28 years working from home

I’ve been working from a home office for most of the past 28 years. Here are my rules for doing it successfully.

Resist the temptation to remain all day in sleepwear. Send your body a signal that you’re up and about and doing things. That’s a good rule even on days off.

I always wear clothes I’d be willing to go to the grocery store in. My winter at-home uniform (which I’m wearing now) is comfortable slip-on shoes, roomy 5.11 cargo pants, T-shirt and sweatshirt. In the summer, ditch the sweatshirt and socks and swap out the pants for shorts.

Separate spaces is a big help in separating work from home. I have a home office that is a separate room, which also does duty as storage and as a dog kennel. Pretty much the only reason I’m ever in here is to work, put the dog to bed, or let the dog out. If I’m fooling around on the Internet, or reading, I sit somewhere else in the house and use my iPad.

My home office even has an exterior entrance, which is what I use most of the time. So I literally leave the house to work,and walk to my office most of the time. The exterior door isn’t necessary, though; I did just fine in Boston and San Francisco when I did not have a separate entrance for my office.

(In our current house, there’s also a door connecting the office and house directly, which I use less often. The interior door lets into the bedroom walk-in closet; and one day I will remodel that door to turn it into a really cool 1966-Batman-type secret entrance.

My home office is actually ridiculously big for its needs, big enough to serve as a master bedroom. We remodeled the house to add it around 2005, as the tech industry was in the early days of the transition from wired PCs to WiFi and mobile. At that time, I thought my career might go in the direction of reviewing big equipment, or computer consulting, neither of which happened, but for which I would have needed a lot of space for all that equipment.

Really, all I need to work in now is a little closet, just enough space for my desk, a stool to sit on, and a laptop with a big external display, mouse and keyboard. Although I probably do need more space than that, because a closet would be claustrophobic. And I like having the dog in here with me, when she wants to be, so a closet wouldn’t be big enough.

I use a standing desk. I have for about nine years. I sit on a tall stool when I want to take a break from standing. I do not use a fancy-pants convertible desk; instead, it’s a regular desk with a coffee-table-type-thingie laid on top of it. (It’s not really a coffee table. It’s a pedestal designed to sit on the floor in your living room and have a widescreen TV sitting on top of it. But it’s about the height of a coffee table – perfect height to convert a conventional desk into a standing desk.)

I keep regular hours, approximately business hours. Sure, often I come in early and work late, but people who work in offices do that too. I do take an extended exercise break in the middle of the day, so my actual hours are usually 8-6 pm – and if I have extra work to do, I return to work after dinner, and sometimes I start before 8 if I need to. On workdays, I eat breakfast, lunch, and snack at my desk, and gobble it down fast.


28 years is a long time. You must have been one of the early ones.

I am just under a year in. I don’t expect it to last forever, but there’s a lot to love about the remote lifestyle. (Limiting COVID-19 exposure’s the latest one…)

Did anything ever almost tempt you to switch back to an office? Coworking spaces maybe?

Aside: I mention COVID-19 somewhat lightheartedly (although I do consider it a bonus. I haven’t gotten sick in a long time, and I used to experience at least a cold every six months working in busy university settings). Still, I wonder if it is a black swan event that will challenge many norms and cause a shift towards more remote work and events long-term.

Amazing! I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of the swing of remote collaboration tech, too.

I’ve been working remotely for about 8 years. I agree with just about all your advice. I’ve been lax on a lot of it (no pajamas? work hours?) simply because I have very little kids at home right now. Usually I’m pretty principled at it but having kids at home sure throws a wrench in sometimes.

For me it’s been wanting coworkers in the same physical space, but that’s not feasible since I work for a fully distributed company. Lately it’s been difficulties focusing at home because of the latest goings on with the family downstairs (young kids can be loud).

However it’s all been a season and I’ve been trying to supplement by getting out of the house every once and a while, having lunches/coffee with friends, and taking a break to do something fun.


I travel for work often, which gives me plenty of face time with people. I have not had an opportunity to work in an office. If one does, I’ll think about it. But I do like having the dog around, and that midday exercise break is important, particularly as I get older.

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I have worked exclusively at home for about 5 years, now – previously at-home work was about one or two days a week. I agree about getting ready for work at home the same way as getting ready for work in an office: cleaned up, dressed, fed and ready to go.

I do personal, non-income producing, work, research, and writing in an separate part of the house from where I do my income work. I work for clients from 6 AM to 4 PM Monday through Thursday. I take breaks for lunch, walking the dog, but keep the time for client work separate from my own time.

Almost everyone I work with is also a teleworker, spread across North America. We coordinate meeting times and calendars to respect everyone’s time zones. Much of the day is meetings or ad hoc discussion and interaction.

For the past year or so that is usually done with Microsoft Teams. It is interesting that initially my co-workers were interested in using webcam video in meetings, and that pretty quickly went by the wayside. Now, when someone joins a meeting with their webcam on, someone else will gently point that out and the camera will get turned off. I think we found it seemed intrusive to be watching each other, as well as very distracting.

At my workspace I use three computers – the Windows machine required by my client, my MacBook for my own documents and note taking, and an iPad open to view the Nest cameras at the front and back of the house. This is useful in seeing if someone is at the door, so I can put up my “Not Available” presence notice in Teams and go handle the interruption.

I’ve been using an Arctic 7 wireless gamer headset for meetings, which is great for muting any street noise or other sounds while I’m in a meeting. The space where I work is open to other rooms and I usually spend time in meetings walking around and avoiding too much sitting.

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That’s brilliant! I have an exterior door out onto my porch and I could do this. I don’t really have the kinds of discipline issues a lot of people have working from home (I’ve been at it for 15 or so years), but I like the idea of leaving and coming back in. Of course, the inside door to my office is right next to the front door of my house, so it’s a little silly, but I may do it because I can. :grin:

I think that’s essential. I am allowed to work from home, but I prefer to go to the office. “Home”=relaxation, free time, hobbies,… and “Office”=Work. It’s a mindset thing. Since I don’t want to give away a whole room for work, I go to my office. I only work from home occassionally, like when I have a 10AM external meeting and driving to work would mean leaving after an hour. At home I only have a work desk and not a proper home office, which is enough for those rare occasions, but not for significant work. I want to keep my personal and professional life separate. That’s why I would never work on the couch, leave work stuff on the dining table, etc.

Separate room for home office is not an option for many people.

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I worked with one team for about 10 months with a strong videoconferencing culture. Every call was a videoconference. I liked it.

During that time, we evolved an unwritten and unspoken custom that “however you are, that’s appropriately dressed.” When I’m home, I shave every other day rather than every day. I would NEVER turn up for a business meeting with a two-day growth of beard and wearing a T-shirt. But it was fine for me to do that on team videoconferences. Everybody did.

That project ended, and I was never able to get videoconferencing culture started in other groups. It became weird and awkward. Particularly for women, who felt obliged to spend a lot of time on make-up and hair to look right for the meetings. (The women on the team where we did videoconferencing just showed up as they were, same as the men. Or at least they appeared to — I never discussed it with them.)

Videoconferencing was lovely, once I got used to it. It was a very friendly team. At one point I was videoconferencing with a woman who worked in the office and someone else walked by her cube, doubled back, stuck is head in and said, “Hi, Mitch!” Just as if I’d been sitting in her cube physically.

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