So, Covid-19 Has Forced You to Work From Home?
Welcome to my world, rookie
I have been a full-time writer and photographer for the last ten years, working from my home office, when I wasn’t on location. Even when I did work a regular job, my wife had a home office for the last 15 years.
And I remember her talking many times about it being both a blessing and a curse.
So, when the Coronavirus sent you home from the office for an indeterminate amount of time, we saw your smug, self-satisfied smile. Your private glee at being allowed to hang out at home and get paid for it.
And we laughed.
We know that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
Sure, you can work in your pajamas. Or without your pajamas. Just don’t forget and stand up if you’re on a teleconference. It takes a certain mentality and possibly a significant shift in your work ethic to be able to work from home, pajamas or no, successfully.
The point is you have to work in your pajamas. And for people not used to having to need to maintain that discipline all day, every day, it can be a challenge.
The first thing you should do, at least until you get into a good rhythm with this work from home business, is keeping it business-like. This means maintaining the same routine to which you have become accustomed. Breaking from that routine is a slippery slope, and don’t forget; someday, you will have to return to the grind at the office.
Get up at your regular time and go through your normal morning routine.
Including putting on some pants.
You can spend your usual commute time reading the paper or surfing the news on your tablet, but at your regular work time, be in your office and ready to work.
Speaking of an office, you need one. You can’t plop down in your recliner with your laptop and get a day’s work done. You need a dedicated workspace, preferably one that emulates what you have in your typical office.
Like a desk.
You also want a comfortable, ergonomic chair that won’t leave your spine out of shape by the end of the day.
The ideal office will come with one essential piece of equipment — a door. Unless you are going to be home alone all day, your family needs to understand boundaries. You are at work until you are not. That means no interruptions, no playtime, and no trips to the mall.
And that door swings both ways. You can’t pop out to run errands or do chores or laundry around the house. Work time is work time.
Work your regular hours at your desk just as if your asshole boss is looking over your shoulder.
But plan your day so that it has some familiar structure. Take breaks when you usually would and brew a cup of coffee or tea. Take a typical lunch break, preferably out of the house. Cabin fever was my wife’s primary complaint, so getting out at lunch if she wasn’t on a call became critical to her sanity.
And at quitting time, quit.
Working at home isn’t a punishment; it’s just the reality of the times. It doesn’t mean you have to work longer or harder, be smart about it.
At the end of the day, make it a habit to go out for dinner or a long walk. It would be best if you had some physical separation between your work life and your home life, a time to de-stress and decompress so your workday doesn’t spill over on your family.
As my wife told me many times, the worse thing about working from home was isolation. Sure, you may be on conference calls for hours at a time, but that’s not the same as face-time, even with teleconferencing. You may think not being interrupted by everyone that passes by your cubicle is paradise, but it gets old, fast.
If you have a colleague who doesn’t live too far away, plan lunch breaks together. Once a week, try to schedule a work meeting at a local coffee house or diner. Just use normal hygiene protocols so as not to defeat the purpose of working at home.
One office protocol most everyone is familiar with is CYA. And this is especially true when working alone at home. Be assured, at some point, one of your co-workers is going to take advantage of the situation. Eventually, lost productivity will be noticed, and that’s when the hammer will fall.
Plan your day carefully, and keep track of everything you do. Keep a log of time spent on tasks, phone calls made, and meetings attended. If one day the boss says, “What were you doing a week ago on Tuesday?” and you can answer that question definitively, they won’t bug you again.
Like most things, this too shall pass. And when it does, you will likely be forced to work in the office again.
If you were an efficient and productive employee while working from home, that benefit, if indeed it is one, may be extended.
It will be up to you whether that is a good thing or not.
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