. So here’s what I did:

    – Made it a point to get dressed every day in regular clothes (albeit casual ones, like jeans rather than yoga pants).
    – Took a walk every day at lunch. Having a dog and doing this in summer/early fall helped with that one. But we explored the neighborhood together.
    – Actually LEFT for lunch. I would make it a point to go out and get food once or twice a week. It helped me interact with the world.
    – Made sure I logged off every day at exactly 6pm and left to do something, whether it was dinner with my partner or just another walk around the neighborhood with him.
    – Immediately signed up for my regular hobby, which involves rehearsals one night a week. It helped structure my days, get me out of the house and talking to people.

    Granted, I’m kind of a homebody and loved being able to clean my bathroom during the workday. But these little steps might help if you can’t find a more communal space for your work.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yeah, OP I think you need to set yourself some ground rules. I work from home and I do have to set some ground rules.

      I do try to go out for lunch at least once or twice a week. I’m still working on setting the boundary between “home” and “work”. I’ve been with my company about 9 months and we’ve been experiencing a TON of growth, so pretty much everyone is working at more than full capacity.

      I also think working from home is easier when your company sets up an infrastructure to make it easy to communicate with your co-workers and build relationships with them. That may be an instant messenger app that everyone has, or weekly team calls via skype/video conferencing so that you do get some “face time” with your coworkers. My company does both of these things and it really helps to feel a part of the team even when you’re not in the same office.

  13. anna green*

    Don’t have much helpful advice but I hated working from home too! Hated hated hated. You are not alone.

    One thing that helped me was making a point to talk to people on the phone. There were days where I literally would not speak because everything was through email and I always felt energized if I was able to connect with someone on the phone.

  14. Marcy Marketer*

    Every morning I get up early, get dressed, and walk my dog. A few months into my telecommuting arrangement, a neighbor complimented me about how put together I always look :)

    I also asked my manager if we could turn on video for team meetings, which gives me another reason to get dressed in the morning.

    Finally, I over communicate. I respond to emails quickly, schedule “how can we work together” emails, and generally make it clear that I am here, I am working, and I am present. My role was also newly created and I was hired to set strategy, so I totally get it. Just try to bring your A game every day and find work for yourself even if no one assigns you anything. That might mean setting up exploratory meetings or spending time researching related options or projects.

  15. Koko*

    I skew a bit introverted – I currently work from home 2-3 days a week and I wouldn’t want to do any more because I do like getting out a couple days a week, but I also love the focus that I can achieve when I’m at home. It’s a great balance.

    My biggest rule is that I get dressed in the morning. Nothing fancy, but clearly daytime clothes. I don’t work in pajamas. If I have v-con meetings that day I also do my light makeup.

    Which ties into another big rule: I make an effort to do v-con as much as possible. My company pays for a Bluejeans account for all remote staff, so every time someone wants to schedule a call, I provide my Bluejeans information so that we can video chat instead. It’s so much easier than talking on the phone, you get facial expressions and body language, and it can really help make you feel closer to coworkers who you never see in person.

    And the third biggest rule is not slacking on equipment because I’m at home. I work at a desk (which is motorized to accommodate sitting and standing) with my laptop docked, a second monitor, a separate keyboard and mouse, and a high quality supportive office chair and an anti-fatigue mat for when I’m standing. I do not work on my laptop on the couch. For me personally because that’s what I do in the evenings when I’m faffing around, it doesn’t provide enough of a psychological distinction from leisure time to keep me on task. And I know it’s cliche but that second monitor REALLY increases my productivity. It makes it so much easier to work with two spreadsheets or two documents, or I can keep Outlook up in one monitor while working in another, or a chat window in one monitor while working in another.

    1. Observer*

      Don’t slack on the equipment is SO important. Working on the couch is nice for a break – but it’s a productivity killer for ongoing work.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I no longer understand how people only work with one monitor. I was doing some spreadsheet work on my personal laptop for my hobby and it was just frustrating to have to switch been spreadsheets and not be able to see them both at the same time.

      As it is my new laptop has a smaller (13.x”) screen so I am considering getting a second monitor an not using my laptop screen at all.

      1. Koko*

        Of late I’ve been toying with the idea of a second external monitor for that reason – the laptop screen feels so cramped that I find myself thinking, “I wish both of my screens were as large as the external monitor!”

        Especially as my aging eyesight has required me to increase the size of things on my screen, which makes something like Outlook’s three-panel layout pretty unworkable – I pretty much have to minimize the reading pane down to a couple of lines to be able to see a good view of my inbox and minimize my inbox down to a couple of emails to be able to see a good view of the reading pane.

    3. Original Poster*

      These are great tips! I need to do more video conferencing, I have a Skype account for work and do it sometimes, but not enough. Good tip! I do have a dedicated office and a monitor. I would LOVE a second monitor, I may just buy one for myself if not approved. Thanks!

  16. RedRH*

    When I’m catching up on work on the weekend I’ll head to a local Starbucks or Panera. In college my school was adjacent to the local airport, so I would plop down to study. Even though I’m not chatting to anyone (although if you go to one spot frequently enough you can get to know the employees!) it soothes my extroverted soul to just be around people and a general hustle and bustle atmosphere. It also forces me to leave my apartment/dorm and make myself look halfway presentable which can help with unmotivated feelings.

    Sure it’s not the best for the wallet/waistline, most places don’t care if you occasionally pop by and don’t buy anything or just a cheap coffee.

  17. Leatherwings*

    I also have a really hard time tackling tasks when I’m bored. I’m the type of person who does best when I have to manage multiple priorities. If I only have two things to do all day, it’s pretty easy to keep putting it off even while you’re sitting there bored. I’ve had some success forcing myself to focus on one task for 20 to 30 minute chunks at a time, which helps motivate me through those tasks and helps break up the day into smaller chunks that seem more manageable than a never-ending stretch of boredom.

    1. Original Poster*

      Yes, this is me all the way. The more work I get the more productive I am. I like your tip about breaking it into smaller chunks.

  18. katiecombat*

    Coworking spaces, coffee shops, self-imposed structure! Like, “every Wednesday from 9-11 I work at the university library. Every Thursday morning I meet a friend for coffee.” Build in people time and keep it regular. You could also start some meetups in your area if they don’t already exist; a writer’s group or an account execs get-together or whatever is it you do.

  19. Ree*

    I’d say to give yourself a routine, even if it’s not really necessary.
    Get ready(some people love to roll out of bed and work in their jammies, I like to get up and shower and change into semi-real clothes(usually leggings and a pullover, because comfort.)
    Make a real breakfast or lunch, if breakfast isn’t your thing – one of the advantages to working at home is not having to rush out the door with a piece of partially toasted toast! Also, I make more complicated/longer cooking dinners now than I used to, because I’m not rushing in the door somewhere between 5 and 7 and needing food, ANY food RIGHT NOW.
    Also, if your work time is flexible, take advantage of making appointments during normal working hours, go to the grocery store during your lunch time, go to the gym or a fitness class.
    The best part about working from home in my opinion isn’t just not having to commute or get dressed in real clothes every day, it’s that you’re working outside the norm and that can save you time for other hobbies and activities during your off time.

  20. Observer*

    If you company has a telephone system where this is possible, get a phone in your house. It ties you into to the office network in a way that’s hard to quantify. This is ESPECIALLY true if your phone system has a built in directory that you can access from the phone itself. I don’t totally understand why, but people seem much more apt to dial someone’s extension than their phone number. It seems more immediate somehow.

    And, yes to the other suggestions of having a specific place to work, carving out time specifically to work, making sure you get out of the house each day, and getting yourself prepped for your day at home much the same way you would if you were going to work. And, DEFINITELY schedule time to meet in person and by phone with people. Not just your boss.

  21. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    It’s not strange that the general boredom makes it harder to get motivated when you get actual work to do. I think that’s kind of normal, actually. You get stuck in a negative feedback loop of low energy and low morale, which is a pretty powerful thing, so a task to do doesn’t jolt you out of it easily. I also hate working from home so I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for making that more bearable, but if the long stretches of nothing to do are sapping your energy, you might want to look into MOOCs on Coursera or something to learn skills that you can see yourself using when the workflow is steadier. Maybe project management, or data science, or a language. Something to fill out your day and keep you engaged, active, and excited about the things you will be doing in your job, even if you’re not doing them yet.

