Friday, May 27, 2011

Featured Comment: Elizabethe on Working from Home

I thought it would be fun to occasionally highlight a particularly funny, useful, or insightful comment in a post. I know you can't read all the comments, but I do! I love them all, and what better way to show my appreciation than by featuring your brilliant thoughts here. 

The first featured comment is from Elizabethe, a longtime commenter who consistently provides excellent points and even sometimes makes up show tune lyrics on the spot! I found her advice on my post about working from home to be so helpful, I almost printed it out to tape to my wall. Here are her words of advice on navigating the world of the home office, complete with tips on fashion, diet, and exercise!

Hi Gertie, I work from home as a freelance writer and a SAHM. Here are my 5 uncomfortable truths about working from home (this applies to the work of motherhood as well):

1. Clothes are like money: bad clothes drive out good. 
When you wake up in the morning you (or maybe just me) will always be pulled, as though in a riptide, to the ugliest, slouchiest pjs or sweats or jeans you own "just for today." Always.

Solution: Your nice stay at home clothes have to be just as comfortable as your slouchy clothes -- that means no tight waistbands, few buttons.

I've gathered a bunch of skirts I can wear with T-shirts and some nice wrap dresses. I have just two pairs of jeans (one in flat length, one in heel length) to wear when I need to. I wear longer skirts when I'm going to the playground.

2. If you are at home during the day, you WILL nap.

Just plan on it right now. It's natural to nap after lunch, like it's in the human physiology.

Solution: Wear something you feel comfortable napping in on the couch, whatever that is for you.

3. You will NEVER dress to look nice "just for yourself" no matter what your good intentions are.

Solution: plan to go out for lunch or coffee once a day -- to provide structure, and to make sure you see other people to get that motivation to look good.

4. You will be tempted to turn your home into a personal "nest" and alienate the people who live with you.

If you wear pjs and sweats all day (and sometimes even if you do dress up nice), the house will become more like your "den" and the people who live with you will start to feel like they are intruding on your lair when they come home. And that's not good.

Solution: Schedule two "transition times," once in the morning before you "go" to work, and once in the afternoon as you "leave" work. Spend this time cleaning up after yourself. You are there more, you'll be making more mess, you will have to clean more. Just get over it and do it (this is gender neutral advice, btw).

Most importantly, if you wound up wearing pjs all day, change into real clothes so they are greeted by a real person when they come home and not a den monster.

And finally, slightly OT, but a must mention,

5. You will probably gain weight unless you guard against it.

Solution: Pack yourself a lunch and snacks or go out to lunch and a coffee break, whatever you did when you were going into the office. Keep your old office habits at much as you can, until you can figure out what works right for you for working at home.

Whatever you do, don't torture yourself by planning to "throw together" a salad every day for lunch. A salad is the most labor intensive thing to make in the kitchen and leaves the biggest mess to clean up. In fact don't plan to cook anything for yourself for lunch, it will just make another mess that you will have to clean up (maybe you find cooking and cleaning a relaxing break, more power to you. I used to too, until I had to do it every single day while also finding time to work.)

Now, granted, it seems stupid to pack a lunch when you are at home all day anyway; but it really works. Make the kitchen off limits when you are "at work." This is even BETTER advice you if you are taking care of kids. I started packing my kids and myself a lunch and snacks everyday even if we aren't going anywhere, and it is so much easier on everyone and there is much less tendency on everyone's part to mindless snacking.

Good luck Gertie, I can't wait to see what you wear to work from home. =)

 Thanks to Elizabethe for providing our first featured comment!


  1. 'm working from home today. Already had a 90 minute nap, a pastry and three chocolate biscuits - in case there is any doubting her words. I'm in proper clothes though (jeans = proper in my world)

  2. I agree, that is really great advice! One thing that helped me in the beginning was to make a schedule and stick to it. You need to force structure on yourself when you work from home. If I didn't plan out my days, I'd have spent all my time on the couch reading and cuddling with the kitties!

  3. I work from home, and all of this is EXCELLENT advice and very true.

    I did find that my nap in the middle of the day made me feel unproductive & more tired, so I started going to the gym or running/walking around the neighborhood after lunch instead. It really gives me more energy (and I've lost all that work-from-home weight I've gained too).

  4. I've worked from home for several years so I know that all the tips above are excellent. I'd say the most important one is definitely to get out of the house at least once a day - whether it's to meet a friend for lunch or even just to get coffee. That way you have to put on 'real' clothes as opposed to just PJs!

