The COVID-19 pandemic has given much of the world a taste of what it’s like to slow down. We stopped going to restaurants, out to the movies, or even to the store on a regular basis. And, most of all, people stopped going to their offices. But I stopped going to the office back in 2012, and frankly, the thought of ever going back to fluorescent lighting and recycled air is enough to make me walk into the woods and drop out of society. But not everyone feels that way.
Even people who used to think they wanted to work from home full-time are finding that it’s just not for them. Of course, that may have something to do with their kids being home from school and their significant others trying to work from the other end of the couch. But take it from a pro, working from home can be awesome. I’m not here to share productivty tips (that’s not really my thing!) but to tell you how to make the most of your time in the home office.
Stop Worrying About Productivity
“Productivity” is a scam dreamed up by corporations to keep us all toiling away in our cubicles until dinner and beyond. And when you’re working from home it’s easy to start feeling guilty every time you get up from your desk to make a sandwich, throw in a load of laundry, or take a walk. Whenever I start to feel that way I like to think about when I worked at a major publisher in a cube farm.
Every morning when my coworker got in I’d go sit in her desk for awhile and shoot the breeze while I drank my tea. We’d often make trips to the deli nextdoor to get a snack or spend a little extra time at lunch. My job also had me walking all over the building and hounding people for files. This meant I spent a lot of time every day chatting with designers, production editors, and managing editors about…well.. everything.
Frankly, offices seem like a barrier to productivity to me and if you add up all the time you spend at the water cooler, stretching your legs, or sitting in pointless meetings, I’m guessing it’s a lot more time than you spend doing laundry.
Get a Dog
You don’t actually have to get a dog, but you do need a distraction–something that makes you get up from your desk and do something else. For me, that’s always been a dog. I need a living, breathing creature that says, “If you don’t take me out for a walk, I am going to eat your favorite shoes tonight!”
These angels would never eat my shoes (well, the one on the left might) but if they don’t get the exercise they need they start wrestling and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
Maybe you’re more self-motivated than I am and can stick to a yoga schedule or go for a run, even when you don’t have to. But whatever it is you decide to do with your down time, make sure you make it a priority.
A Comfortable Workspace is a Must
The reality is, no matter how much I tell you to get away from your desk and to stop worrying about productivity, you’re going to be spending a lot of time at your computer. You need a comfortable workspace.
When I first started working from home I had an office I didn’t use much. I ended up on the couch most days. But then I decided it was time to give it a makeover–not once but twice. When we moved to Vermont, I liked my office even more. It was bright and tucked away behind another bedroom (old houses are weird) and one of my favorite spaces in the house. (P.S. I would love to see your home office spaces.)
Now that we live in a one-bedroom cottage, there isn’t room for a dedicated office, so I just have a desk in the living room. It’s not ideal, but for me, when it comes to a workspace, the most important thing is having a window. There’s nothing like catching a little movement out of the corner of your eye during a conference call and seeing a fawn walk across the yard.
It’s Not for Everyone
I know working from home isn’t for everyone. There are apparently 20% of people who don’t want to work from home, and there are even more realizing that being at home full-time isn’t for them. The truth is, though, working from home is a lot different when, at the end of the day, you can meet friends for a drink or go take a pottery class.
Working from home during a pandemic is, frankly, a challenge. Even for old pros like me.
I’m lucky to live in the woods. Even when parks were closed I could get out for a hike or for a paddle on the water. Honestly, it makes all the difference. But I know there are social butterflies out there who really thrive when they get to interact with people and have no desire to spend their days at home with nothing buta podcast and email to keep them company.
I don’t udnerstand it, but as the kids say…