    1. Snark*

      For me, when I’m really under-loaded, it’s like….”Oh, yeah, I could roll in those edits on the llama report, but…..what will I do tomorrow? Best leave it.”

      Then a week later, I finally have to balance it with another priority and I get all the things done.

  22. Goya de la Mancha*

    I think the big issue is not having enough work to do yet, which will hopefully pick up and then you will miss the days of it being so quiet/slow :)

    I’m so introverted that I would probably become a recluse if I were to work from home. I’m loving the ideas some of you have though! The “commute” to/from work, dedicated space, etc.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yes, this is huge. It’s really hard to structure your days when there’s not much to do. I’ve unfortunately been in that position. Some people think it’s great, but it’s so not. I mean, yes, Goya is absolutely right that once things pick up, you will miss having those slow moments, but when every single day is a slow moment, it can mess with your head. I like to do little things where the accomplishments are easy to measure, like cleaning out my inbox or setting up my calendar. Or, at home, baking a loaf of bread or doing a load of laundry.

  23. Allison*

    Two tips:

    1) To avoid the place being too quiet, I usually have the TV on in the background for noise. Something I’ve seen before and don’t need to pay a lot of attention to to know what’s going on – Scrubs, Gilmore Girls, The Office, Parks and Rec, something like that.

    2) I make sure I’m seeing people outside of work. Take up a hobby, plan parties, arrange to get dinner and drinks with people, maybe even lunch if you have friends who don’t work traditional office jobs.

    1. Betty (the other betty)*

      Yes to number 1, having tv on in the background. I used to think I was the only person who did this, then found out that a friend who is very smart, busy, and productive does it too.

      Something about the voices from the tv occupies the “distracted” part of my brain so I can focus on my work. I don’t really tune into the show (so don’t ask me exactly what happened) but I catch enough to keep the plot. Sort of. Kind of like working at a coffee shop and hearing (but not really listening to) other people’s conversation and the general buzz of the place.

      Oddly, music can be more distracting to me. The only time I must have silence is when I am proofreading.

      And yes to #2, too. I try to make sure I leave the house at least once a day (even if just to the backyard for a while), and I make a point to see friends on a regular basis. I love the idea someone else had about “walking to work” by going for a walk around the block before settling in to work.

      1. BookCocoon*

        I like the site Coffitivity, which provides the background noise of a coffee shop (or other environments). There’s something helpful about the feeling of being around other people where you’re not obligated to interact with any of them.

    2. Original Poster*

      I never thought of adding the TV to the background, I have been doing music, but hearing voices may help. Thanks!!

    3. tangerineRose*

      I like listening to jazz while I work at home, especially instrumental jazz. Something about the complexity of it seems to be soothing and breaks the silence.

  24. Beth*

    I occasionally work from home for my job, and what I found worked best for me was, as others have mentioned, not working at home. I have ADD, so I end up having kind of an ADD work day when I do work from home: I’ll spend an hour at home doing easy stuff like checking email, figuring out what I need to do for the day. Then, I’ll take my laptop to the local library and set up there. I love doing this because my apartment is small and cramped, not particularly well lit, and usually messy and distracting, and I can sit at a big picture window that offers extra sunlight (and the occasional view of dogs being walked). After being there for a bit, sometimes I’ll go over to a coffee shop for a small lunch, although for whatever reason my local place is often packed (even on Monday afternoon!) and I can’t always find a seat. So I usually will spend time at the public library, because I don’t feel like I’m loitering, don’t have to spend any money, and can always find a nice place to sit! I also find it MUCH easier to concentrate and focus when I’m not at home. And if things are really slow, you can browse the books and learn more about your field, or software programs that might help you advance, etc. etc.!

  25. Antilles*

    I used to be sort of the same way. My biggest thing is that you need to find a way to make a clear distinction between Work You and “Relaxing-at-home” You. Personally, the biggest things that helped me were:
    1.) Every single day, I would get dressed as though I was going to the office. Khakis, button-up/polo, combed hair, etc. It sounds ridiculous, but just something about putting on my ‘work clothes’ makes it feel significantly more real than a casual ‘jeans and a t-shirt’.
    2.) Having a work laptop that was purely for work. Between the hours of 9 to 5, my personal PC (and all its’ attendant distractions like computer games, bookmarked sports websites, Netflix account, etc) does not get turned on. Again, this sounds irrelevant (after all, you could easily go to ESPN on a work laptop too), but it somehow made a big difference.

    1. Wren*

      Jeans and a t-shirt is what I wear to work everyday. For me the difference is “wearing pants” vs “no pants!”

        1. Lizzy Lysette*

          I was coming on here to say this! Getting dressed up doesn’t seem to work for me, but wearing shoes is the one thing that helps. I have a few pairs of “house shoes” that I wear for work since we are a no shoes household, helps keep the floors clean and helps me work!

        2. Wren*

          I’m now picturing me wearing shoes and no pants. It is amazing how that image changes when you change the shoes.

        3. Original Poster*

          Wow, shoes on, really? I need to try this! I have been wearing slippers, probably not a great idea…

        4. Environmental Gone Public Health*

          For me it’s the pants. I accomplish absolutely nothing if I don’t have pants on. Shoes? Kick them off immediately. Do not like shoes at all.

          (This may be partially because my legs are short and my desk chair is tall and deep and I hate swinging my feet like a toddler, so I always end up cross legged. I would get a foot rest, but my desk is very narrow and then I kick my computer tower.)

    2. oranges & lemons*

      Ha, one of my favourite things about working from home is wearing sweatpants every day. I hate real pants.

  26. Stormy*

    This is an incredibly simple problem to solve.

    Have Alison hook you up with LW #5 (from earlier today) for some pet sharing. That cat sounds WAY needy.

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      I was just going to say — get a cat! I have been working primarily from my home office since 1995 (I’m a strategy consultant so I am also often in client settings, but my only desk is in my home office), and I find the experience is so much more pleasant when there are other living beings in my home to fill the space with some energy.

      Beyond the cats, I echo lots of other people’s suggestions:
      * make good lists at the beginning of the week and keep them in front of you to stay on track
      * build in a demarkation between end-of-nighttime and beginning of work time (walk around the block, walk to a coffee shop for exchange of pleasantries with the people you get to know, etc)
      * learn your own rhythms
      * good chair, good light and good equipment
      * make it work for you — I use the tomato-timer and work in 25 minute blocks with 5 minute rests in between and use those 5 minute blocks to peck away at chores (empty the d/w, throw in a load of laundry, empty the cat litter). At the end of day I’ve complied with my “a few hundred steps every hour” goal and the house is tidy.

    2. Teapot librarian*

      I almost missed your comment and was going to respond with “get a cat”! I’m a little surprised that only you and Fieldpoppy have referred back to the earlier post :-)

  27. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    If your boss can’t give you more work at the moment, maybe you can use that time to do online courses or learn a new skill? Chandoo for Excel, Khan Academy for just about anything, DuoLingo for a new language. Or if there’s some kind of certification for your industry, your boss might agree to pay for a course.

    Isolation hits some people harder than others, so if you’re finding that nothing helps, speak to your boss and see what can be done. Don’t let this go on for too long or it really will affect your happiness. I hope that you can find a solution soon.

    1. Original Poster*

      Good advice thank you. Work has picked up thank goodness. I am working on more project, where I used to do more in the moment client facing work. So it is a new dynamic for me. My boss has been great and she also works from home. She keeps saying I will get used to it and to give it time. She said she had a hard time getting adjusted as well.

  28. Bookworm*

    “I miss interacting with people and having a reason to get ready in the morning. I thrive off of meetings and the hustle and bustle of the work day. ”

    As someone who has been working from home for a few years now: Would suggest checking out Meetup. I’ve noticed a few WFH or co-working groups have popped up. They have a dedicated time and place to meet to work and/or a coffee hour when people can just pop in and get some social time with other people who work from home. There’s also the library as a place to work if a more formal co-working space is not in your budget.