  5. I work from home two days a week and that is all brilliant advice. I used to feel guilty about still eating sandwiches for lunch on the days I worked from home but yeah - who has time to rustle something up in a snatched hour between projects?

  6. what a great response!

    I work from home & I agree with almost all of it, fortunately my husband does too so no one is coming home to a den monster but I can't say I always look nice, I even been known to my horror to be in PJs until it's time to go to the post office to post orders off, dreadful, I do actually hate myself on those days! In fact I am planning on making some 'working from home' clothes this weekend as I'm sick of throwing on jeans & tshirt!

    I do however disagree with the salad thing, the one thing I love about working from home is in winter cooking up huge pans of soup & summer making lovely salads, but then I don't nap ever so maybe I'm fitting in the food rather than the nap!!

  7. Brilliant! I'm retiring next year and will print out this post . . . I'm already starting to fret about my new life, where I won't be leaving the house to go to work every day (after having done so for 40 years).

  8. Argh, I just wrote an epic comment about making salads which got eaten! Basically it boiled down to:

    If you're having chicken or beef or whatever for dinner, make a bit extra and chop it up on your dinner plate before you serve your dinner, along with a couple of tomatoes or an orange pepper or some other salady vegetable(s) (thus not creating extra washing up)

    Put them into a large well-sealable plastic container (e.g. the kind with the locking sides) with some leaves (I am a terrible person and buy prepackaged whatever-is-on-offer) and a little bit of something carby (an extra half cup of pasta, a couple of spoonfuls of cous cous - doesn't need to be a lot, just enough to make salad seem like a proper lunch)

    Add some olive oil and something for flavour such as fresh ground black pepper plus a dash of hot sauce, some dried herbs, some lemon juice, a teaspoonful of red pesto, whatever you like and have handy.

    Put the lid on tightly and give it a bloody good shake then put in the fridge overnight. Takes about five minutes on top of making dinner (cous cous is great because you just cover it with boiling water and leave to stand then fluff it, you can even do this in a corner of the container, you can buy the kind with flavourings in, too) and is a tasty and good for you sort of lunch.

    Um, I'm not great at boiling things down!

  9. Wow, that IS good advice. Even though I'm a student and don't "work at home", I think I'm gonna pack myself a lunch next time I'm working on an important paper or something at home. Then I have something to look forward to, and I can motivate myself to take less breaks, because I know I'll have an awesome lunch break :)
    (Or I might do this now as I'm just sitting around in PJs all day sewing at the moment, which makes me forget to eat!)
    I think the "featured comment" category is a great idea, love reading through the comments on this blog but there are always so many :)

  10. Wow, thanks for sharing! I hope to work from home in the future, and my girlfriend is doing so now. I think we might both benefit from this advice!

  11. Wonderfully smart advice as others have pointed out, many thanks for highlighting and sharing!

    I would also strongly concur with the "set a schedule" and "get out at least once a day" advice.

    I am a great procrastinator -- too bad there's no award for it, though I suppose I know the competition is stiff! -- and so I NEVER turn the TV set on during the day, and I have fabulous, fun evening plans as often as possible. That way I have to be at my desk by 10 am so I can be out the door by 6 pm. This lets me ward against the freelancer's notorious 2:30 pm-10 pm schedule, which is very easy to fall into if you are not a morning person and which for me would have been a self-recriminating nightmare!

    I love the autonomy of a freelancer's life, the challenges of running a small business, the joy of the kind of relationships I build with my clients, and the freedom to get the laundry and grocery shopping and other errands done in the less-busy weekday hours. I wish you all the joy that the indie life can bring!

  12. Great advice! Thanks Elizabeth, and thank you, Gertie, for featuring Elizabeth's comment.

  13. Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips... extremely good adwise, er, advice.

  14. As another student (Grad school) I have to agree this advice is wonderful. I really like the realist tone to it. I have so often started another week declaring that I'm going to work out, eat well, do work 10 hours per day, blah blah... at some point you have to accept that you are not going to behave perfectly, and make it easier on yourself to at least hit some minimums. I like the idea of skirts with t-shirts a lot, it's not something I've tried. I'd love pictures/ideas there!

  15. Great advice! I'm also leaving the corporate world after today (last day!!!), so this is extra-pertinent for me.

    Also - thanks for starting this feature. I love that your readers respond with such detailed comments, but I rarely have time read them all (I usually read about 5). There has been a lot of talk online lately about comments sections on blogs and how ideas "go there to die." Thanks for proving that wrong, and keeping the discussion alive!

