The effects of working from home on my psyche

Ah to be a remote worker!

I have worked from multiple parts of the world with people from all over the world, but this is the first time I’ve been sequestered to a single place with a single in person contact for multiple days on end. Here’s a bit of what it has been like to go from being some what of a highly motivated social butterfly both online and in person to someone who fell into social isolation and un-motivation before I even realized it and what I did about it.

When my husband was assigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas, I was excited because that meant we could actually live together and I could still keep up with things like work and school. The company I work for gave me the opportunity to work remote and I was able to fill my semester with all online classes. We then traded in my sports car for an SUV and headed off to West Texas.

After a month of spotty internet connections from the hotel we were staying in, the Starbucks down the street, and the public wifi on base, I was ever so thankful to finally get setup in our home off base. What I didn’t realize is that I would for 6 out of 7 days have only 1 person I would physically see and converse with now that I was at home. While I’m ever so happy this person is my husband, and after a year of him being in a foreign country I am definitely not complaining, I had no idea the effects this would have on my psyche.

What I have learned is that it’s not just about the fact that I am home alone all day. No, it’s also the fact that even if I wanted to leave I do not have the option to do so. You see, we opted to have a single vehicle because well it was cheaper and I didn’t have to drive to work. So, though it made sense at the time, I now see the error of my ways. This situation has set me up with the overwhelming feeling of being trapped in my own house!

After two and a half months of this (July, August, September), I found myself feeling more and more down, uninspired, and completely unmotivated. What was more alarming was I found that after the 3 to 5 days a month I spent in Dallas in the office and on campus I’d come home feeling renewed and refreshed only to have it all drain out of me within a day or two. For those who know me, this is the very opposite of who I am. I generally have so many projects going I don’t know what to do with myself! To go from that to having absolutely no interest in anything was a giant red flag for me.

I tried many tips and tricks including:

  • Getting up and dressed for work even if you’re not leaving the house
  • Having a specific room in the house where work is conducted
  • Taking the occasional afternoon out where I worked on base until my husband got off

Unfortunately, none of these seemed to make a difference. I had to find a way to fix this or it was going to drive me crazy, and not in the figurative sense. To that end, I started running. Yes, running. I don’t know what it is, whether it is just getting out of the house farther than the few streets I normally go to walk my dogs or the resulting endorphins in my head – but it seems to be working. It helps now that it’s cooler outside so I’m not killing myself in the Texas heat. It’s also nice because it’s something physical and I completely leave all of my work and school work and RA work behind to just have a bit of time to myself, for myself.

Being the self-competitive person I am, it’s also turned into a bit of a game of going further, faster, longer. Though I love my computers and I love being online, sometimes you just have to step away from it all to get some perspective. This taught me something else as well, I need time away from work. Working from home means for most people, myself included, more hours and more varied work times.

I found myself finishing something Sunday night that I could have had completed the Friday before had I just had it in me to do it. Now I turn off my work email and chat at 5pm. My work day is done and it doesn’t start again until 8am. This means I HAVE to get my work done during the hours allotted. I get even more motivated when I spend my lunch hour running as that means I can’t do work during lunch time either! (Which I was guilty of doing while I was in the office all the time.)

This change in my schedule also meant I had to tell my boss, no I cannot work on that tonight – giving me time to set aside specific hours to work on school work as well. Funny enough, this in turn gave me more time to do things I enjoy doing outside of work and school like gaming! Putting exercise and more structure in my day was a brilliant way for me to get out of my funk.

Last week, not only did I run every day (2.5 miles), but I also took 3 quizzes, 1 test, participated in class discussions, conducted a bit of heuristic evaluation for my research assistanceship as well as completing all of my office work before the weekend. In addition to all of that, I also got a lot of work done for my wedding (yes, I’m already married – but we didn’t have a wedding as we go married at the US Embassy in Seoul, South Korea). This included designing and ordering save the dates and proper invitations as well as getting a photographer, a cake baker, a DJ and working with all of my bride’s maids to get their dresses ordered. This also meant that I actually got to play video games last weekend as I actually had free time for once.

So, there you have it. Now I actually get to take advantage of some of the freedoms granted to me by working from home even if I don’t have a vehicle and only see a single person in person 6 out of 7 days a week. All it took was a little organization and thinking outside of my computer screen.

My next couple of posts will go into some of the interesting things I’ve experienced in online gaming as of last as well as how I am using a Facebook group to organize my wedding. This is just my way of getting back into writing something at least a little relevant here. My hope is that someone gets some use out of this. If nothing else – this place will not look as dormant as it has of late.