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Working From Home (But For Real)

Sh*t’s weird right now. There was a time when a WFH email was sent with a wink and a nod that this was a working-ish day. A day where you’d check some emails and reply if things got out of hand, but it was also a vacation-ish day with some time doing some things for you. But this is officially a different WFH scenario. We don’t know if schools will reopen in the fall, when travel will be less restricted, even if handshakes will still be a thing. But if you’re lucky, you can work from home while the rest of the world figures it out. If you’re lucky, your biggest concern, aside from how you’ve watched Netflix’s entire library already, is how to be productive while working in this (temporary) new normal.

Make A Routine (Not A Tiktock Dance Routine, Though)

For many of us, we’ve been working from home for several months now. And things have gotten a little monotonous, a little boring, a little lax.

Nothing says self-discipline like making a routine and sticking to it. Keep waking up at the same time each day. You can still sleep in a little later, after all you don’t need to spend all that time primping in the mirror to make sure you beard is just so while also trying to make it look like you didn’t try at all. You don’t need to make sure you turned off the toaster (you did, didn’t you?) only to run back and check it again. Almost all of the things you needed to do before work went out the window when we began starring in the longest and most plot-hole-filled apocalypse movie ever. But you still need a routine to help normalize your body and mind and get you into “work mode.”

Try to exercise, walk, run, meditate, stretch, clean, eat, check your plummeting 401k, at the same time each day. Bring some things that feel like the office into you home office. Make coffee every morning. Send a Slack message to a coworker about the latest twist in whatever streaming show you’re both watching. Do little things that help trick your mind into focusing on the fact that this is “work time” rather than “my bed looks so comfy and it’s so close, I could just hide in it all day, no one would know-time.”  They wouldn’t. But you would. And then you’d probably spend all weekend feeling guilty about not being productive enough during the week.

Find A Way To Connect (As A Human)

Most of us have platforms we use to keep in contact with coworkers and bosses and staffers already in place—email, Slack, Zoom, Teams, even text messages or Discord (but never, NEVER TikTok). And this may be obvious, but USE THEM.

Don’t just check in on the progress of your projects. Check in on your peers. Talk. Socialize. Be a human being who maybe forgets that they haven’t interacted with another human being since the DoorDash guy yesterday afternoon. Lockdowns are lonely. Even if you’re locked down with other people, you still need to take opportunities to socialize with your peers whenever you can. See how they’re doing and engage in conversations that are about more than just work.

Even before this novel coronavirus took over our lives, we seemed to have all forgotten that “talking at” someone is not the same as “talking with” them. Not only will it help you refocus on work after the brief respite, but it will help your peers do the same.

For The Love Of God Wear Pants (Even If They’re Pajamas)

There’s a lot to be said for the freedom of working from home, but often not much is spoken on the dress code. Or lack thereof. It’s important to help you get into the work mindset to follow those routines that remind you of actually going to the office. And chief among them is PANTS.

I’m with you. They’re restrictive, overbearing, almost authoritarian, but there’s a time and place to fight the Pant-riarcy and this isn’t it. I once had a professor who said that wearing a suit to the office is like wearing a suit of armor. And while I DON’T wear a suit to the office, the sentiment stuck with me. Pants are your suit of armor.

Sure, you’re at home, there are no threats to your apartment’s sovereignty (not right now anyway), and no one there is complaining about your lack of pants. But it’s the principle of the thing. The pants principle. Wearing pants gives you’re the mental armor to deal with all the little things that might have worried pantsless you a little more. They help you focus the task at hand instead of “I hope to God I don’t forget that I’m not wearing pants and get up during the Zoom presentation to my boss, my boss’s boss, and my boss’s boss’s golden retriever in the background.” It’s easy, wear pants so you can focus on your chosen profession and not a new one as that guy who became an internet sensation because he forgot to wear pants.

But Maybe, Don’t Do Any Of These Things (Or Do?)

I didn’t spend six years perusing two liberal arts degrees so I could become a doctor. As such, I can’t tell you with any scientific credibility that these will help you be more productive while you work from home.

But what I can tell you is that there are a certain number of people who read this who will feel the exact opposite is true. For some people, the routine-building, small-talk-having, pants-wearing limitations that I have just outlined won’t work for them. And that’s ok.

The world has gotten stranger and so has your office-life, but some of you will thrive because of, not in spite of it. If you’ve always been more productive in the evening, great, work nights. If you’ve always been uncomfortable trying to relate to office small talk, worry no longer. And if you’ve always felt that the burden normal society has placed upon you by shackling your legs with denim jeans and light-mid-weight chinos, then you sir or madam are now free.

The most important thing is to be productive when and where you can. Find what works for you and if something doesn’t find a way to fix it. But keep in mind, this won’t last forever (God willing) so do your best not to go full-on caveperson.