    Wonder if you might be able to set up a check in with your boss or a weekly meeting, either at the office or via conference call? That might help set your day in motion when you know you just need to touch base and let them know you’re on the clock or something similar.

    Good luck! I think there’s always the chance that telecommuting really isn’t for you, but don’t forget it may be the job itself. I had a similar setup to you in the past and while I’ve successfully been WFH in other jobs, this particular job was a disaster. The telecommuting part was an issue, I think, but there were others combined with a boss who ultimately wasn’t interested in taking responsibility made it a nightmare. Not trying to be a downer but based on this I’d say that this is something you may need to keep in mind going forward.

    1. Original Poster*

      great insight, thank you. I actually love the work, and when I travel to the HQ and am around people it is great. We are in the process of relocating the office and someday I may get to be around people again, time will tell.

  29. Roja*

    I do work from home with flexible hours (and love it), but it helps me a lot to get up and move around. I have this timer app on Chrome that sets for 25 minutes (and it’ll block all distracting websites, which is very helpful for me) and then it has a corresponding 5 minute timer that you set afterwards for a break. I use my breaks to work out and then I come back with brain refreshed.

  30. Gyratory Circus*

    If you choose to use a co-working space, make sure that your job allows it first. I work in an industry where we deal with a lot of sensitive information and we have really strict working-outside-the-office rules like our screens can’t be visible to anyone else (even our spouse, if we’re at home) and we can’t take work calls where they can be overheard, so being in a shared space with people not from my company would absolutely not be ok.

  31. lbiz*

    I work from home three days a week and it’s been a big adjustment for me. My job is relatively new and I’m not 100% busy all the time, which makes it worse – sometimes it’s so hard to motivate myself, even when I only have a couple of things to do that day. One thing I try to do (and am sometimes successful at) is going outside for a walk at lunch. I live right by a lake that takes about an hour to walk all the way around, and on the days I can manage to do that at lunchtime I feel much better. Otherwise I just kind of sit at the computer all day, eat when I happen to get hungry, then somehow the whole day passes in a kind of haze.

    I’m also trying to get better at planning activities in the evening, even if it’s just happy hour or dinner with a friend, so that I have to put on clothes and leave the house. Otherwise it’s tempting to just cozy up and stay in my PJs all day, which *is* cozy once in a while, but not a great long term habit.

    Good luck!

  32. Sara*

    I hate working from home too! I get so stir crazy not leaving my house. It used to be a perk at my old position, but one I gladly gave up.
    I do know a group of girls that get together for coffee to ‘work together’ once a week at a local coffee shop. They’re all work from home people, and they started doing it to break up the week. Maybe you could take your laptop and work from different locations? Library, coffee shop, restaurants? Of course, that won’t work for calls, but its something to consider on computer heavy days

  33. Gigi*

    Oh man, I feel your pain! I’m on the cusp of extrovert and introvert. I need a quiet work place so I can really focus, and I get super annoyed when people are loud and disruptive, so when my company opened up telecommuting as an option I thought I would love it…but the extroverted part of me was going bonkers! I love my colleagues, and though I wish sometimes they would shut-up (or stop banging of the file cabinet as they walk by, wtf?! lol!), I would rather put up with the occasional disruption and annoyance than be in my apartment alone every day.

    I think being part of a co-working space, as many have mentioned here, is a great idea. Another option is creating a sort of DIY co-working space, as in reaching out to friends who also work (or study if they are in school for example) from home. I’ve noticed several of my friends doing this. It can be an ongoing date where you meet at someone’s house, or a coffee shop, or library, or it can be a one-off kinda thing…for example, I notice friends posting on facebook, “Anyone want to co-work together tomorrow?”

    1. Original Poster*

      You and I sounds very much a like! I am on the border of introvert and extrovert, so I thought this would be great, but I was wrong. I think if I did it only a couple days a week it may be better, but not 100%. Thanks for the tips on co-working groups, great tip!

    2. Julia*

      Are you me? I get SO mad at people who are loud in the library or our grad school study room, and people with no indoor voices give me rage, but if I’m alone too much, I go crazy. I guess I just want to be around people I like all the time?

  34. Landshark*

    Lack of work is definitely a huge part of the problem. When I’m busy, I thrive on being alone, save for the cats (which, btw, I’ve been loving the WFH with pets open thread on the megapost). When I’m waiting on jobs (I do freelance editing, so work comes in spurts), I’m dreadfully bored. I try to keep busy with background tv or a podcast, but sometimes the downtime is just killer.

    1. Julia the Survivor*

      Could you work on personal projects, like researching something you’re considering buying or doing? I do research as a hobby and wish I had time for that! Or there’s always routine personal stuff like paying bills or online shopping. Start a project you’ve been wanting to do that you can work on between jobs. :)

  35. Kate*

    I can relate so much to this OP. I cringe whenever someone says, “Oh working from home must be so great” because yeah, it can also be cripplingly isolating. For a while, I would get together with some nearby colleagues at a coffee shop once a week just for like a half hour to an hour to chat about whatever (sometimes work related, sometimes not), and I found just a little bit of social interaction for the week really lifted my morale. Also, trying to schedule things OUTSIDE of my apartment, like going to the gym, going for a run, or meeting friends for dinner. It just really helped not to feel so cooped up when I made sure to at least get outside every day. As for the boredom, hopefully work will pick up for you, though I’ve found I either have too much to do or not enough (why can’t it every be balanced!), but is there anything you could be learning to help build skills? My current job was a field change for me, so I was just constantly buying books or taking online courses trying to learn everything I could about all things related. It did feel a little weird like I wasn’t really doing work for my company, but if they weren’t going to assign me enough to do, then I at least wanted to feel productive. Best wishes!

    1. Original Poster*

      This is great, I really like the idea of using the extra time to build a skill (instead of online shop like I have been)… great tip!

  36. Dan*

    Lots of times I read a letter in an advice column from someone who says, “Everything is great, but…” and that “but” is some kinda really huge deal breaker thingy that they won’t acknowledge as such.

    I’m not saying this is the case for the OP, but OP should probably let it sit in the back of her mind that she may not be cut out for teleworking — by all means, give various suggestions a shot to see if anything works, but also be open to the idea that teleworking permanently just ain’t her thing.

    I’m an introvert and live by myself. If I worked from home full time, I’d go nuts — I need that interaction too.

  37. Karo*

    I am so with you! I don’t consider myself an extrovert by any means, but working all alone leads to me getting incredibly antsy and unable to focus. I definitely recommend co-working spaces if there’s one in your city (as a bunch of other people have said) but if there’s not, could you work out of a local coffee shop or something? That’ll be highly dependent on what kind of work you do, of course, but it at least gets you out of the house and around other humans.

  38. nnn*

    1. Since you thrive off meetings, does your workplace have committees? (Things like Health and Safety, charity fundraising, pilot projects, social committee, etc.) Committees have meetings, usually that you have to go into the office for. If you don’t have a lot of people on your team who enjoy committee work, they’ll be appreciative that you took this off their hands!

    2. A way I find useful to keep myself motivated and break up my day is to make my daily personal to-do list as well as my work to-do list. My personal to-do list includes things I have to do (mop the floor, set up some bill payments, try on those clothes I bought online) and things I want to do (read a chapter of the book I’m working on, write a blog post, watch an episode of a TV show). After I finish an item from my work to-do list, I do an item from my personal to-do list. On the rare occasions where I don’t have any work, I power through my personal to-do list, trying to get as much done as possible before more work comes in. At the end of the day, I take stock of how much personal stuff I’ve gotten done as well as how much work stuff, and I find that the “bonus” of getting more personal stuff done if I get more work done keeps me moving forward throughout the day.

  39. Eye of Sauron*

    I did the WFH thing after one relocation. I had just moved and week later at my new office they embarked on a comprehensive remodel. My stuff kept getting moved to random cubes and/or boxed up an put in a corner. I don’t know that anyone knew that I had started working there. I worked it out with my boss that I’d just WFH during the 3 month construction period, as it was silly for me to come and hunt for my stuff every day.

    So like others have said I started my new life in my new area WFH. It was a bit isolating and took some getting used to, but it worked and I enjoyed it.