  16. My mother used to work from home and she had a designated office space, which was another form of providing structure and helped keep her from letting her "work den" creep into the rest of the house. It also helped keep her from doing work 20 hours in a row, just because it was there (she was expected to work 8-5 minus lunch, like a normal office employee).

    And, for the record, I don't work from home but I do dress nicely just for myself. I dress better for myself than I do for work, because I can wear my nice but less practical things outside of the office.

  17. I work from home. This is all good advice! I especially find it useful to have someone come over who's going to see my sewing room, so I'm forced to clean up my projects. Too many projects lying around clutters the mind, I think & it's really helpful to clean up & put some away even if you aren't finished with them yet. I seem to get more accomplished if things are tidy.

  18. Oh my goodness, such good advice! I work from home 4 days/eveings(!) per week. I have put on weight, I hit the snack tin at tea breaks, I wear joggers during the day, and sometimes, only sometimes, I don't put on my make up. I get "dressed up" to go to the supermarket or take the dog for a walk.
    I don't nap at lunchtime though - otherwise I'd sleep through the afternoon. That's the time to get some fresh air.
    Great post Gertie, thanks

  19. Oh, and I totally agree on the nice/comfy things and have another suggestion for this - I have a couple of button-through shirtdress type things (both bought) which I can slip on over my head without undoing any buttons, they are comfy and practical and look nice for collecting my daughter from school/nipping to the shops (I don't have a job at the moment). I don't allow myself to own sweatpants (because I know if I had some I'd never wear proper clothes during the week!) and have managed just fine without them!

  20. Great post, and great advices! I'm taking a page from your book, Gertie, and print it out.
    I work for an outsourcing company, so sometimes my days are full, sometimes I work part time, and a few days (1-3) each month I'm usually home. I found myself nodding to all of Elizabethes points (except the den monster - I live alone).
    Pretty but comfy clothes for home have been on the "To-sew"-list for ages, but it just climbed to a much higher priority =)

  21. This is a little belated but congrats on your transition! My one year anniversary of quitting my corporate job was this week - it was nice to see someone else take the leap! :) As for clothes, I also can fall into the trap of wearing whatever, but I've found my clothing personality came back and it's wonderful. I was trapped in my corporate job and ALWAYS told my clothing and look were not professional (which was bullshit) and I felt myself changing, albeit slowly to fit the mold, which made it even more miserable. So don't worry, this is an opportunity to re-discover style that is not Corporate American friendly, and for every sweat pant day you'll have a great new look day!

  22. Oh no! This is like reading my life lately. This is excellent advice and from someone who just recently took the plunge to being a work at home-er this has genius written all over it. I've been having problems lately feeling blue because I haven't been heeding her advice and honestly, I haven't known why until just this very moment! The getting dressed part is HUGE! I do feel better when I get dressed, its just getting dressed that I'm too lazy to do. And packing your lunch - this is a fabulous idea.

    I'm going to put your idea to good use and print this and hang it on my wall right now! Thank you Elizabethe - and thank you Gertie for highlighting this comment!


  23. Elizabeth is right on target. I worked from home for a couple of years and everything she says happened. I wish I would have had this advice. I ended up going back to work in an office partly for some of these reasons.

  24. Gertie, thank you for posting Elizabeth's comment. I will be working from home 2-3 days/week. I found Elizabeth comment to be very helpful. I also printed this post for my reference. Thanks Again.

  25. I not only work from home, but home is an RV. So my "stuff" is out in our small shared living space. In my head I try to "be ready for guests" at any time (That's my Mothers voice you just heard). That keeps me pulled together and focused. I can work, but avoid slipping down that slippery slope towards becoming a home-bound sloth.

  26. So true. And some really good tips. I started leaving my house to work at a coffee shop for a couple hours a day and my real clothes are seeing a lot more use (of course, there are pastries at the coffee shop, so who knows whether it will help with #5?).

  27. Hahaha, "den monster." Been there :)

  28. That is SUPER advice! Especially the bit about packing a lunch. Even though I am one of those people who loves cooking, it definitely becomes more distraction than I need -- and I'm tempted to make "dinner foods" instead of the lighter lunch fare that I actually prefer to eat.

