Let’s admit it: the world is very different and a lot stranger than it was a month ago. Time is changing fast, and most of us probably are working from home if at all.
A month ago we were going about our daily lives, going to work, enjoying a beer at the pub with our friends, going on dates with our beloved beau. Simple things like going to a hardware store all seem so luxurious now that much of the globe is in strict lockdown thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, especially here in New Zealand.
As expected, a global shutdown is suffocating economies. Many businesses are going under or experiencing massive layoffs in anticipation of a rough year. If you’ve recently lost your job, I’m sorry. You are not alone, and I hope you can take some solace in the fact that we are all in this shit storm together.
If you’re among some of the lucky ones who still have a job, likely, your job is now remote. Your socializing at the office days are officially on pause.
Working from home is one of the weird privileges that gets put high on a pedestal and seems fantastic until you do it for more than a week. Now that we’re a month into this madness, many people are finding out that working from home is quite shit. And you know what? I feel that.
And it sure doesn’t help that every time we open up social media, we’re blasted with lifestyle gurus and influencers telling us how to live our best lives at home.
As a professional who has worked from home for nearly two years, I get the frustration. Who cares if I can have three lunches a day if I want? I just want some socialization! But right now, we don’t have a choice.
We can save lives by literally just sitting at home for a while, so whether you want to work from home or not, you better get used to it.
I’m here to offer up my very best tips to help you navigate these uncharted isolation waters. Here’s what works for me.
1. Set your alarm for your standard wakeup time
And then hit snooze at least four times before you get up.
Forget all those think pieces that say that you need to keep your strict routine. The world is ending, your routine is out the window, and this is your new life now.
You know that hour you usually spend eating breakfast, having coffee, and getting ready for the day? You can convert that time into extra sleep time. Why? Because you can eat breakfast and drink coffee while you work.
So go ahead, indulge in that extra 45 minutes and don’t feel bad about it. Extra points if you a repeat offender with the snooze button, especially if it drives your partner nuts.
2. Shower whenever the hell you want
Those same think pieces and WFH influencers who tell you to shower first thing in the morning are full of shit. Shower whenever the hell you want.
Maybe that’s in the morning. Perhaps midday. It might even be before you go to bed. Hell, maybe it’s not at all. Whatever your vibe, just roll with it.
We’re all stressed out enough as it is. We don’t need anyone trying to shame us into smelling like a god-dammed daffodil when literally the only other living creature who will notice is our dog. Shower as you see fit, and if you’re not an everyday shower person, just pat yourself on the back, thinking of all that water you’re conserving. Good job, you little environmentalist!
3. Get dressed like you usually would
And then take that shit off and put on your day pajamas.
There is absolutely no reason you need to get all dolled up for not leaving the house. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Put on a clean pair of clothes? Sure, go on. But do not go down the path of self-shame if you want to wear your oversized sweatpants all day. This is your life now.
You have nothing to prove. We all look like slobs. Even our PM Jacinda Ardern addressed the nation during a Facebook Live Video dressed in her coziest sweatshirt. If J-dern is doing it, I’m definitely doing it. Leave your judgment at the (virtual) door, thanks.
4. Your desk set up does kinda matter
In an ideal world, you’d have a perfectly curated corner of the house that makes for an ideal workspace. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in reality, and currently, the reality is decidedly shit. Am I right?
I don’t have space in my house to have a separate office, so my workspace is a corner of the bedroom I share with my partner. Is it ideal to sleep and live in the same tiny bedroom for 16-18 hours a day? Hell no. Does it work? For sure.
Having a separate office room can be great to help you focus and to get into your work mode, but for some of us, that’s not realistic, so we have to work with what we’ve got.
Here’s what I recommend: find a comfy chair, and by comfy, I mean supportive.