    Here’s what I learned:
    -I had to be proactive about communication, that meant I had to call people, set up meetings, initiate IM chats, etc.
    -I had to insert myself into the organization. I couldn’t wait for things to be handed to me. I had to jump in and take ownership of work
    -Outside social interaction is a must
    -Try to schedule face to face travel or meetings as soon as you can so your new coworkers know who you are and can place a face to your name

  40. Sarah*

    I am you! The biggest things that work for me:

    — Get out of the house at least sometimes. Either a cafe, co-working space, or even a public library if you want somewhere you don’t have to pay-to-play. University libraries can also be great if there is one near you — many of them have at least some areas that are open to the public, and tend to be a little quieter/nicer than regular public libraries (at least the places I have lived).
    — Be really proactive about making plans with other people. If you know anyone else who works remotely, you guys could have a standing date to meet up at one of your places or a cafe and work together one afternoon a week. Or maybe you have a friend who’s a stay-at-home parent or whose office is near your place, and you could plan to get coffee or lunch once a week. Etc.
    — Really detailed to-do lists. Include stuff like “shower” and “make lunch” in addition to all of your work tasks (which you should break down into as small of chunks as possible). Checking off lots of things makes me feel productive even if I didn’t have a ton of work I needed to get do, and including stuff like “shower ” and “get dressed” means I’m not trying to work in my PJs (which, I agree with you, is a recipe for disaster).
    — Bonus points — if you have a friend who also works remotely or otherwise could use the productivity nudge, you can exchange to-do lists over email every day for extra accountability. This doesn’t have to be someone who works at your same workplace. I’m in an email chain with 3 other friends where we do this — none of us work at the same place, although we are all in the same general industry (one with lots of flexibility and thus ability to procrastinate endlessly if you’re not careful) and it is awesome.

  41. ChantelleL*

    I WFH 90% of the time and even when I go into the office I am the only member on my team who comes in. It was difficult to get used to and sometimes I still struggle. I always enjoyed turning around to ask a question, grabbing coffee with someone, or quickly chatting something through at a desk instead of back and forth emails. Working from home was also awful for my procrastination. At the office I would say “I can go home once I finish X, Y, Z” whereas, at home, I can just walk away and turn on the TV whenever I want. I would recommend the following:
    1. Make plans that force you to leave your house after work. I always plan for a dinner, movie, even errands a couple days a week minimum to make sure I leave my home and interact with people.
    2. Create a work space you actually like. I bought a new desk, a better chair, some small decor and put my workspace in a part of my home I love. I also only work from that space, I don’t move my laptop to the couch or anything. For me it’s about compartmentalizing so when i’m In my work space I am in “work mode”.
    3. Leave your work space for breaks. Go for a walk, eat lunch in a different room, meet a friend for lunch.
    4. Any friends or coworkers also working from home that would like the company? Share a space with them. I knew someone who would travel to different parts of the country and stay with friends or at air BNBsand just work from their home.
    5. Have virtual coffee breaks with coworkers. On camera and everything, set up time to chat and try to incorporate video if you can.
    6. Find the positives. When push comes to shove I literally make a list of the perks of working from home. Sleeping in, saving money on commutes and lunch, creating more time outside of work to do the things I love, my house is cleaner, more time with my pets, I can nap on lunch breaks, no one sees me roll my eyes, I’ve extended the life of my wardrobe.

  42. Carrie*

    Huh…this sounds exactly like a job I was going to apply for. OP, are you by any chance leading a new arm of a non-profit foundation that starts with W? Ag-related? ;-) Probably just coincidence.

  43. Recovering Adjunct*

    I’ve worked from home for 15+ years. I’m someone who does great in groups but needs alone time to recharge, so it really works for me but sometimes the isolation is overwhelming! Here are my tips:

    1. Separate your work and personal life, especially digitally. If you can swing it, have two laptops and never log into anything personal on your work computer. This makes it easy to just focus on work when that’s your focus and protects you from anyone who may feel you’re mixing personal and business. Extra nice is if you have a phone for work and a phone for personal stuff.

    2. Make a schedule and take advantage of your best times of day. I work best between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and noon and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., so I schedule my most challenging work for then.

    3. Put project work into your calendar! If everyone you’re working with is remote as well, you need to put in times to work on projects so you don’t get swallowed up by meetings and calls. It also helps you stay on-task.

    4. LUNCH. Lunch is huge. Take yourself out to lunch, even if taking yourself out means taking your meal to a park and eating on a bench. Have a change of scenery. Buy food specifically for your lunches. If you scrounge in the fridge each time it is lunch time, you will get depressed and probably start making not great food choices. If you can, plan to meet with someone IRL for a lunch date occasionally.

    5. Take advantage of working from home! I don’t know how your workplace runs, but for us, it’s totally acceptable to schedule doctor’s visits for 10 on a weekday and not take sick time and just make up the time in other ways. It’s awesome to go to Costco at noon on a Wednesday or pop into the DMV to take care of something on a random Tuesday morning. Customize your workspace to be best for YOU and play music you love.

    6. Don’t let others take advantage of you working from home. A lot of people miss the “work” aspect of wfh. Don’t do errands for others, mind their kids or let them monopolize your work day. You are a Busy and Important Business Person and if you occasionally nip over to Target for a 1 p.m. browse, that’s none of their business.

    7. Exercise. You gotta move your body. Getting dressed is good too. I have a cheap treadmill I got on Craigslist and a Surf Shelf and walk (very slowly, 1.5 mph) for an hour each day with my laptop. I’ve found this really helps me get through the tasks I find the least rewarding.

    8. Be proactive about sending someone an email, IM, setting up a meeting or making a phone call. If you can bear it, turn on your camera during meetings. Phone calls and video meetings kind of suck but they put the human element back in the work and that’s super important, especially when first starting out.

    9. Have a list of alternative work spaces. I can’t swing a shared workspace but I do have a few places I can go during the day to work if I’m getting too squirrely at home– a public library, a sleepy coffee house. I’ve even worked from a friends house a time or two when there was streetwork going on outside of my house and I couldn’t stand the pounding anymore.

    10. Be kind to yourself. You’re just starting out and you have to balance adjusting to wfh with adjusting to the new job. I feel like it take a year to get into a new position, no matter where you are.

    1. Cajun2core*

      I worked from home for 8 years and I am an extreme extrovert. What Alison said and what Recovering Adjunct said are exactly right. LUNCH IS THE KEY. Get out of the house for lunch as often as possible.

      If you don’t do out of the home activities already (volunteer work, clubs, organizations, etc.) now is the time to consider starting that. There are a number of civic organizations that you can probably join and there are probably other volunteer activities you can do.

  44. Rachel*

    I’ve worked remotely for a little over a year. My tips:

    – Public and university libraries are great for half days ‘out of the home office.’
    – Most coworking spaces offer day passes. The one closest to my house comes out cheaper than a half-day at a coffee shop if I buy a few drinks and a meal.
    – Walk a dog. I started walking my neighbor’s dog twice a day (and making an extra $50 per day). I get the exercise and the routine, without the distraction of having a boisterous pet full time.
    – Be respectful of your partner. I had a hard time adjusting to my husband whose job is being ‘on with people’ all day. He still wanted some quiet time in the evening, whereas I needed more face time after long, solitary days. I started scheduling family phone chats in the early evening, to take the pressure off our relationships.
    – Request video chats over phone calls with coworkers and clients. It helps humanize and build relationships faster than non-video calls.
    – Make a block schedule of everything you’ll do (12:00 to 12:30 eat lunch, 12:30 to 1 work on x project, etc); write it out and/or put it on your office calendar. It helps prevent ‘drift.’ And if you suddenly need to justify how you’ve been spending your time as a new remote employee, you have documentation and structure to review with your manager.

  45. Amin-Z*

    I’ve failed miserably at WFH a couple of times in the past, so when I became a full-time online grad student, I had to find a better option. Co-working was the answer! But think creatively about what that can look like, because co-working spaces can be a significant expense. Does a friend or someone in your network own a small business you could rent a desk from? Maybe someone in your neighborhood needs a dog-sitter/walker during the day and you can barter those services for a work-from-not-your-home situation. My city has an incredible literary center, and I ended up renting a Writers’ Studio that is perfect for my needs. Good luck!

