I, like many, no longer work in an office; I work from home. My commute each morning goes something like: bed, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the couch, to the desk. Barring a traffic jam between my cats and me over the milk, it’s a pretty quick affair. And while working at home does have many advantages for someone with a mental illness, working from home with bipolar disorder also poses its own challenges.Even working from home, I don’t want to work! But how many days do you wake up singing your company song? How many days do you run from your car into the office because you just can’t wait to get started on that month-end report?
What? None you say? You’re obviously a bad employee.
Or, you know, a normal one. Normal people don’t really want to work.
Downsides of Working From Home With Bipolar Disorder
When you go to work at an office each morning, you get into a routine of waking up, getting ready, getting into the car/bus/whatever and walking through the office doors. You might do so begrudgingly, but there’s really no question that you’ll do it. And besides, you can enjoy your break with friends and go out after work for a beer. Once you get over the critical need for caffeine, you’re set.
The trouble is, in my apartment, there is no one to have a break with or get a beer with after work (even if I could drink alcohol, which naturally, I can’t). So those little things that make a work day a bit nicer aren’t available in an apartment for one.
So understanding that there are more distractions at home, less social interaction, less to look forward to and less motivation, how does one successfully work at home?
Keys to Working at Home With Bipolar Disorder
1. Create a place to work at home.
It’s much easier to make your brain work when it’s sitting at a desk intended for work and not, say, eating dinner. Even if you have no office, make a place where you only do work. This creates a psychological cue in your brain that says, “every time I sit here, I work.” (A good chair is pretty essential too.)
2. Create a work at home routine.
Get up and start work at the same time every morning. You have to be at work at 9 AM in an office, so start work at 9 AM at home. Even if you don’t feel like it. Do it anyway. This is where your stubbornness comes in. You don’t get to skip work just because you are CEO and president of YouCo.
3. Put away distractions.
For some of us, our minds are way too easily distracted by shiny objects. Put away desk toys, books, the TV, cats, food and anything else that might get in your way. (You don’t have to put away the cat, but you might want to make sure she’s not on your lap.) Close every program on your computer that isn’t required for the task at hand.
Yes, other people work in coffee shops but unless you don’t mind spending half of your time ogling the cute barista, working at home is generally more productive. Remember – you have a limited amount of time and energy on your hands, less than other people, use it on work (not ogling). (Unless you get paid to ogle in which case, where can I sign up?)
(As a bonus tip: I find that white noise helps kill the distractions in my brain. My Roomba runs and the noise is perfect to shut up the voices in my busy brain.)