Friday, March 20, 2020

Notes On Working From Home

Welcome to working from home. You might be doing it for 2 weeks, or you might be in an industry that is about to realize they want to do this full time. Either way, the transition can be tricky even when it is something you have planned to do in advance. Here are some things I have learned in 8 years of at-home office work.

Starting Your Day

People joke about working in their pajamas. They are thinking of their home as being the equivalent fo a comfortable, casual place. However, you are still going to work. I strongly suggest keeping the same routine, dress, and tone that you had going into a physical building.

What does that look like? If your daily approach has always been wake, shower, eat, dress, drive in, continue to do those first 4 the same way you always have. You need to prepare because you are going mentally into a work environment. I wear pants, shoes, and a shirt that meets the level of meetings I am in during the day. In other words, if I am just working with data, I am fully dressed but wearing a clean t-shirt. If I am on camera leading a meeting or a training, then a polo or button down shirt is my choice. I even have my wallet in my pocket.

Physical Comfort

Find the best most ergonomically supportive chair in your house. Couches are comfortable, but you will kill your back and neck by day 2. If you don't have a desk or desk chair, start at the kitchen table. If you see this lasting longer than 2 weeks, order a basic desk and chair from Ikea or something. If you will be doing this longer than 6 weeks, or it becomes permanent, buy the best rated office chair you can afford. I am sitting in a refurbished Herman Miller Aeron. I've had it for about 2 years, and it is excellent. Before this, I was buying a new chair every 2-3 years as the standard Office Depot $130 chair will simply collapse after a while.


Think about what can be seen on camera. You can share your personal character, but realize you are projecting an image. Think about your backdrop the same way you would think about clothing. At the very least, keep it neat. If your bed is behind you, be sure it is made. If you have a separate room, great. For many first-time work from home people, the bedroom is the easiest place to create a controlled environment.


Don't worry about animals. You will at first, but barking is just a part of the culture. It can't be controlled, but it can be contained. In other words, if you have a video meeting where you are speaking or presenting, put the animal in another room. Be prepared to mute if the mail carrier comes. There is a weekly meeting I attend with 5 people. Four of us have dogs, and 3 have wives/husbands that get home during the meeting. We are all used to it, and it is not a disruption.

Move and Socialize

Once an hour if possible. Stand up. Stretch. Wander around the house. Pay attention to your watch/fitness device if you have one. Let it shine, and stand when it tells you to. Did you have a habit of getting coffee at 10 AM with a co-worker every morning? Keep doing that. Get your coffee at 10, and chat your work friend. Keeping in contact with people is crucial to eliminate feeling isolation and a sense that you don't really have a job any more. You do. If you are in a role that allows it, suggest getting together with a few peers on video just to hang out, or talk in a non-structured way. This is challenging to pull off. Finding a way to have water cooler talk takes effort, but it is worth it. Dumb icebreaker/conversation prompts in medium sized meetings are crucial to staying human and not being a robot in meetings.

Take Advantage of the Commute

On a break? Start your laundry. Lunch hour? Get a start on cooking dinner. Clean the bathroom. Mow the lawn. Take a walk. Vacuum. Above all, take the same  breaks and lunch periods you did in office at the times that best work for you. You may have a hard day where you get lost at the desk and forget to take care of the basics, but that should not happen any more than it did in office. I am the worst at eating at my desk. However, I do try to use that time for distractions like Reddit, Facebook, placing Amazon orders, or paying bills.

Enjoy it. I think that we are undergoing a massive culture shift, and working from home is going to be a big part of that. I can't envision our cultural approach to being in large groups snapping back to how it was up through March 13, 2020. Check your calendar, we are still in the first week of this nationally.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or advice, please leave comment.

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