I love working from home. I learned recently that this is apparently a controversial stance.
The unfolding coronavirus crisis is forcing many of us to work from home in an effort to help stop the spread. Not everyone greeted the news with a cheer. And that’s how I learned there are some people who claim to enjoy putting on work clothes and packing a sad desk lunch and battling morning traffic. Not me. I’ve had jobs where I worked from home full time, and jobs — like the one I have now — where I normally work from home every once in a while. I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good at it.
A lot of the “how to work from home” guides popping up this week seem to assume no one has ever pulled out their laptop to check their work email from home before. I trust you know the basics.
So here are some tips to work from home more efficiently, stay connected with your colleagues and maybe even enjoy yourself a little bit.
Sleep in a little later
How long is your commute? And how long is your pre-office morning routine — selecting an outfit, doing your hair, figuring out what you’ll eat that day? Add that time up, and then set your morning alarm back. Here’s what you actually need to do before you start working from home: Be physically conscious and in front of a computer. That’s it. I am firmly on team “only get dressed if you want to.” I get up, start the coffeemaker, wash my face, brush my hair, put on a different T-shirt than the one I slept in, make up a bowl of cereal and a cup of the aforementioned coffee, and take it to my desk. And so my workday begins. There is no reason to “maintain your normal routine” and not take advantage of this opportunity for extra sleep. Plus, getting those critical extra Zzzs can help keep you from getting sick. Sleep in later — for your health.
Staying away from the office means missing out on casual day-to-day conversation with your colleagues. Make it a point to spend more of your free time reaching out to people via text and on social media. And video calls aren’t just for co-workers: Set up a Skype or FaceTime call with friends or relatives.
And for now, while there are no quarantine orders in place, it makes sense to avoid large public gatherings, but having a few friends over for a movie night doesn’t contradict any WHO guidelines.
You can also host a virtual game night with things like Jackbox.
The single most important advice I can possibly impart to you: Mute yourself on conference calls.
Set up your desk
Whatever space you’re going to be working from at home, clean it. Normally, my desk at home has a bunch of bills I need to file, a few bottles of nail polish, a couple of books, some mail and a handful of old newspapers.
If you are like me, mend your wicked ways. Make your home desk (or kitchen table) feel like your work desk. Have everything there that you’d have at work: a phone charger, a box of tissues, a water bottle, a mug, pens and paper. If you don’t have a desktop computer, try to set up your laptop on a stack of books and use an external keyboard and mouse so that you’re staring straight at your screen, not down at it. And don’t forget to get away from your desk. Take lunch away from your computer screen. At the end of your workday, get up and do something else for a while to differentiate your brain from “working time.” Remember to stretch.
Be at the ready
Teleconferencing and video calls are not the future. They are the present. Save your office’s dial-in number to your phone’s favorites so you’re ready to jump on a call at a moment’s notice. I briefly worked as a producer. A big part of my job was to wrangle guests into joining a video Google Hangout and teach them how to be semi-presentable on camera. Here’s what you need to do:
Sit with a clean and presentable view behind you. Test this view before the call.
Look straight into the camera, not down at it. This will avoid awkward double chin.
Make sure your lighting is coming from behind the computer and is directed at your face.
Wear lipstick or lip balm. Differentiating your lips from the rest of your face will help the people on the other side of the screen tell what you’re saying.
Make your home more pleasant
Take the opportunity of your extended presence at home to make it nice for yourself. Stay on top of keeping the kitchen clean so you aren’t walking past a pile of dirty dishes every time you go to refill your coffee. There’s never been a better time to wipe down your bathroom counters and wash your hand towels and bath mat. While you’re at it, change your sheets and wash your pajamas.
With nothing on your evening agenda, cook slow, luxurious meals. I recently made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese and Alison Roman’s pork shoulder, both of which require hours and hours of cooking time (most of it hands-off for you).
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