January 22, 2014

Strange Days

A few months ago, I became a remote worker. Most of my team is located in Cambridge, Massachussets. I live in the suburbs of Detroit.

If you’ve spent time in Michigan, you can appreciate the variety of weather Michiganders are subjected to. After years of working in an agency, trudging into an office no matter the conditions outside, I was eager to be able to roll out of bed, trudge down to the basement, and start my day.

That’s how most days go, which is amazing. I love it and can’t imagine working any other way, even after only a small taste of remote working.

But there’s also a sense of strangeness when working remotely.

Aside from the usual challenges of communication, showing everyone what you’re working on, and keeping in the loop with a team that lives hundreds of miles away, there is an odd feeling that can creep up when you work remotely.

It’s not loneliness. Everyone at Litmus is superb at communicating to one another. Some of our Campfire chats are a sure-fire way to fight loneliness. And I have my family close by to keep me company. Being able to have lunch with my daughters and wife nearly every day is fantastic.

It’s not depression. I love the work I do at Litmus. 90% of my job is writing and who could complain about that? I’m excited about what we’re building at Litmus and excited about my future.

I haven’t really found the word to describe it. The closest I’ve been able to get is dazed. Or aimless. Not from a work perspective, there’s plenty to keep me busy for a long, long time. From a personal perspective though, working from home can lead to feeling dazed and aimless in my own home.

I think I’ve pinpointed it to a loss of the sense of time. Working at home, I get outside less than I should and sometimes lose track of the time/day/life. It leads to a lot of disorientation and the feeling of going stir crazy.

While alot of people are writing about remote working lately, none of them seem to mention this problem. It may be that I’m the only one who feels this way, but I doubt it.

Now, I’m trying to figure out ways to combat these strange days. They aren’t terrible, but I fear that they are unhealthy.

I try to stick to a routine. I get up at roughly the same time every day. My oldest daughter helps out with that. Once I get her breakfast, I always shower and get dressed in actual clothes. I refuse to let pajamas sneak their way into my work day. Pajamas are the mind-killer.

I always put on my wristwatch, too. It’s a small thing and I don’t always use it, but just the gesture is enough to make me feel like I have a better handle on time.

Then I get to work. I break for lunch, go back to work, and wrap up before dinner. The evenings are left for family and working on my blog and side-projects after the kids go to bed.

My next step, and the one that I think will help the most, is getting out of the house at least once a day. Whether it is taking a walk, going out to exercise (which I sorely need to do), or running some errands - seeing the actual sky and other human beings will, I think, be the biggest help to getting out of the strange funk of remote cabin fever.

It’s not a huge problem, but it has been starting to bother me lately. Hopefully these routines will help.

I’m curious, does anyone else feel this way? How do you deal with it?

Let me know.