You work from home. Now what?
So your company has wisely implemented a work-from-home policy, and as a responsible adult you mostly stay locked up, practice social distancing, and wash your hands all the time. It’s a good start.
But… you’ve never worked from home and you don’t know what the next few weeks are going to be like. Maybe you have kids at home too. Or your roommate also works remotely and there’s only one kitchen table (but luckily a coffee maker).
Let me help you: I worked from home for three years as a freelance writer before taking a full time job at 5280, and learned a few things about schedules, setups, and day-to-day living when you’re mostly on your own. Here are some tips for the next few weeks.
Configure your workspace. When I was self-employed full time, I had no children and lived in a two bedroom apartment with my wife and cat. Our second bedroom was my office first, and a guest bedroom second. I had a desk I bought for sale at Design Within Reach, a laptop with an external monitor, filing cabinets, and some nice windows for natural light. This, of course, is ideal. And this type of home office is also almost impossible to set up in a short period of time, especially when you’re not going to be working from home forever.
Today I live in a Denver bungalow with my wife, two boys and two cats. I don’t have a dedicated home office, far from it. So I keep my files in my backpack. I’m trying to clean the dining room table and work there on my laptop. Or – and this is no joke – one of my favorite places to work is sitting on my bed (less interruptions from my boys). If you have a spare bedroom or small office and have an external monitor, set it up with a Bluetooth mouse. It’s much more comfortable and productive than just working on a laptop. That said, portability laptops can let you figure out where you want to work in your home – the porch! the couch! the kitchen counter! – is a fair compromise.
Set limits. With your significant other and / or children at home too, a quick conversation about how this situation is different can be in order. Yes, you are at home all day. No, you can’t spend half of it on a home improvement project you’ve put off for several months. And, if you suddenly spend more time with that roommate you barely know (or prefer when you barely see him), it’s time to talk about schedules, needs, and who’s going to brew the next pot of coffee. . In other words, roommates are now also co-workers.
Determine the schedule that works for you and your employer. I’m not a morning person. I hate waking up at 6:15 a.m. I’m not a fan of early meetings or phone calls. So part of me likes this WFH thing. When working from home, you can take advantage of the flexibility to create a daily schedule that better matches your body rhythms (for example, no coffee at 9:00 a.m.), but you should still stick to the standard 9:00 a.m. workday. a.m. to 5 p.m. .
When I was working at home full time and not exercising that morning, (more on that in a moment), I would get up, walk over to my home office, watch the news and read emails and messages that had come in the night or that morning.
After emptying my inbox, I had breakfast, a shower (the shower can be essential for your mental well-being), and I got dressed. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not showering and wearing sweats for days, which can feel liberating for a while, but will eventually fail. Believe me. I was here.
Exercise. See. Even if you don’t exercise regularly, you might want to start now. Just getting up, getting ready for work, and walking to the bus or streetcar or hopping in your car gets you moving, even just a little bit. Now your commute is… from your bedroom to your dining room table. Or office in the basement. Or maybe your commute is to sit in your bed and open your laptop. Either way, with the advice of government officials to stay at home as much as possible, you are going to be moving a lot less than you were before the novel coronavirus disrupted our lives. Experts say we can still walk or run if we follow social distancing practices (staying six feet or more). It’s the best and easiest way to get some fresh air, get your heart rate up, clear your mind, and spark creativity – so enjoy the weather and Denver’s fantastic park system. Beyond these walks and runs, I read mixed advice on how to get to the gym because, well, gyms are ideal breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria at the best of times. (Personally, I’m staying away for now.) Instead, you can do quick bodyweight workouts from home without the equipment. My favorite is the New York Times 7 Minute Science Workout. If you haven’t and are just in good shape, you would be surprised at how effective this circuit training is. If you are in good shape, do it two or three times.
Your pet is your (best) friend. When you have had a day of ruffing, give your little puppy a hug and you will be so happy and very comfortable. Ditto for your kitty, who will love the warmth of your laptop keyboard and will try to “help” you by lying on it. Ride with it, especially if you live alone. Its good. You can also bounce your ideas off. (And, of course, take photos and share them with us at # WFH2020.)
Kiss the phone. I only like talking on the phone with three people: my mom, dad and brother. If you’re not one of those people, I usually prefer that you text me, Slack, DM, or email me. Don’t call me because I won’t pick up. In other words, unless I’m working from home, in which case I’m hungry for human contact and I’ll be happy to talk with you for 45 minutes, even if I barely know you. So schedule calls, even if you normally wouldn’t. It’s good to talk to humans, all humans, on quieter than normal work days.
And, if you’re home alone or just miss your usual water cooler chats, check in with your friends and colleagues just like you would in the office. Share news. Send memes when you need a laugh. Host video conferences instead of phone calls (after all, you showered and got dressed!).
Naps? Yeah or Nan? I think offices should have nap rooms, so that’s a “YES!” Categorical. for me, but, hey, you’re alone here. If you get up at 7 a.m. and work for two hours, logic would dictate that a nap after lunch is more than justified.
If you’re not a napper, a few words on breaks. It is easy to become inert at home. In the office, you get up and chat with your colleagues about anything and everything. That won’t happen over the next few weeks – and you won’t be able, for obvious reasons, to talk about sports and the restaurant you went to last night, even through digital channels. So my recommendation is to set up an application on your computer to remind you to take breaks. Here is three worth a try.
Don’t do things that you wouldn’t normally do because you would be in the office. For example, snacking all day. Or do the laundry instead of completing that work project. Or deep clean the kitchen (okay, maybe you should do that one). Yes, it will be difficult to avoid these things, as your well-stocked refrigerator and pantry are just steps from your home workstation and the laundry basket is stacked right in front of you. Take time at the end of the day for your household chores, as you would on a normal day. And avoid crisps and bite-size chocolates. At the end of this homework step, your scale will thank you.