By November 6, 2014 Read More →

Beating workaholism

Workaholism - Barry CarterWorking from home, or living at work?

Writer and marketer Barry Carter has fallen foul of the temptation to work all hours, and has written an ebook on the subject (details below).

In this insightful guest post he outlines the methods he’s found to combat workaholism and get back the balance in his life:

When you tell people you work from home, they often respond by asking how you find the motivation to work? The reality is workaholism, rather than procrastination, is the biggest issue home workers face.

Rather than working from home, many of us are living at work.

Because there is no clear division between work and leisure, the working day becomes extended. You go to bed checking your email and it can disturb your sleep. You wake up and check your email before you get out of bed, and you are in work mode before you even have breakfast.

The inherent reason that workaholism becomes an issue for remote workers is that, unlike in a standard office, no clear boundaries are set between work and home life. In an office you have set hours, have an alternate location for work, a boss, colleagues, a dress code and have to adhere to certain rules. Although some people see these things as shackles, these boundaries help to make your leisure time your own.

The key to getting the best of both worlds as a home worker, and curing workaholism, is to create boundaries that serve to draw a line in the sand between work and leisure time:


1. A virtual commute.
Perhaps the single best thing about home working is the 1-2 hours you get back not having to commute, especially if the weather is bad. Unfortunately some of us use this time cram in 1-2 hours more work.

There is one great benefit of the commute, and that it clearly defines the gap between work life and home life. When you wake up and you are essentially already at work, that division is hard to define.

I have found you can artificially create this gap by mimicking a commute. In the morning I either go to the gym, or walk my dog, before I start working. I end the day with another dog walk. You could do the same with any activity that gets you out of the house before and after work, but if you can integrate exercise into it, obviously it is much better.

I find these pseudo commutes are a great way to bookend the working day, resist workaholism, and let me enjoy my time off.

2. Internet amnesty.
The Internet is the reason we all are able to work from home these days, but being constantly plugged in can be toxic and a quick route to workaholism. As a remote worker, it becomes very hard to stop checking your email at the end of the day. In particular you become fearful you have missed an important email from colleagues.

I find the only way to combat this is to set strict rules with your colleagues, and yourself, about your availability. I tell everyone I am unavailable from 5:30PM onwards, but in emergencies I have my cell phone.

I also have found having a separate work email to my personal email helps, especially because I don’t have my work email on my phone, so I can’t check it when I’m out for the evening.

3. A dress code.
My most noticeable issue for years as a home worker was I stopped taking care of my appearance, because I didn’t have colleagues around me to judge me on it. I would not shave for days and my wife would get home to see me wearing a shirt with yesterday’s lasagne spilt on it.

What you wear has a very powerful placebo effect. There have been countless studies that show that we tend to act in a manner befitting the clothes we wear (One study, for example, showed that people felt more intelligent when they wore a doctor’s coat, regardless of whether they had medical experience).

You don’t have to don a full suit, but wearing smart clothes during the working day is another way to mimic the beneficial boundaries of the workplace, and put you in a more productive mindset.

4. Planned breaks.
Just like I try to be aggressive with when I stop checking email, I like to be aggressive with my breaks throughout the day. When you are constantly at work, it is hard to unchain yourself from the desk. I go as far as to schedule my breaks into my Google calendar to make sure they happen.

I have a dog, and he provides the best company and exercise a home worker can enjoy. I also schedule trips to the gym and coffee with friends in my calendar to commit to doing them. None of these breaks include technology, which I need a break from as much as the work itself.

The more aggressive I am with ensuring time away from my desk, paradoxically the more work I get done when I am there. I’ve found it has been the single biggest tactic that has helped me cure workaholism for good.

work from home secrets

Barry Carter is a writer and marketer living in Sheffield in the north of England. He is the author of Working from home, or living at work?: How to cope with isolation, workaholism and other issues remote workers face. an ebook now available on Amazon.

Posted in: Routine

2 Comments on "Beating workaholism"

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  1. William says:

    Off to go buy a lab coat. Just kidding. Maybe.

    Love the post.

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