Now We Work From Home (And You’re Doing a Great Job)
Until very, very recently, working from home was more the exception than the rule. Even in the pre-coronavirus world (remember when we used to see people and go places?) of flex-time and the gig economy, most people left their houses to do their jobs. Though we may have grumbled about the commute, the cubicles, or the long meetings, now that they’re inaccessible we miss the rituals that used to signify work.
Back then, we could leave behind the physical and mental spaces of home, putting aside domestic concerns for at least eight hours a day. At work, we focused on work. At home, we ate cereal in our PJs and watched Netflix. So it’s not surprising that bringing the laptop, the conference calls, and the headspace of work into our living rooms is taking a bit of adjusting, especially if we have partners or roommates who are also working from home. Kids, who are having the possibly even more disruptive experience of going to school from home, add another layer of complication to the picture.
The best way to work at home is going to depend on what else you have going on. If you miss the order that was created by your coffee break, lunch hour, and quitting time, create that structure for yourself at home. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to manage a family with small kids, you’d do better to take a flexible attitude toward everything. There is no road map here; everyone is winging it so cut yourself a ton a slack and find what works for you.
Making a Time and a Place for Work
It’s important to acknowledge that working from home is going to be different from working from work. This seems obvious but any feelings of discontent and frustration you are experiencing may be arising from the desire to hold onto the routines and schedules that used to define “normal” life. Most people thrive on routines and we get grumpy when they are disturbed.
The more flexibility you have in your life, the more important it is to stick roughly to your old work schedule. Since there is no longer a physical boundary to separate your work and home lives, it’s useful to establish temporal boundaries (aka regular business hours) so that you maintain some non-working time in which to do things like exercise, go grocery shopping, and recover from doing the grocery shopping. If you don’t have to answer work emails at 10 pm, don’t do it.
Creating a space for work can also be helpful. If you’re sitting in front of a computer for hours, you’re always going to feel better with an ergonomic work station that allows you to have good posture and doesn’t strain your wrists and spine. Get online and order a desk, an external keyboard or mouse, whatever it takes to stop you from hunching on the couch all day.
Wherever you are working, take breaks to get up, stretch, and move around a bit. If you’ve felt too self-conscious to take yoga breaks at the office, now’s the time. Give yourself permission to enjoy the other perks that working from home offers, like stepping outside for a minute on a nice day or making a tasty lunch. Working from home isn’t a punishment so make it as pleasant as possible.
Kids Throw a Spanner in the Work
Some of you, however, are finding yourselves with even less flexibility in your schedules than you normally have. This is largely down to one thing: kids. Your children are no longer under someone else’s supervision for a big chunk of the day. If they are young and/or expected to do school work, that’s undoubtedly eating into your work time, which can be quite stressful. If that’s your situation, it doesn’t make sense, nor is it possible, to rigidly adhere to a traditional work schedule. Instead, adjust your work time to accommodate your multifaceted role as breadwinner, short-order chef, teacher, and coach (gotta keep them moving!).
If you have a co-parent, call a meeting (Zoom optional) to sit down and figure out how to share the household burdens so that everyone gets fed and educated and work productivity continues. If that includes more screen time and frozen food that you normally like to serve, that’s ok. We’re all in survival mode and that means rewriting the rules so that they work for you.
Take Care of Yourself
You need sleep, nourishing food, exercise, and relaxation time to lower your stress and maintain a healthy immune system. This is no time to run yourself down.
Working from home may not be your ideal but it’s a lot better than not working from home. Your work gives structure to your time, purpose to your mind, and is keeping household and global economies afloat, regardless of where you do it. We’re all in this together, even when we’re separated.