  29. Very clever idea for a feature!

    A good way to kill two birds is to go out early in the day - before your working day starts perhaps - and take a brisk walk or jog. Not only will this help with exercise but you'll get home feeling energised and pumping adrenaline, you'll jump in the shower, feel like putting something nice and clean on afterwards (instead og yesterdays PJs) and be ready to take on the day. It makes sense because you are losing that journey to work which is when you adjust from sleep to working mode so you arrive at work feeling productive, its like travelling to work at home!

    On days when I don't go out early, I drag myself to the kettle, make tea, have breakfast, make another cup of tea, procrastinate, attempt to convince myself that one more cup of tea will get me in the productive mood, then beat myself to start working and the day drags. When I have had my early jaunt I'm like woman possessed hitting the to do list! My toddler is far easier to look after and happier on days when we go out first, cabin fever is definitely not a myth!

    The other thing I would add is to consider your working hours. Set a schedule/set number of hours to work each day but if you're not reliant on other people's working hours then make your work hours suit your body clock, this helps overcome the snooze attack too. If you're an early bird, start early and enjoy long evenings. If you're a night owl like me start later and "lie-in". For example, I'm most productive in the afternoons, slump around 7pm (dinner time) then become alert again around 9pm and can happily work til 3am to 5am. Unless I have somewhere to be, I don't get up til 10-11am. My whole day is offset from someone who works in an office. I've worked those hours, I know I'm far more productive working my later hours. Luckily I'm an industry that works nights, I had a 45 min business call with a colleague starting at midnight last night! Even more luckily my toddler is synchronised with my working hours and it means I can enjoy a guilt-free morning with her before starting work mid-afternoon.

    A final important thing is don't take unscheduled days off. The day that you decide to stay in your PJs "just this once" is the day the rot sets in and its painfully hard to get back into routine when you've let slip for a couple of days. I find its really easy to think of working from home as free time when its still work just in a convenient location.

  30. Hilarious and so true! My husband and I both work at home and we have "personal dens" in varying parts of the house. Your home does get messier, it's weird! I have a time of late morning that I clean up and make a transition into my "real clothes" and I also make a point of going out for coffee or something like that. There is a time around 3pm that you just can't think anymore and while I can't take naps, I sometimes sit down and read or--gasp--watch a movie--to let my brain recharge. I frequently have to find grace on myself as I find new rhythms in each season (and a style to go with that).

  31. All of it is true, also in Europe ;-)

    I´ve gained waight, I sleep at noon and I am more willing to clean up.

    The advice is good too. One more: You need to have a ergonomic chair working at the computer at least as good as you would have working in a office. Even if it looks ugly.

    Greetings, Catherine

  32. I work at home, too, and this advice is right on the money. Remember Project Runway's Laura Bennett, the glamourous mother of 6 who wore riding pants and boots as casual wear? When asked why, she alluded to the 'slippery slope' going straight to sweat suits. I think of that almost every day. I started out in cute little At Home outfits, and soon that slid down to yoga pants and tees. Thank heaven for my husband, because at least I pull myself together for when he comes home. I save a ton on dry cleaning bills and makeup, but I am definitely trying to climb back up that slippery slope. As for the weight gain...true. Be vigilant! Good luck! Enjoy!

  33. So true. When I first started working from home, I actually invested in some really nice lounge clothes from Victoria's Secret so I didn't feel grungy. They're all nice enough to run to target in, and I feel like, comfy cute while I'm working.

    The nice thing is, I have very social friends, and I don't live with my boyfriend, so it provides several opportunities late in the day to dress.

    Love this advice!

  34. Yes, thank you Elizabethe! I am not going to be working from home, but transitioning to part time work means I'll easily get caught up in distractions at home instead of getting more productive, which is what I really want. I'll have to print this out for myself too. :)

  35. Thank you for the timely advice! I just quit my full time job and will be "working" and playing from home. I want to still have cute clothes and wear them and I DON'T WANT TO GAIN WEIGHT. I will take your advice to heart!

  36. I agree with just about everything except the salad - I found that a tub of baby spinach, a tub of shredded carrots, a thing of mushrooms, a thing of grape tomatoes and pre-sliced organic ham & cheese is a super quick and easy salad, and one need only dirty up a cutting board and knife...

    The irony and heartbreak of it though, is that just as you, Gertie, are embarking on you blissful existence of freelance stay at home joy, I'm ending my year and a half long housewifery and starting a full time real person job.

    oh, how I envy you..... :(

  37. The lunch/weight gain thing is a killer. I found that if I invest 30 mins on one day and make a large pot of soup, then freeze into portions all I have to do is remember to defrost the night before then lunch prep is only 3 mins in the micro and only the container to wash! Quick, healthy and diet friendly.

