How Estonians Have Fun Working at Home

10 Ways to Have Fun Working at Home
Nice way to spend a workday. Photo taken in Tallinn, Estonia

“Most of us can, as we choose, make of this world either a palace or a prison.”

-Sir John Lubbock

Remote work can be great. I’ve had a good run doing it since 2013.

For born-again introverts like me, it’s a dream come true. But for you more conversational types, it can be a challenge.

Not for Estonians though. They’ve mastered it. Skype was invented there after all.

With a strong tech industry and blazing fast internet, “flex time at home” is old news to them.

It’s so remote friendly, you don’t even have to live there to be a resident.

Last year, I was lucky enough to go in person and pick up a few tricks.

Whether it’s your first foray, or you’re familiar with the art of toiling away in your underwear, these tips will make it painless.

If you’re going to be trapped somewhere, you might as well enjoy it.


1. Start off on the right foot.

First of all, move that alarm back 30 minutes at least. You are the captain now. And you won’t be stuck in rush hour traffic.

Resist the temptation to check your phone first thing in the morning. You have all day for that.

Make sure to turn off your alerts the night before. Especially if your boss isn’t your favorite person.

In fact, don’t check anything until 9am. What are they gonna do? Send you a sternly worded text? You’re not on the clock anyhow.

I personally start the day in pajamas and get my Aeropress and breakfast going before anything.

Now you can take your time to eat something healthy and delicious.

You’ll feel better already.

2. Set the right mood.

Music sets the tone for the day and makes everything nicer.

I prefer something soothing that doesn’t put me to sleep. Bonus points for not having lyrics, which tend to distract me.

Chill hop is your friend. This channel will sort you out for a few months until it gets repetitive.

Then you can alternate between classical, afro beats, jazz, bossa nova, dream pop, etc.

Lighting makes a big difference too. In Estonia, where it’s dark and cold half the year, they call this concept “hubane”, or cozy.

They create a festive environment indoors, because they actually can’t go outside.

This includes Christmas lights, blankets, pillows and candles.

I’m not much into decorating, but it’s nice to make your area comfy.

3. Get social.

Get social
Our favorite coworkers. Photos taken in Bodrum, Turkey

Since you might not have anyone to collaborate with, you can get a sense of community and interaction elsewhere. Unless you have a cat, then screw all that.

Set aside a few minutes every hour for some water cooler talk on Slack or other messaging app.

But make sure to have a time limit, so you don’t overdo it.

Double this for social media. Or you’ll enter a black hole that sucks all time and energy.

4. Give yourself a win.

Break larger tasks into smaller milestones that take 30 minutes to an hour.

After you complete one, give yourself a reward, like a cup of tea, and celebrate. You earned it.

Share your success with a like-minded friend for extra validation. If they mock you, it’s only because they’re jealous.

5. Exit the Loop.

Everyone gets caught in a loop once in a while.

For me, it’s Reddit, MMA sites and Slack. When I realize I’ve gone through this cycle twice in 5 minutes, I close my laptop and do a chore, take a walk, meditate, stretch, etc.

Get out ASAP, because once you’re stuck, there’s no escape.

6. Enjoy the moment.

Stay positive about your situation.

Focus on how nice it is avoiding pointless meetings and that annoying coworker who corners you in the bathroom(I’ve worked with strange people).

Make sure to do this as often as you like. It’s easy to lose sight of the good things in life.

7. See Green.

See Green
Natural green is the best remedy for stress. Photos taken in Tallinn, Estonia

I have to relearn this one every so often, since it’s not a priority in modern society.

It was solidified for me in Estonia, where they don’t do manicured lawns and opt for untamed forest instead.

I took my lunch outside one day and felt refreshed instantly.

Some call this effect, “forest bathing“.

Turns out, we weren’t meant to stare at concrete walls all day.

The beach is even better when it’s an option, but hard to leave.

Given your current situation, you may or may not have access to a park. There’s usually one nearby with few people where you can decompress.

Worst case scenario, look out your window sans phone at anything green and calming.

8. Switch it up.

Variety is the spice of life and you can have plenty of it now. I go from working on the bed to the couch, and if I have one, a desk.

I might even try a café for a few hours when it’s an option. This keeps things fresh and interesting.

Bonus tip: Coffee shops are extra nice at 9am when everyone is at work.

9. Keep your spine aligned.

Get your spine aligned
You can probably do better than this. One of the trade-offs of location independence.

After a separated shoulder and mild carpal tunnel from desks that aren’t right for me, I’ve learned a lot about staying healthy in impromptu work spaces.

Pilates and yoga are great for keeping your posture in check and you energized.

I do a quick session once a day to break up the monotony. This one seems good enough, but do shop around.

Also, make sure you’re comfortable. Screen at eye-level, wrists/back straight and all that.

10. Quitting time.

Make sure to stop working at a set time.

Turn off everything and allow yourself to be proud.

You accomplished all your goals and had fun doing it! Now you can just sit back and zone out.


In Closing

Once you’ve tried remote work, it’s hard to go back.

You’d have to drag me kicking and screaming into an office environment again. I’ve lost all ability to make small talk, so I’d definitely not be invited out for Friday drinks.

If you want to keep it going, why not turn your job into a business?

Thanks for reading!

Let me know how you enjoy working from home in the comments.

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