Working from Home
Top Tips for Working from Home during COVID-19 quarantine
A friend explained the work from home phases this way.
First day. YaaaaaY, no commute.
Second day. Naaaah. No need to shower. I won’t be seeing anyone.
Third day. I wonder if that nice pigeon will come back to my windowsill again.
If you’re new at it
If you’re new at it, learning to work from home is just that - a learning experience. Those who have lots of experience with isolation and self-directed work days, like the astronaut Commander Mark Kelley, agree on tips to keep yourself productive working in isolation. Everyone who works remotely has to figure out how to create a routine, set boundaries between work and personal life to maintain a balance and exercise. And of course there is the flexibility part. You can potentially accommodate someone else’s schedule at times.
We’ll talk later about the larger group that has a different set of interruption challenges -- family, kids, roommates, pets to walk and play with, pigeons to feed.
For those of you who are home by yourself, you’ll need to come up with some strategies for taking care of yourself, getting your work done, and making sure you connect with others during the day. Social distancing doesn’t mean talking to no one. It really means physical distancing, with all of the social advantages of our internet-connected world.
Develop a routine
First, develop a routine, similar to what you had when you were commuting to work.
Set an alarm. Get up and take a shower. Dress in something resembling work clothes. (You can’t wear those comfy sweatpants every day and feel productive.) Make your bed. It’s amazing how much that helps you feel in control.
Make yourself a good breakfast
While you work at home is a good time to make yourself healthy. You know the drill.
- Eat some protein like yoghurt, eggs, cheese, nuts, peanut butter, etc. leftover stew, whatever you like.
- Some carbs -- like cereal, oatmeal, bread/toast, pancakes, pastries, leftover pizza
- Some fruit or juice along with your coffee, tea, or water -- whatever you normally drink to hydrate.
Resist the urge to grab some quick junk food, which we know only makes you crave more junk. Stash that snack food out of sight so you won’t be tempted to “graze” constantly during the day. And package snacks ahead of time in single servings to avoid taking out the entire bag.
Set up and tidy up your workspace
With everything you will need to do your job—phone, computer, headset, and whatever else you’ll need.
Check your schedule for the day
Notice any online meetings planned. Review how your location will look as a background to the audience of your video meeting. Clear away any clutter, dirty dishes, underwear draped on the chair, general messiness, etc. No potentially offensive wall art or posters.
Comb your hair
No studio makeup services available here. You’re on your own. Good protocol for the computer camera is to position it at eye level at least an arm’s length away. Use books or other props to raise it if necessary to avoid that low “nostril” angle.
Set up your meeting location
Set up your meeting location so that the light source is to one side, either from a window or a lamp to best light your face. Avoid overhead or under-chin lighting which creates that ghoulish look, or straight on or back light which wreaks havoc with the computer camera.
Test your camera and earphones to be sure they are functioning properly. If all is well, you can put all that aside until the scheduled video meeting time arrives.
Meanwhile back at your workspace, keep that computer at eye level. It will help you avoid a literal pain in the neck later.
Plan your day
Be sure to plan for “stand up and stretch” times, bio-breaks and of course, lunch, ideally on a similar schedule as you’d follow at work. That way when you go back to work there’s no relearning curve.
Find some personal productivity software assistance (e.g., Vitamin R) if you like the structure that apps can help provide.
Schedule some time to get fresh air
Walk around outside no matter what the weather. You’ll need a change of scenery, even working from home.
Get some exercise
Exercise is even more important when working from home because it’s tempting to just stay inside all day.
Expect asynchronous communication
Messages you send to teammates may not be answered immediately, but that’s OK. And keep a very positive tone to your communications. Nuance and subtleties don’t translate well to written words, so stay upbeat as you communicate. Fully explain what you mean. Avoid being terse and blunt. And don’t take offense easily. Assume good intentions, and over-communicate. Use emoji liberally.
Schedule some time to learn something new
A language, an art, meditation, a musical instrument, baking bread, etc. An activity that brings you joy once you’ve accomplished it. Something that fulfills you.
Set access boundaries with family and friends
Help them understand that just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you are available anytime. It doesn’t mean you’re available for childcare, or eldercare or pet sitting on demand. On the other hand, go ahead and help that child with a lesson when they need it. You can be flexible to a point.
End your day with a routine
Signal to yourself and others that you’re finished with work for the day. Change your clothes. Turn off the computer. Walk the dog. Take an online yoga class. Whatever you choose for a signal, do it consistently, for yourself and others. Make it personal. Make it your new normal.