8 years working from home...
2 min read

8 years working from home...

In 2012 I moved 1,000 miles from the Google Austin office, and started working from home. And I nearly burnt out. Twice.

I learned the best remote work experience (for me) required a combination of mental and physical changes.

Have a space to work. Only work in that space.

Work from the kitchen. Work from the couch. Work from bed (this one never pans out). Our brains associate our environment with whatever they're associated. After a month of turning your entire living space into your workspace, your brain won't ever shut off work mode. Or worse (for some), turn work mode on.

I couldn't ever turn off work. But I was lucky, we'd recently moved to TN and I was able to convert a spare bedroom into an office. It took a few weeks, but now leave the office room and largely leave work at "work".

Make it feel like a work space.

At first I worked from my laptop only. Then my neck started to hurt, so I got an external monitor. After six months, I started to get weird pains in my wrist that would last through the night. So, I got an external cheap logitech keyboard and mouse. I've gone through several iterations and eventually landed on an Ergo Dox EZ. It's a split keyboard (two parts) that allows for handling to match the natural bend of your arms. The keys are also ortholinear, meaning they're lined up in a true grid vs. the staggered keys we're all used too. This reduces twisting when typing, further reducing wrist stress. The Ergodox isn't for everyone, but I can't recommend a dedicated keyboard enough.

Since I started working on my own company, I've been able to invest in learning software development. After a while the Macbook Pro from my last company was starting to run the fans all day. I'm also a bit of a Chrome tab hoarder. I switched to Linux and recently built a PC from scratch with an AMD 3900x (12 cores!), 64 GB ram, 4 TB (overkill) SSD, etc. This has two advantages. One, I'm never waiting for my machine. Two, this further cements the "work happens in the workspace". I literally can't bring my heaviest workflows out of the home office.

Have a schedule.

The first 6 months working from home, I'd roll out of bed and walk straight into the home office. Cut to 8pm and I'd barely eaten. No wonder I burned out! My morning schedule changes every six months or so, but I try to keep it consistent during that time. Right now, this involves family time for 20-30 min in the morning, a long walk (or short run), shower, get dressed, breakfast. Simple, consistent, and it tells my brain it's time to transition to work. I don't drink coffee, but for awhile I'd drive to a local gas station for a Hi-Ball energy drink (think La Croix with caffeine and not much else). This worked great for creating the "commute" effect, but got expensive after awhile. Now, I just order a palette of them on Amazon. :)

Someday, I'd like to a write up for what I've found to be the ideal video conferencing setup. So far: setting up a mirrorless camera as webcam, studio quality mic, green screen experiments (Update: See BackgroundStudio). But the core remains: only work in the work space, make the work space feel like one, and keep a schedule.