  46. Jady*

    I think it’s incredibly important to emphasize that it is indeed not for everyone.

    I’m the type of person where if I never had to speak to a human being outside my home again, that would be wonderful. I’m an extreme introvert. I wish I could find a WFH job. If I did I don’t think I could ever go back to an office environment.

    But people who thrive on socialization and face-to-face discussions and meetings, etc – are always going to have a hard time with it.

    1. Ice Bear*

      I came here to say this. I enjoy my job but dislike sitting in an office all day. I would be so happy to be able to work from home!

    2. Kind Stranger*

      Even that may not be as clear-cut: I am 100% an introvert, but being in the office is helpful for me. I was too lonely when I worked from home. And I my work is such that I can go a whole day having one 10 min conversation, or none at all, but just having people around is nice.

      1. Outis*

        Yes! I am exactly the same way. Extreme introvert but I really need community as my context. I have been working at home every day for about nine months now and I’m feeling isolated and a bit depressed. Looking for a new job where I can go in most days. Living alone and working alone is–well–lonely! For me, that is.

  47. essEss*

    Not trying to nitpick the OP word choice, but everyone talks about their “dream job” and how something is their “dream job”. Even here, the OP is saying this is their “dream job” but hates the work environment (working from home), not enthused about the daily work flow (lack of meetings), and bored stiff with the job duties. It sounds more like there are some things that are perks about the job (title, benefits) but it doesn’t sound like a dream job if you dislike the actual job.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      You are nitpicking though…

      You can have your dream job, but not love the environment. And where is a new role for the LW, she is bored because she is in that initial ramp up stage where you’re still learning the ropes and don’t have a ton of work yet. Nothing in the letter suggests she dislikes the actual job, just the isolation of working from home coupled with the fact that she isn’t as busy yet and she’d like to be.

      1. essEss*

        What I’m getting at is that it’s similar to advice columns that say “I’m in a perfect marriage except I don’t like being around my spouse.” She is saying it’s a dream job, but a major piece of a job is the work environment and she’s saying that she is lonely and isolated and dislikes working from home all of which are normally important factors in deciding if a job is a “good fit” for a person.
        I agree that she might find a way to make it better from the current suggestions, but the overall setup of the job doesn’t sound like it’s the type of job that she will enjoy long-term since she is looking for ways to be able to endure the format of the job.

        1. Morning Glory*

          I think it’s more like being in a happy relationship but disliking that it’s long distance, if you want to use a relationship analogy.

          Obviously environment is a big factor to the OP’s happiness or she would not have written in. But that does not negate all of the positive attributes of her job, which are enough for her to want to find a way to make this work instead of finding a new job. So, I disagree with your opinion that she dislikes the job itself, just because it’s remote, and she does not (yet) have a lot of work.

  48. Chelsea*

    I cannot relate to this post at all. I’ve been at this job for three years because I get two telework days. It’s so important to me. Try to think of all the time and money you’re not spending your commute, oh, and you can work in your pajamas :)

    1. soon 2be former fed*

      Likewise. Work from home is the neatest thing ever, with the subzero weather lately and NO COMMUTE.

  49. Sunnyside*

    I have worked from home for five years now, and I manage a team of remote employees too, so I GET IT. A few things that have helped:
    – I start my team meetings with “interesting things.” Everyone has to share one non-work related interesting thing. Some people share things that are going on in their lives, some share fun facts or interesting articles. The items don’t have to be personal, and many aren’t, but this fills the gap of “watercooler talk” and helps us all feel like connected human beings.
    – I work one day a week out of the house, usually at a coffeeshop.
    – I have lots of regularly scheduled meetings so I’m getting lots of videochat face time, but it’s all structured with agendas. I’ve added a once-a-week hour long phone chat with a colleague. We have parallel titles, similar challenges, and we’re just generally work buddies. It’s kinda like having lunch with a coworker once a week – we talk about work stuff, brainstorm ideas, vent about challenges, and we also talk about friend and family stuff. It’s really helpful!

  50. Emmie*

    I’ve WFH full-time for a few years. Here’s what helps me:
    – I wear shoes to work. I have a special pair that I wear only in the house.
    – I wish I would have set up an ergonomic office sooner. My desk is also in front of a nice window.
    – I do not do house chores while I am working. It is distracting.
    – It took a while to build relationships with my coworkers. I now have people I message regularly.
    – I am happiest when I leave my house after work like going to the gym. The exercise is important because I’m not walking to / from the building, bathrooms, or lunch.
    – I should do a better job of going to co-working places, or doing one of those coworking retreats, or being social. I’d love to do the retreats. Failing at social things takes a toll on me.
    – I had to set firm boundaries that I cannot pick up another’s kid from school, log off early or mid-day to go to the mall or pick up someone from the airport, or watch a kid.
    I should also take other’s great suggestions above. My position was new and it took some time for others to use me, and to learn my job. It got easier once I got busier. It’s also okay to realize that WFH is not for you. People who have never done it fantasize about it akin to working for marquee companies like Facebook. The reality is different. It’s isolating. It’s hard to manage people from a distance, but it can be done successfully. There’s something to be said about that feeling you get when you leave work, and know you’re done. Do not let people’s fantasies of a job they have never done distract you from the reality of it. It gets better though.

  51. Minnie*

    I enjoy working from home and do not miss the office politics and drama that I’ve encountered in the past.

    I do feel that this type of situation is not a one size fits all, and if you’re missing human interaction, you should definitely seek out what is best for you.

  52. Candi*

    Give yourself a schedule and deadlines. Structure your day so you know you’re doing X from 10-11, Y from 2-4, etc. (In the absence of putting out fires or removing kindling so fires don’t happen.) If you don’t have work, work on something work-related, whether it’s reading articles or blogs, online course videos, or research.

    Reach out to your coworkers and manager. Make sure they remember you. And don’t be afraid to ask for work.

  53. Jam Today*

    I recently made something of a command decision to work at home at least two days a week, possibly three if I can get away with it. I used to work in really high-personal-touch environments, with groups of people who worked really well together and whose company I enjoyed as coworkers and just as human beings. I also used to either take public transportation or walk to and from work, so I could listen to music, read, or just daydream. My new(ish) job is dealing with an almost entirely nationally (and internationally) distributed team, with only three people that I interact with “locally” and one of them usually runs meetings from her desk via phone. I also now have to spend 35-55 minutes in traffic, so between the miserable commute and the kind of lonely, soulless office environment (tons of people around but I can go days without speaking to anyone in person) this is the first time I choose to work from home and am actually enjoying it. Since my commute time dropped to the five minutes it takes me to walk to my kitchen and make a pot of coffee, I can get “into the office” earlier, and since I’m not worrying about timing my leaving the office to avoid the worst traffic, I can “leave” at a human hour. My human interaction now takes the form of a class at a local community college, and adult-beginner ballet lessons in the evening that I can get to now that I’m not racing back from the office during peak traffic!

  54. Alpha Bravo*

    Coming from decades of on-site roles in logistics, administration and business analysis, this year I’m working from home on an independent project (where I am in fact the boss and can set my own hours and priorities). I’m a strong introvert and loneliness is not an issue for me. A lot of my previous work was in QA, and I tend to approach any project in a methodical way, focusing on process, schedule, milestones. I have set up my studio/office at home and acquired equipment and supplies. I have a plan for the workflow. Now all I have to do is execute. Which at this point in the plan means sit down at my drawing table and … draw. For me, it’s more motivation than isolation that’s problematic. I’ll be watching this thread for any helpful tips!

    1. Zombeyonce*

      On your point that finding the motivation is difficult for you: I don’t know if you’ve tried this tip, but I’ve always liked the “5 minute” rule. When you are having trouble getting yourself to start something or there’s just such a big job that it is overwhelming and hard to get started, decide to work on it for 5 minutes. If you get to the end of that 5 minutes and still aren’t motivated, try something else for a bit and come back to another 5 minutes later. Most of the time, you’ll find that you just needed to get into it and the 5 minutes turns into 2 hours. But if it doesn’t, it’s okay and you’ll get back to it.

