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Realistic Work From Home Tips During A Pandemic

Posted By: Heather Blume Leadership , Management ,

There are two types of work from home people right now: the ones who work from home regularly and the ones who are having to do it out of emergency necessity. Those who work from home regularly will give you advice like this (and I can say that because in a quick Google search, these all came up as “surefire tips”):

  • Have a routine so your day is structured, and you can be productive, and you know when you are and are not working
  • Remember to stop for lunch around the same time each day so you can train your body when it’s time to take a break
  • Take your breaks in their entirety and don’t think about the work you need to do, professional or home
  • Stay positive no matter what – embrace that exclamation mark!
  • Put on actual clothes so that your brain is in the right mindset
  • Set up a designated workspace and don’t let it get cluttered with anything else
  • If you have kids at home, use a sign to tell them when they can and cannot bother you, or close your door when you’re needing to focus

Anyone out there who is not a regular work from home person but has had to do it the last month because of this nationwide emergency is probably laughing right now, especially at that last one if they have kids.

Most of those work from home tips aren’t applicable to you if you don’t regularly work your job from home. If you live in a home with other people, good luck being able to carve out a designated workspace. Some days it’s going to be your table, other days someone will have put something on the table that is sticky and you don’t know what it is and you don’t really want to touch it… so you get to work on the couch. I know someone who does all her Zoom calls from her bathroom because it’s the only place where she can go for 20 minutes and not be bothered every 30 seconds. When we daydreamed of working from home, most of our dreams did not involve our spouse or children. Work from home is not the Eden many of us thought it might be, and it can be downright hell if you have kids or roommates. So, let’s try some more useful tips:

  • Try to start at the same time each morning, but occasionally, unless your first thing to do is a video call, just work from the laptop in your very comfy bed because. No additional reason. Just because.
  • If you’re a parent, expect to be bothered for food at least once an hour. I don’t know why. Children are ravenous eating monsters until you put an actual meal in front of them.
  • If you have a spouse or partner who is also now working from home, do not ask them any of the following questions:
    • “Why are you doing X the way you’re doing X?”
    • “Can I show you a better way to do this thing that you’re doing for your job that I really don’t know much about?”
    • “Is it possible for you to stop saying “circle back” and “drill down” on your calls? It makes me want to die a little inside when you do it because you sound like every person in a meeting that I hate.”
    • “WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO YOU HAVE A MECHANICAL KEYBOARD?”
      (You will have to yell this for them to hear you over the mechanical keyboard. They will pretend not to hear you. I suggest noise cancelling headphones – good ones.)
    • “Wow, this house is dirty.” (This is not a question, so much as it is an invitation for divorce.)

If you have kids and your spouse is home, negotiate people space breaks where they take the kids for a half an hour each day, and you take the kids for a half an hour each day. The rest of the time is what it is, but for 30 minutes a day, you get a break from your cohabitation humans. This time gives you a moment to rest, a breath of sanity, and is incredibly sacred, so if you need to sacrifice a goat to make this happen, I’m not going to judge you. Staying positive no matter what is hard enough when we are trying to keep other people like our kids or our residents calm, but it is inconceivable to set as a goal in the current circumstances. Instead, strive to be steady. Steady means tomorrow will come. Steady means you’re calm. Steady means you’re able to take a break and breathe when you need to. Steady wins the race against powerless positivity in this instance.

Again, unless you’re showing up for a video call, be comfortable. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Yoga pants  are appropriate.

If you can score a designated workspace, do. If your current reality does not allow for a designated space, then be willing to be flexible about sharing the table or couch. But not the recliner. You bought that recliner. You earned that recliner. That is YOUR recliner. Consider it reserved. If no one is respecting your reserved sign, try what your children do – spill something on it and then only clean it up RIGHT before you want to use it. Works like a charm.

If you have kids at home, it’s great if they will pay attention to signs that say you’re busy or concentrating. I want your children if they will do such a feat. For those out there with normal children, I would suggest rope and duct tape but my legal counsel says I can’t, so I’m going to instead suggest that you buy yourself time with messy projects, preferably outside, that require less adult supervision. Try inviting your children to chalk the sidewalk – You can take your laptop outside and supervise, but the chalk is really where their attention is. I hope. You know what? Let’s revisit that rope and duct tape idea… Remember - we can all get through this, hopefully with our sanity intact.

(All artwork provided by Jake Roth, AAMD)