Hello, many of you are now working from home. Here’s something I wrote for SBS on the matter.
Stay safe people!
How to work from home, by a WFH veteran
As the dreaded coronavirus closes workplaces across the globe, many of us find ourselves working from the ‘home office’. Piece of cake, I hear you snigger as you rub your little hands together with glee (with a splash of sanitiser). You think it’s going to be all feet up on the pouffe, watching reruns of The Bold and the Beautiful in your saggiest tracksuit pants, don’t you?
Well, as a seasoned work-from-homer, I can assure you that it’s all too easy to slip into slovenliness of both body and mind. And before your KPIs become the latest victims of COVID-19, please consider some tips from someone who knows the pitfalls only too well.
Wash and get dressed
It’s tempting to lift your head off your drool-stained pillow at 8.58am and stumble straight to the computer, bypassing the bathroom altogether. As your laptop whirrs into action, you congratulate yourself on getting to work a minute early. Clothes? Soap? Why bother, you say. Well, let’s not forget there’s a pandemic going on just outside your front door and, in these perilous times, soapiness is next to godliness. And going through your ablutions can be the ritual that signals to your brain that you are ready to work.
It’s important to maintain your dress standards too (low as they may be). As a philosopher-CEO once told me, ‘casual clothes, casual attitude’. No one’s saying you need to be boardroom standard, just respectable enough not to traumatise the courier when he delivers yesterday’s online shop. And no, tucking your pyjama top into the elasticated waistband of your undies won’t help.
Comfort is paramount. Seven-to-eight hours is a fair stretch, and you’re probably used to perching on an adjustable swivel chair and peering into a computer monitor that’s been set up to ergonomic perfection by a qualified OH&S officer. Fluffy pillows, soft mattresses and couches that you disappear into are just not supportive of the ol’ bod, and if you start slouching, you’ll degenerate from straight-backed homo erectus into an ageing chimpanzee with thoracic kyphosis in no time. Get a desk (preferably not a round one; you’ll see why when you try to find an easy-to-reach space for your notebook and pen), a chair (with some cushioning) and get cracking. Don’t forget you can create a home standing desk too. Ironing board or kitchen benches plus a hefty dictionary does the trick.
No doubt you’ll have to do a skype call at some time. Now it might have been a while, so don’t forget to make sure it’s actually downloaded onto your computer. Thankfully, you’re dressed for the occasion – well, at least from the waist up. Next you need to think about where you’re going to skype. Doing it from the bath is, obviously, not a winning career move. Find a quiet place that’s away from a window so there’s not too much glare. It pays to think about what’s behind you as well. Do you want your colleagues to see overflowing rubbish bins encircled by a mob of hungry buzzards? No. A white wall is safe, and perhaps a side table where you can casually place a few books, perhaps Ulysses and Long Walk to Freedom. For extra brownie points, frame your company’s vision and mission statements and hang it directly behind you.
The internet is a wondrous thing. It enables us to exchange pointless memes, rapidly spread misinformation and work remotely. It’s also a rabbit warren of distraction, and when there’s no one around to police your non-work-related browsing you can get lost in it for hours. We all know that feeling when your boss creeps up behind you, forcing you, crimson-faced, to swiftly minimise that Luke Perry Wikipedia entry and become engrossed in an Excel spreadsheet. Thankfully the rear-view mirror can stay in the office, but you can try an internet blocker or, as a last resort, willpower if you need to manage that browsing habit.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of abusing food when there’s no one to judge you. In the office, you’re righteously snacking on kale chips and lunching on bone broth and soba noodles. At home you’ve ripped through a tube of Pringles and it’s only 10.16am. Try to eat nourishing meals in sensible amounts at logical times. Your immune system will thank you for decent tucker should the virus knock on your door.
Be strict on the hours you work. On the other side of slackness is burnout. It can be tempting to just keep going and to prove that you actually are working. But as the lines between work and home are blurred, it’s important to know when to clock off. A good indicator is when you’re unable to blink because your eyes are so dry.
So, there you have some helpful hints on how to nail the work from home situation. I wish you luck and good health in these strange times. Now, stop reading this article and get back to work!