  55. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if this is repetitive… but, first and foremost, set your alarm, get up and get dressed at the same time you would if you had to actually “go” to the office. Obviously you don’t need to wear work clothes, but change out of your jammies. Don’t turn on the TV, and if you haven’t already, try to establish a dedicated work space. Take your lunch hour every day, and if you can, use this time to leave the house. Maybe head to the gym or take a yoga class, but the point is to try to interact with people, even if it is just for short amount of time every day. Have a defined end to your workday, and then shut off your computer and leave your workspace (this is the part that I struggle with!). But also, know that working from home 24/7 is definitely not for everyone!

  56. The Anonymous White North*

    I’m not helpful on the interaction part (I’m super introverted and content to spend over 24 hours without leaving my house), but just because you could work in your sweats doesn’t mean you have to. You say you miss having a reason to get ready in the morning, but there’s no reason you can’t keep doing that. Also, if you have the space at home to make an office that’s separate from your living space, that may help you get more in a work mindset. Sometimes dressing the part and making your space look the part can help!

  57. Bend & Snap*

    I just went 100% remote. I’m an extreme introvert and a single mother to a small child, so this is a DREAM. I don’t get lonely/feel isolated, but I do notice that my social skills are rusty as hell when out among people in the wild. It’s hard.

    It also becomes harder to leave the house to do anything except take my kiddo to daycare, but that’s also part of a mental health disorder that I am dealing with, so YMMV.

  58. Pineapple*

    I’d address the “not enough to do” aspect. Working from home without enough to do caused me to flounder in and leave a job within a year even though I’ve successfully worked from home previously. (In that case, while I was not the only person working from home, much of the company was based in headquarters, so organic opportunities to help each other out tended to go to them.)

    You may also need to figure out how to get the right amount of interpersonal contact, but I think doing, day, half a job from a coworking space will still leave you missing the feeling of being busy and useful.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on how to get enough work to do in these kind of situations?

    1. Eye of Sauron*

      “Does anyone have any thoughts on how to get enough work to do in these kind of situations?”

      I touched on that in comment up thread, because I think that’s an important part of the equation here. In my case I had to make it a point to call or otherwise talk to my boss at least once a day. I gave him a heads up that I would be doing it and why so he didn’t think I was needy or trying to annoy him. I phrased it so he knew I was trying to get and stay engaged vs. being needy.

      My job at the time was a data analyst, on a system that had been largely ignored for awhile, so there was ample opportunity for self directed activity. I took advantage of that and by and large made my own work (understanding this isn’t possible in all jobs). To some degree every job should have at least some opportunities to do this.

      I think the biggest thing that the OP can do is to focus on integrating with their team. I suggested scheduling travel to meet everyone in person as soon as possible, if this is a possibility. It’s not clear how close they are to coworkers or if everyone works remote. This will help bring the OP to the front of everyone’s mind.

      Also the OP should make effort to call coworkers or at the very least IM with them vs. email. Voice/IM is more conversational than email and again this opens up opportunities for ‘water cooler chat’ which can lead to projects and additional work. Also to not be shy about volunteering for things. If the OP is in a meeting and someone mentions they are having a problem with their teapot spout designs, that’s a great opportunity for OP to offer help, that has the double win of more work and helping a coworker.

      It’s a little hard to give specific advice since we don’t know what the OP does, so some of this may apply and some of it will probably be irrelevant.

  59. Zombeyonce*

    I recommend talking to your coworkers (who I expect are also remote) and if you do similar sorts of work, see if you can split up that work based on your preferences.

    Example: I love working from home and don’t need much social interaction and hate talking on the phone, so partnering with a coworker who needs that social interaction means that they can take the work that involves phone calls and I can take the work that is more heads-down detail work that doesn’t do well with interruptions. Everyone’s happy!

    Of course, this is dependent upon the work you do and your setup (and your boss), but if it works, it’s a really nice way to get that interaction you need and also make coworkers happier in their jobs, too.

  60. Sketchee*

    Something I love to do since I live alone, find hobbies and volunteer opportunities that involve lots of people. Then I get to really enjoy my time at home as alone time and also look forward to time with others. Perhaps some variation of this could work for you?

  61. Betty*

    How much visibility/availability your company requires of you during the workday is going to make a big difference in how you manage this. For example, I work from home a lot but absolutely no one has any idea what I’m doing at any given moment. My hours aren’t tracked on a company computer, no one rings me up, I’m expect to be prompt with emails but not instantly available, I’m not logged on to a company IM… This means that as long as I get the work done, no one cares how or when I do it. If this is the case for you:

    1. Schedule shorter workdays! You don’t have enough to do at the moment, so don’t just mope around trying to make the time pass. Start at ten, clock off at four. Only you will know!

    2. Schedule stuff right in the middle of the day that gets you out of the house or talking to other people. Doctors appointments, exercise classes, seeing a nearby friend for lunch. Again, no one will know where you are. If work calls and you don’t answer, say “I was on lunch”, just as if you were in an office.

    3. Many other people have suggested you look into coworking spaces or working from cafes. I’m not a big fan unless you really need it because the costs seriously add up. However, if you can find someone else who works from home near you (in any field that’s reasonably portable!), you could set up a working buddy relationship. Tuesdays they come round and work from your home, Thursdays you go round and work from theirs. Breaks up the week, you can have coffee breaks and lunch breaks together, gets you out of the house, totally free! Obviously you have to have similar working styles and some rules around the fact that it is a work day, but there’s no reason you need to mention it as a long-term commitment up front. Just invite them round once and see how it goes: “Hey, would you like to bring your laptop round to mine one day next week?” If you enjoy it, invite them again! If you’re really struggling to find anyone, set up a local MeetUp group for lonely WFHers to congregate in a cafe for a morning per week. Hopefully you’ll hit it off with someone there that you can approach individually.

    4. Shower. Get dressed. Have regular meals. If you need a reason to get ready in the morning, create one! Walk to the grocery store first thing on Mondays, the library first thing on Tuesdays, etc. It’s just like having a commute but you end up back home again.

    5. Find a new hobby. Work won’t be so boring if something else in your life excites you.

    I’m fairly introverted and love working from home, and have a fairly flexible attitude to it. (As I said above, if I get the work done, no one cares how or when.) However, I’m teaming up with a friend of mine to try out a job share for our next freelance contract to make life a bit more fun and a bit less lonely. We wouldn’t meet up physically all that much as she lives across the city, but a couple of all-day meetings at the start to plan it and then lots of chatting via phone and email to keep on-track as we go will help give us the feeling that we’re both in it together.

    1. Koko*

      I would not recommend #2 concealing that you aren’t working. As you say, if the office is one that is fine with people going to lunch or running errands, then it’s fine to also do those things when you work from home – but don’t hide the fact that you’re doing it. That makes you look guilty and untrustworthy if it were to ever be discovered.

      I schedule appointments in the middle of the day and step out to run errands frequently when I’m working at home. Like you, nobody clock-watches, they just care that I’m getting my work done. But when I’m stepping away I IM my team and tell them, “Running down the street to pick up some groceries in the afternoon lull. Should be back in 30-40 minutes. I have my phone and will keep an eye on email.” Honesty is the best policy – either it’s OK or it isn’t.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, I agree about #2 and feel the same way about #1. Not having enough to do doesn’t necessarily mean that I can just decide to work a 6-hour day. My boss expects us to be available and working when we are working from home (one day a week is all that’s currently allowed). We are all expected to be up and running on Skype, just as we would be in the office. It’s fine to step away to switch out a load of laundry, but we need to put a small message up on Skype ( nothing fancy, “BRB 5 mins” is enough). This may not be true for all jobs, but in my job it is: If I don’t have enough work to do, then I need to ask co-workers if they need help or talk to the person who assigns tickets and ask for work. I know that isn’t always possible, especially in the OP’s situation of being in a new position. But that is what is expected of me.

  62. JM60*

    You could go to a coffee shop to do some work.

