Working at Home over 40 – Fast Track to Middle-Aged Wasteland?

gray haird woman computerWorking from home, on your home, or partial telecommuting?  With each passing year I meet more and more people who work from home for a variety of reasons, and despite what might seem like oceans of free time or an infinite flexibility in managing one’s own time, the reality is often the exact opposite.  And, what often suffers in all the time constraints is one’s own physical and emotional health.  Even if your home-based reality is for the most part a pleasant one, there are going to be days when all you want to do is pull on the sweatpants, slash open the potato chips, and giggle through a marathon of Modern Family reruns! 

Not only is the middle-aged mind a terrible thing to waste, but your mind is a muscle that needs rebooting all the time! So, let’s accentuate the positive in looking at why women over 40 are working from home and how to make the environment more conducive to physical and psychological health.    There are many productive and positive reasons women over 40 work at home, and many ways to offset the challenges that come with being “marooned” in a home office.  Here are just a few:

Some women are working in their own businesses, or working with employers whose business models enable working from home, whether it’s full-time at home or flex-time.   If you don’t have to report to an office even part of the time, that’s all the more reason to get out to breakfast, lunch or drinks with colleagues or other people in your industry.   

Many women are working on their homes, or inside their homes, in some way while also earning a living.  Working on a home could mean prepping for a sale, or downsizing and the clearing out that comes with both those transitions.  Or, it could involve taking care of children and elderly parents – many boomers are doing both while also working full time.  I had my own share of that all last year when my husband and I were trying to sell the lovely 200-year old Colonial we loved but had outgrown, and I had to commute back and forth from the north Jersey suburbs to our new home in Manhattan, where I also worked.      

During really hectic times in your life, push yourself to carve out time just for you.  I force myself to a gym several mornings a week, setting the alarm for 5AM, or go for a brisk walk while it’s still really early, just so that I don’t spend my entire day doing something for someone else.   

Some women are working at home only until they land a new position in an office, a situation that makes it all the more important to be in “work-style mindset.”   Job-hunters are the women I empathize with the most, because their identities are about work (work clothes, work habits, work skills), and they can’t predict how long the job search might be.  Prepping or waiting for calls or emails about leads, decisions and other search issues often happens at home for some women.    And, those are the days when it takes Herculean effort to bound out of bed, get to the gym, or outdoors.  For sure, those are the days when you have to get out of the sweatpants and plan on healthful foods that will make you actually feel good, and schedule meetings outside your home.  Better than hanging out at home or your local coffee shop consuming high-fat, high-salt or sugary comfort foods.

In the winter months when the weather is bleaker, it’s worse – but you have to get over it and get out!  I get invited to lots of networking events – I could be out every night of the week!  Some are well worth the outing, but others are not as productive.  Regardless, I still push myself to go out on most nights.  It’s just too tempting to hunker down in the biggest baggiest clothes I have and not even consider the thought of washing my hair, let alone putting on makeup!  And those are the days that my time management habits go out the window, because I feel an expansive day ahead where I have all the time in the world to just “wallow.”  Forget about it!  I DARE you to just make yourself go.  Interacting with other people – especially people who are different than you, is the best way to engage your social skills, broaden your horizons and make you more productive in your work at home. 

Don’t let that precious middle-aged mind of yours go to waste! 

PART TWO COMING SOON:  a wake-up call you can’t ignore from top health experts.

Are you sure you know your strengths? Try the Strengths Finder Test.

StrengthsFinder 2.0As we enter yet another new year and another list of resolutions, many of us tend to focus on what we’re doing “wrong” or what we have to “do less of” or “give up”… [or insert vice of your choice] in order to lose the weight, stop smoking, find a new job, etc.

There’s a better way to focus on the positive as opposed to everything you think is just plain wrong. Focus instead on STRONG. Ask yourself: Are you doing what you are best at every day, and if so, do you love doing it? I’m not talking about what you’re told you’re good at, or the things you’re good at that you get paid to do. I am talking about your real strengths. If you are doing what you love, you are using your strengths.

But don’t just take my word for it, because it’s not my original idea. It is the brainchild of those brainy people at Gallup.You know Gallup: the people who pose a lot of questions about a lot of things to a lot of different people, from every walk of life. A few years ago, Gallup came up with a survey/test to help people discover what they’re good at and what they’re passionate about – two very different constructs.

If you’re confused about this idea, then consider taking the Strengths Finder Test. This is a test, and book, that Gallup introduced in 2001 (and again in 2007 with an updated version, StrengthsFinder 2) to help people discover their top talents and skills.

I know we all think we know what our strengths are – I mean, seriously, over 50 we have a clue, don’t we? But I have to say, I believe this test can help, if we take it every few years. It will re-inform you, or inform you in a new area, or re-motivate you in your life path, career, or job choice. Or it may simply help you focus and polish the areas in which you are strongest.

Here are a few ways the book and test can help you:

  • Career planning – You can find and polish the areas for which you are best equipped in your work or career choice.
  • Team building – You work better with others when you really understand your own individuals strengths.
  • Improving work performance – When you know and understand your strengths, you’re more able to channel your energies to work more effectively.
  • Interview preparation – You will find that the results of your StrengthsFinder test will really empower you when that interview question pops up: “Can you tell me what your strengths are?”

I have taken it once since its new iteration, but it remains valuable to me every time I look at the list of strengths, their analyses and the concomitant advice they offer. The author, Tom Rath, states that we are better off cultivating our strengths, rather than spending too much time trying to improve our areas of weakness, as we are often taught to do here in the US.I agree!

Rooted in more than 40 years of research, this assessment is a real powerhouse! Check it out!

Click here for more info: Strengths Finder Test.