Hi there, Going Concern faithful. How is everyone? Hanging in there? I hope so.
So look. Bramwell and I realized the other day that you guys new to regular work from home (WFH) — which is pretty much most of you — might need some tips on how to stay sane. Not that either of us are claiming to be sane, but we’ve been doing this for a long time so we know a thing or two about how to make it work. Here’s what we’ve learned in our combined 16 or so years working from home.
WFH can drive people crazy even in the most normal of times, not to mention the unprecedented madness we’re witnessing these days. If I had written this article five years ago, much of it would suggest to “get outside” and “engage in a hobby that gets you out of the house, whether that be catching Pokemon or playing tennis, doesn’t matter as long as it gets you out and around other people.” Obviously suggestions like that don’t apply now that we’re all supposed to stay home, so we’ll focus instead on how to stay sane within your own four walls.
Establish a routine
I cannot suggest this enough. While it may be tempting to stay up late, sleep in, and live in your pajamas, you are essentially guaranteeing a mental breakdown if you do this regularly. Ask me how I know. Hell, I’m there right now. I don’t know why I’m even giving you this advice, I’m wearing the same T-shirt I’ve had on since yesterday and could fry chicken with my bangs. Maybe that makes me that much more qualified to suggest you do the opposite of what I usually do. Anyway, routine. If you normally had a 30-minute commute, then just subtract that from your day and get ready like you normally would. Again, you’re making an investment in your mental health that I swear will pay off, even if sleeping in until 9 a.m. and rolling out of bed straight to your laptop sounds like a good idea. Having a routine also helps define stricter boundaries between work and home, which brings me to my next point.
Segregate work and home
If you’re at all able, have a dedicated space for work and a dedicated space for home. This isn’t so important if you’re working at home while sick for a day or two, but trust us, if you’re doing this long term, having no separation between the two will mean you’ll be working all the time and letting your job affect your chill time, sleep, and basically every other aspect of your non-work life. A dedicated office is obviously ideal but maybe you’re like me and value using your spare room as a sweet-ass gaming room instead, or you’re like Bramwell and your office got claimed by your spouse who is also working from home these days. Any spot works, really, and you don’t need a three-monitor battle station to pull it off. The key here is to have a spot. And no, your couch or bed doesn’t count. It may seem comfortable at first but my numerous back problems can surely be traced back to the year I spent cranking out 10 posts a day for this website hunched over on my sofa.
Take regular breaks
There’s this weird idea that people at work should be working the entire time. That may be true for some jobs but for professions such as yours, there’s no reason you need to be tethered to your desk all day long. Get up, stretch those legs, have a snack. Your manager and colleagues should understand if you need a break, and if they don’t then it’s time to polish up the ole resume. There’s a reason your Fitbit pesters you to get up and move every hour. Too much sitting is known to be harmful and we’ve got enough harmful shit to worry about these days, so get up.
Do the dishes, who cares
As an addendum to my above point, it’s normal to grapple with a little WFH guilt when making the transition from the office to the home office. Is it stealing from the company to throw a load of laundry in while you’re supposed to be working? Not any more than spending 15 minutes talking to your colleagues about football or how bad the Game of Thrones final season was or whatever. Especially now that many of you are also dealing with your kids being home, you’ve got to let that WFH guilt go. Are you mostly working? Is your job getting done? Great, then who gives a shit if you tend to a quick chore while on the clock. I mean, micromanagers might, but fuck those guys. Do the dishes.
Resist the urge to partake in early happy hour
Alright so for me anyway it’s hypocritical (there I go again) to suggest this but I’m a writer and you guys are professionals, one of these people is expected to be a drunken mess (me) while the other should not be working shit-faced by noon (you). Besides, it’s a waste of good booze to have to work while you’re sipping on it. There’s nothing wrong with a 5 p.m. cocktail every now and then, but try to save that until you’re logged off for the night. Trust me on that. While we’re on the topic, maybe everyone should try to take it easy on the booze for a bit. It may be tempting to drink the days away until this whole global pandemic thing blows over, but it would be wise to remember alcohol suppresses your immune system and makes you more susceptible to things like flu and colds. You know, the exact thing we’re trying to avoid now by staying home rather than going to the office.
And a couple tips from my esteemed colleague Brammers who agrees with my above tips but has a couple of his own to add:
Take a nap on the floor, not in your bed
Jason here. I work in my bedroom, so my desk is about six steps away from my bed. When I’m dead-ass tired, there’s nothing I’d like to do more than crawl under my sheets and take a two-hour nap. But I don’t because I won’t want to get out of bed. So if I literally can’t keep my eyes open and I need to take a quick nap, I’ll lay down on my bedroom floor. It’s comfortable enough at first to fall asleep but uncomfortable enough to wake you up 30 to 40 minutes later when your back or your hipbone hurts. Even though you might be in a little pain, you’ll feel refreshed. You’ll thank me later.
Put on some background noise
I can’t work in complete silence. If I do, my mind will start to wander, and before I know it, I’ve spent 20 minutes thinking about what I want to eat for lunch. And this is at 9:15 a.m. With my wife working at home now for the time being and my two kids home doing their schoolwork online, it’s not at all quiet around me. After their school stuff is done, the girls are either doing TikTok dances, threatening to kill each other, or bothering me and their mother. But in some weird-ass way, the noise keeps me focused on my work. There will be a time though (who knows when) that I’ll be back by myself working at home. And I’ll need something on in the background to break the silence and keep me focused. It could be sports talk radio, music, a fan, even TV. In my home office (i.e., my bedroom), the TV is behind where I work, so I can hear it without being tempted to watch it. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m more productive with noise in the background.
All of these tips should result in you being just as (if not more) productive as you would be in the office, or at least help you get through these strange times from the safety of home. As Accountingfly CEO Jeff Phillips told me and Bramwell about working remotely: “I advise managers to focus on the outcomes, not the inputs or how much time someone is sitting in front of Skype. Focus on the outcomes, be a better communicator, trust your people. We’ve been a remote company for four years and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Word, boss. Especially with me on doctor-ordered quarantine due to a suspected coronavirus case, I’m grateful now more than ever that we all work from home. Stay safe, y’all.