Don’t sit in your lazy boy all day because as great as that sounds, your body is going to be aching by the end of it. A kitchen chair works fine if that’s all you have. Roll up a towel and stick it behind your lower back to keep your posture tall. Scoot your butt all the way to the back of the chair. Your throbbing neck will thank me later.
For my laptop workers out there, you’re going to find out very quickly that being hunched over a tiny screen is a real neck killer. My absolute number one best tip for working from home is (if you can) purchase a remote keyboard and mouse.
If you have these two things, you can prop your laptop up on some books to get the screen eye level while still being able to control the mouse and type on the keyboard comfortably.
For your desk, an actual desk is ideal, but I have seen some very inspiring photos of laptops on top of recycling bins, ironing boards, nightstands. Do what you gotta do.
Another piece of work from home equipment I can’t live without are noise-canceling headphones. I bought some second hand Bose headphones a year ago, and they have transformed my life. Whenever I put them on, I go into full productivity mode, even if I’m not listening to music. If you have any money to spend in this pandemic, put it into making your desk space a little more functional and enjoyable. Just trust me on this one.
Lastly, candles. I like to light a candle during the workday. It smells good, and it’s calming. That’s really the only argument I have for it.
5. Take breaks, frequently and often, without regret
Working from home can be just as productive as working an office. In fact, it’s probably even more productive because you don’t have to have those stupid water cooler chats with Becca about her boyfriend’s kickball team.
However…working from home during a pandemic is admittedly not likely to be very productive while you contemplate your mortality and the looming fate of humanity. With that said, don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself taking breaks throughout the day. Or better yet, stop trying to be productive and make the rest of us feel bad – even the NY Times agrees with me.
Taking an actual lunch break away from your laptop, putting the washing on the line (yes, we still do that here in New Zealand), running the vacuum over the floors, doing 15 minutes of gardening. It’s ok to have small breaks throughout the day doing chores. Realistically, you’d have those same breaks at the office too.
These “psychological segues” can help put you in the right mindset when you return to your workload making you more productive overall.
6. Go outside and feel the sun on your skin
Ok to preface, this tidbit is going to vary depending on where you live and the recommendations of your local health professionals. Above all, listen to them, obviously. Don’t listen to me, a babbling idiot on the internet, over them, trained medical professionals who have endured years of intense education.
With that said, if you’re in a position to walk freely outside, do it every day. Even if it’s just a ten-minute stroll around the block. Don’t touch anything, don’t sit on any public benches, and keep your 2-meter distance from anyone you meet. The fresh air can literally be your savior during the lockdown. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably getting cabin fever already.
Self-isolate, but get that fresh air too. It’s not going to help anyone if we all lose our damn minds cooped up at home.
With that said, for the love of God, please stop flooding the trails. Cancel your climbing trip. Don’t go backcountry skiing or tramping where you might put rescuers in danger coming to save your ass. If you have to drive to it, it’s not local. Get your fresh air but do it locally. Your Instagram fans can wait.
7. Fill the indoors with plants and green things
If you can’t go outside or if you’re an extreme germaphobe, try bringing the outside to you.
Fill your house and desk space with your favorite plants. It seems like such a small and stupid thing to do, but it does make you feel better. Seeing a beautiful creature live and thrive in a time of crisis is an excellent reminder to all of us that things are going to be ok eventually.
Us humans may destroy ourselves, but plants will keep the world spinning.
8. And don’t have kids
Full disclosure: I don’t have kids, but I can 100% recommend not having kids around during a time of pandemic when you’re forced to work from home.
I don’t know what the legality is of this particular situation, but if you can somehow offload them to someone else during these trying times (is Goodwill still open??), I would highly recommend it.
I’m kidding, of course, but in all seriousness, I have no advice for this as I’m a terrible babysitter and should not give out childcare advice to anyone ever. Anyone who is entertaining kids and managing to get their work done during this time deserves a Medal of Honor. Godspeed, you sleep-deprived parents. You are the true heroes.
What are your tips for working from home? Have anything else to add? Spill!