    I must say this whole topic has really made an impact on me (and my husband - who is looking forward to seeing me in some skirts/dresses instead of pjs and sweat/track pants!). Thanks so much Gertie, Elizabethe and everyone else for their suggestions and inspirations! x

  38. I've been working from home since 1999...

    Jammie days are de rigour...and I have a business suit "bib" which I throw on for those annoying video conferences that everyone seems to want these days!! (thanks to newsreaders for that idea)

    I plead lack of sleep to explain the no make up look...

    I agree with getting out the house at least once a day for some exercise - jogging at lunch time helped me remove the excess kilos that DO sneak on...just due to lack of incidental activity that you get when you are working from a workplace; getting to and from work and walking around the office etc...

    Interestingly, I get quite exhausted when I have a few consecutive days in the office...'fronting' the work-world takes more energy than I ever realised.

    Here's to no commuting, naps, washing done in the middle of any day, jammies all day (if you want to), prep for dinner guests without running around like a headless chook, sewing while participating in a teleconference ("that noise? oh, that's my printer...") being at home when your 15yo needs a debrief from the trials and tribulations of being 15and being able to pet your gorgeous cat(s)just about any time you feel like it!

    One word of cats assume that since no one else is in the room when I talk on the phone, that I am talking to them. Leads to some jokey line from me about 'office cats'...the latest in office accoutrements. (They invariably meow in the middle of initial sales discussions or protracted contract negotiations...aaaaagghh!) No, shutting them outside the office doesn't help...they just crank up the volume ....MERRRROwww?)


  39. Oh, what a great comment! As a writer who works at home, I recognized myself in her description! Right now I'm wearing an incredibly comfy pair of modal knit pants...never mind that they have a couple of badly-placed holes in them that prevent me from going out in them. On the plus side, I HAVE showered. You'll find it's very easy not to. Just take my word for it.

    Also, you may need to structure in some social life. When I first left the 9-to-5 world, I realized that through it we get a lot of social interaction -- not on a deep level, but by chatting about your weekend with a co-worker. I found myself pestering grocery store clerks with stories of my day!

    The other thing that I'd beat myself up about was the fact that I couldn't sit down and write for 8 hours...then I really thought back on my office jobs and realized that intense "thinking" work is only part of the day. Filing, phone calls and the like break it up. When it's just you and the computer, you can't expect to work the same number of hours. "Work better, not longer" is something I struggle with!

  40. This whole 'work from home' etiquette is making me feel incredibly guilty, but also motivating me which is GOOD. (Motivating me she says as she writes from her bed in her PJs. But it's Sunday!!)

    I've also been amazed at how many people work from home -- and it's especially nice to hear from someone like Elizabethe who combines working from home with being a mummy/mommy, just like me. It's hard work to keep all the balls in the air AND not fall into a rut of being a slob.

    Through this whole discussion I have decided to evaluate my 'casual' wardrobe. I usually drop my five year old off to school in the car line and pick her up again from the carline but I have decided that once a week I will park the car and walk her in. And once a week I will park and walk in to pick her up. This will make sure I get dressed like a real human being and also give me more contact with the outside world, because really working from home and being a stay at home mum have the similar drawback of making you a bit isolated from company.

  41. Choice! I didn't comment earlier because I was thinking "ah I do it, but ... I'm not sure I do the work-from-home thing too *well*." But I can recommend two habits:
    1. I cut up salad veg on the weekends and make a large batch of Grit-style tofu. I throw all these into plastic containers and sit them in the fridge so that they're ready to throw into a salad.
    2. A-line skirts! They're pretty, with a high, comfortable waistband, and leave your legs free so that you can nap in comfort ;) Good luck!

  42. Terrific tips. Of course, I follow none of them. I've lost about 30 pounds working at home, though.

  43. This is fantastic. I've been 'working from home' for 12 years and have already worked out the dressing rules but think the food suggestion is brilliant - to be adopted today! Also, so well put - I'm going to print out and put on my notice board in my 'lair'. Thanks

  44. these are great! my friend forwarded me this link when i put a status on my fb page saying i'm becoming more emotional and socially awkward because i work at home all the time. my little home has become more like an office so all i want to do is work. i don't know how to relax unless people come over.

  45. i work from home, this is how i do it is very easy and one of the few ways to make money online that is real


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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