    As for the linked advice on how to work from home, I don’t agree that everything under 1 is necessarily a violation of your employer’s trust. A few 5 minutes breaks to do laundry can easily be fit into the downtime of some work from home jobs if you’re salaried, or in your legally mandated paid breaks (depending on where you live) if you’re hourly. You can also multitask. I’ve lost so much weight (100+lbs) in 2017 partly because I’ve been able to use an exercise bike when working at home. I’ll also commonly watch (or mostly listen) to YouTube videos and sometimes also TV shows while working from home. Would you say that that’s a violation of my employer’s trust? It certainly can be of you’re doing it in lieu of working (certainly not everyone can maintain high performance doing this), but I don’t think it necessarily is if you can manage it.

  63. Nita*

    I don’t like working from home either, even though it’s a godsend in many ways (my commute is normally between 1 and 1.5 hours one way). Some things just work so much better when you’re physically in the office. I find that dressing in office clothes helps me focus. If I’m struggling to be efficient because there’s not enough work and no deadline, coming up with my own internal deadline helps. It’s also good to take small breaks throughout the day to walk around, or have a cup of tea… I’ve noticed that when I’m in the office, I walk around more than when I’m at home, if only to talk to coworkers or grab a coffee. And depending on your preferred communication style, maybe calling your coworkers instead of emailing them will create more sense of connection.

  64. Chi*

    Starting a work from home job Monday and I am so excited. It is a dream come true. I am so sorry OP, that you are not liking it too much yet.

  65. Lisa Simpson*

    I work from home. Here are a few tips I don’t see listed above so far:

    1. Anytime you’re not on a phone call, set a timer for 20 minutes, work like crazy during that time. When the timer buzzes, set it for 5 minutes and get up and do something around the house, such as throwing in a load of laundry, washing dishes, etc. When the 5 minute timer buzzes, set again for 20 minutes and repeat the whole process. At first I felt guilty about the 5 minute breaks, but when I stick to this schedule, I’m much more productive.

    2. Are there systems you’ll be using in your new job? I had a job where my boss was remote and I also found I had a lot of downtime at first. We use systems like ZenDesk and Salesforce at work, so anytime I had nothing to do, I jumped-on their websites and YouTube and taught myself the systems and, once I had that down, how to improve my use of the systems.

    3. We have a “watercooler” Slack channel at my work for random discussions. This helps me feel engaged.

    4. I send presents to the main office to remind my coworkers that I’m thinking of them. Sometimes it’s local coffee for them to try, sometimes it’s a regional food, etc.

    5. Having “noise” that isn’t distracting helps. When I’m getting ready for work, it’s podcasts, then I switch to music during the day.

    1. eeeeeelizabeth*

      Yes yes yes yes yes to setting a timer. This helps me so much, especially when I’m feeling unmotivated to start a new task and really does help to break up the work day into more manageable chunks.

  66. Raider*

    I just wanted to add that I for years thought working from home would be a dream, the ideal, the ultimate. And then when I made it happen …. I never want to do it again full time! Right now, I even have the option of working home several days a week and almost never do.

    For me, the key reason was that I never felt like I could 100 percent escape/put work away/leave work at work. Work was literally in my home hanging over my head 24/7. My home no longer felt like my safe escapist abode. There were other surprises too (I actually do far better with a structure of having set hours to go into the office to work, I discovered). But the most significant factor was what I described above.

    1. Cookie D'Oh*

      Same here. I need a physical separation between work and home. I am an introvert, but need to get out of the house and have a routine. After a full week at work I come home on Friday nights and sometimes don’t leave the house until Monday morning.

  67. Camellia*

    If you don’t have quite enough to do yet, are there free on-line classes that you can take, especially any that might help with your new job? And sometimes when I just need to be occupied for a short while, I’ll look up a new function on Excel or Outlook or Word and try it out, see if it is something that is useful for me in the long run.

  68. Chrissy*

    I’m that person in the office who is always wearing headphones and has to try so hard to make interactions with others happen. I don’t have tons of work to do and I’m biding my time to build up some job history before I move on to somewhere I can grow more. I have to believe that work from home opportunities were made for me. I would thrive off of the autonomy and off of the more relaxed environment. I feel edgy sitting at my desk knowing anyone could approach at any time. If I could have the flexibility to intermix chores and errands into my day, I would work much longer hours, happily.

  69. oranges & lemons*

    This might not be entirely in your control, but one thing that I really like is that my team uses instant messaging, so while I’m at home in my sweatpants, free from having to overhear everyone else’s conversations, I still feel as connected as if I were still in the office.

  70. LizM*

    On my work from home days, I still get up, shower, and get dressed. After breakfast, I put the dishes away and “go” to work, i.e. I physically move from my “living” space to my “working” space. If I need to do chores, I make sure that I actually schedule intentional breaks – even if I hear the laundry beep at 9:30, I don’t take a “coffee break” until 10. Being more rigid about “working” time and “living” time really helps me keep my focus.

    In terms of social isolation, on nice days, I try to take a walk and eat lunch at my neighborhood park. I’ve also joined a gym. Are there any professional associations that have monthly meetings? I’m an attorney by training, and attend the Bar Association section for my field. That helps keep me in touch with real people, even if it’s only once a month. Volunteering is another way to get human interaction.

  71. Enginerd*

    I feel your pain. We’re allowed to work from home but I try to save it for days when the weather is bad or there’s issues with the commute.

    I find having a virtual commute helps focus first thing. Cup of coffee and the radio for 15-20 minutes while relaxing and preparing for the day.

    I’d also highly recommend Skype or FaceTime. I hate phone calls and prefer to conversate face to face and the helps quite a bit. It also requires me to be presentable so I’m forced to get up and get ready on the morning.

  72. Daria Grace*

    When I had a work from home job that was flexible about hours, I found it really important to block out time and focus on strictly work. I’d set a timer for 90 minutes and decided that until the timer rang I would not take personal phone calls, get up from my desk for anything other than urgent bathroom visits, do personal web surfing or otherwise get distracted. It was easier to put off not work things when I could tell myself “I can look at this thing in ____ minutes when the timer rings” rather than “I can look at this eventually at when I’ve got enough work done”

  73. Ella*

    I work from home full time, and it’s working out very well for me because I’m really the type of person who really doesn’t feel the need to go into an office or be around people all the time. That said, there are definitely a few suggestions I have and things I personally do to keep from getting completely isolated:

    1. Ask if your work will cover the expense for a better home office or coworking space! It took me a long time to realize that my job is quite willing to pay for office related expenses that seems somewhat indulgent to me. For me that meant finally asking for a new computer monitor/keyboard/etc. to spruce up my home office, but for you it’s probably worth asking if they’d cover the expense of a coworking space membership, if you have one nearby.

    2. Schedule time to chat with co-workers, especially if they are also remote workers. I have a weekly time blocked out on my calendar for a “very important business meeting” which is actually just a Skype session with fellow remote workers where we drink coffee and dish on our own lives and recent office happenings. It’s basically the remote worker version of hanging out in the break room, and aside from keeping us all sane it also has translated into working together more efficiently the rest of the week as well.

    3. Find fellow remote workers nearby and schedule co-working dates. I’m lucky because I have a good friend who works from home once a week, so we will almost always spend that day working together at a coffee shop. Even just one day a week out in the world working with fellow humans can really stave off the cabin fever.

    4. Make sure you’re actually checking in with your boss/supervisor! I have to be very strict with myself about this one, because I’m often tempted to push off check-ins with my supervisor or just send her updates via email, but actually sitting down and having a conversation via video call is useful and important when we’re not in the same physical location so she can’t see what I’m doing every day and I can’t pop into her office if I need something.

  74. Insipid Moniker*

    My company allowed some employees to volunteer to desk-share or work from home from one site, and then closed another site altogether and those ee’s HAD to work from home or quit/get laid off. It was great for me, I desk shared and loved having my commute be a walk upstairs, I felt at least as productive if not more. I did miss seeing people and there were times I felt left out of office gossip/news. Some colleagues who were basically forced into it had less positive experiences, it’s definitely not for everyone. My advice:

    1) Have a separate space set up for working from home. If you can dedicate a room, or part of one, great. This separates work and home life.

    2) You are going to spend a good amount of time working, it pays to make that space nice. Have an office chair and desk, if possible. I was shocked how some people just used a folding chair, or were in their basement next to the laundry machines, naked bulb overhead. Circumstances may limit what you can do, but don’t torture yourself.

