When working from home it can be harder to separate your mental states of “working” and “at home”.

Longer Story

Having worked from home for the last 6+ months I thought I’d start writing some of my thoughts regarding the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. At the onset I should say I am completely for working from home (for me at least). It is well-suited to my personality and really helps me focus on my task for long periods of time. With that said and with all my biases towards working from home, there are some downsides.

The first downside I have started to notice relates to what I just said about focus. I am one of those people that ideally needs a distraction-free workplace in order to get “in the zone”. I do not context switch well. Once I am working on a particular feature or bug, it is best (for me and the company) to just let me see that through to completion. Working from home has totally allowed me to do that.

However, what also happens with that focus is that as it gets towards the end of the “natural work day” and in particular when my wife comes home from work, I am not always at a good “stopping point” in my work. When I’ve worked from an office in the past and had a particular goal time as to when I went home, it was more natural to reach a stopping point, leave myself a note to where to pick up the next day, pack up my stuff, head home, and once at home be ready to be at home. That means tending to the dogs, talking to my wife about her day at work, etc.

What I’m finding now is that I “just want to get one more thing done”, even though I may have put in a full work day and it would be reasonable to move on to the non-work part of my day. It can be especially hard to sit down for dinner if I know that upstairs in the study my computer is just sitting there, and I could step right back into the problem I was working on. What happens in those cases is that I’m simply not a very good conversationalist during dinner, and I can get a little agitated. I think the agitation comes from me trying to be both in the “family” side of my brain and the “work” side at the same time…and as I said before, I’m “horrible” at multi-tasking/context-switching.

For now what I have started doing is getting an idea of when my wife will be coming home from work, whether she has more work to do at home or will be ready for dinner, etc. If I know that when I hear the garage door she’s ready to be greeted…then I try to be more intentional about greeting her and turning off my “work brain” for a bit. It is not unusual for us both after dinner to do a few work-related items (her: email or presentations, me: software development or tech reading), so there’s always the option (if truly needed) to do a litte more work later. But it’s definitely valuable and more healthy for me and my relationships to be ready to shut the laptop down, close the lid, turn the lights off in the study, and “be present” for my loved ones.