    3)Make efforts to call people with no particular agenda–just chat about how things are going. Much of what we learn about our jobs happens informally as people just talk, sometimes literally at the water cooler. If you work from home you need to make some of that happen, it won’t be incidental.

    4)Seize opportunities to interact with colleagues when they arise. If you are skeptical of team building exercises or socializing out of work I get it, but I found participating helped me feel less isolated.

    5)Get out of the house! Work is the major place for human interaction for many people, we are social creatures and reducing interaction may lead to depression or feelings of isolation. Try to volunteer or look for other ways to increase your interaction with people.

    6)Know that time is needed for adjustment to any change. But with time and effort, people can get used to a lot.

    Good luck!

  75. Katie*

    I work from home and can get “overwhelmed” by being alone too. Here’s what I do –
    1. Grab my laptop and headphones and work at a coffee shop.
    2. Listen to music or TV while I work.
    3. During conference calls where I’m not presenting but I still need to listen – do something mindless like fold laundry.
    4. Use Phone/IM to connect with my team from time to time – we also meet in person periodically for meetings and as required.

  76. Big City Woman*

    I’m always amazed at how many people here work from home. I’m dying to find a wfh job but it seems extremely difficult to find one.

  77. nep*

    Were I to land — OK, let’s say when I land — one of the ‘remote-based’ jobs I’m applying for, I would/will rent out some space — depending on pay, a small office or some space in one of the great nearby places designed for this.
    (If I lived alone I could do it at home, as I’ve done before. Some rituals can help — just some steps to differentiate your just being-at-home time to working time.)
    Is renting out space an option for you? Might that help? Somewhere to go, a space designated for work only….

  78. buttercup*

    One of my earlier jobs was a remote contract job for about a year. I didn’t like it for the same reasons as the OP – it was isolating. I made it interesting by discovering a bunch of new coffeeshops in my city, and I also took advantage of traveling a lot. By traveling, I don’t so much mean sightseeing as going to various friends and relatives homes I would not have been able to had I been tethered to my desk. It allowed me to catch up with people. I would work during their working hours and once the workday was over, I just had to shut off my laptop and get to galavanting around town or whatever it was I wanted to do. I did have to put up a sign on my door when I was staying at my parents’ house, though – they have a tendency to barge in without knocking!

  79. Lizziebeth*

    I’m also someone who loves working from home. I had a job at a toxic non profit, but I worked in a satellite location by myself ( but as a contracted social worker in an apartment building so I wasn’t “alone” I had people in my office all day) I saw the writing on the wall, that they were going to find reasons to fire all of us on my team ( see the above toxic reference) and found a new job. I loved everything about the job at the interview but walked away feeling like I bombed, so when I got the call I was thrilled, but also hesitant because it mean that I would be going into big city every day which gets pricey ( parking at the train station, taking the commuter rail, and the subway was about 30 bucks a day) When I started I found out I’d be able to work remote, and then go do home visits from my house as a starting pont once I’d been up and running for a while. I use the time I would have been commuting to clean my house, I can get laundry done during the day! but I also know that it can be isolating and I can be easily distrac….Look something shiny…..

    Anywho I set up routines… and make to do lists and some of my work friends and I have a running fb chat all day. Sometimes it’s “hey anyone know where this form is?” or ” anyone know which sup is on call?” other times its the hot gossip of the two supervisors who are clearly having an affair and think everyone else thinks its a jokeOr venting about difficult clients/families or traffic or why the online meeting we’re having couldn’t just be an email. It helps to know that those 5 ladies are available to chit chat like we were in the office we just don’t see each other in person

  80. Topcat*

    I predominantly work from home, with some meetings in the city once or twice a week. Having to do the school run gives my day structure, but these are some other things that help:

    1. Using an app like Slack to keep more frequent communication with colleagues: while you have to be careful if it is an official company channel as they may be able to monitor private messages, a little bit of “watercooler” chat can be okay

    2. Arranging to have lunch or coffee with colleagues and other contacts. Since the letter writer is new, it seems reasonable that they make an approach to get to know people from other offices/locations

    3. Using a “coffice” (café/office). I wouldn’t overly abuse the space, particularly if it’s a small but busy venue, it’s not fair to eke out a single coffee for two hours while you work on your laptop. But having a regular haunt where you get morning tea or lunch creates the feeling of a “cafeteria” and becoming a “regular” gives you some of the socialisation you might get at work

  81. Julia the Survivor*

    Some have mentioned using Meetup to find WFH groups.
    It’s also good to find social groups! If you need more social activities, look for activities you like on Meetup.
    I belong to two good social groups and they’ve been fun and interesting!

  82. Nanani*

    As someone who specifically went freelance so I could work from home (and, lets be real, while travelling) I think the best thing for you to do is find a new job in an actual office with people in it.

    If you’re unhappy with working from home, you probably can’t solve it with skype and shared work spaces, since most of the people who choose to work from home are actively preferring “no people around” and all that comes with it. Trying to push for more of the human interaction you crave from your fellow work-from-home-ers is probably counterproductive since it will annoy many of them.

    In the meantime, I suggest finding people-ed activities to do between work jobs. Family care? Volunteering? Take a class? A part time job (since it sounds like you don’t have a lot of work-work to do at home)?
    You can also set a work schedule and a reason to get up in the morning and do all the work, even if there’s no commute to speak of. If more structure is more important than just having more people around, maybe set up a work out routine or a chore calender. Every day get up at Time X, make an out of the house errand or appointment for each day of the week (stuff like gym, groceries, brunch, whatver makes sense in your life).
    Fit is important, and it doesn’t sound like working from home fits you very well.

  83. ZucchiniBikini*

    I am a freelancer who works at home about 80% of the time – on average, I spend one day a week at various client sites attending meetings, running workshops etc. and four days at home. There are weeks when I travel to clients in other cities where I might be onsite 3 or 4 days in a row, but that only happens every 2-3 months or so.

    I am also a very gregarious person who needs people, although I do hugely appreciate the quiet and lack of distractions when engaged in thought-intensive projects. I find that two days of working in a very quiet house by myself is good, but by day three, I need to mix it up. Often I get around this by trying to schedule my client day for Wednesdays (which works well to break up the week too). I’m also assisted by the fact that my three children arrive home from school at 4pm, which provides a human-interaction-break in the late afternoon (typically I will down tools and spend some time with them, and do my final hour of work later after dinner).

    Tips that I have found help include:

    1. Try to leave the house in the middle of the day (in what would be your lunch break if you were in an office – typically I allow myself 20-40 mins depending on how busy I am). Whether it’s to grab a lunch at a cafe, take the dog for a walk, or just buy bread and milk, changing the scenery and passing pleasantries with those you see will really help reset your head and make you feel less isolated.

    2. Phone and IM comms with colleagues / clients are great for feeling like you are having a human interaction (some people like Skype but I’m not a major fan myself).

    3. Set yourself a start / finish time in line with what would be expected of the position in an office, and stick to them as far as possible.

    Good luck!

  84. ValancyJane*

    I work at coffee shops, libraries, or even pubs. It’s possible due to the nature of the work I do, and because I’m not easily distracted. The small amount of distraction plus just being around people makes it easier to focus and not feel isolated or depressed. However, this wouldn’t work for everyone.

  85. Londonista*

    I am not sure if you have them in the US but in the UK we have Co-working spaces. This is where you can hire a desk on a daily basis alongside lots of other self-employed/ flexible workers. It gives comraderie and a sense of belonging. Maybe something to look at for a few days a week

  86. MS*

    This thread has been so helpful. I have been working for home almost 3 years and moved to a new city in the middle of it. Loved it at first because I could get a lot done and not have to worry about a commute or being bored at my office all day but then started to feel crazy isolated, even with my dog around. I live in a quiet neighborhood as well. The pros are that it’s so flexible for my kids – can easily drop and pick up from bus stop, and I can keep up with a lot of the housework/every day life craziness without going crazy and having to leave work all the time. But there are also a lot of negatives. I’m also contemplating a coworking space even though it seems so pricey. Appreciate all the great tips! And if any of you are in Raleigh NC and want a coworking buddie, let me know!

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