With much of the world under unprecedented lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), a lot of people find themselves working from home for the first time ever. This may very well include you, loyal /Film reader. You may find it odd. You may find it uncomfortable. You may find yourself unmotivated and tired and anxious. Honestly, working from home is not something everyone is comfortable doing. And that’s perfectly normal.
However, we here at /Film are work-from-home experts. We do it every day, all day, and have been doing it for years. We are professionals at getting things done in the living room, masters of making our jobs happen from home offices, and wizards at using kitchen counters as standing desks while we microwave Hot Pockets. If you’re having trouble adjusting, don’t fret: we’ve got you covered. Here’s our best advice to make working from home a breeze.
Hoai-Tran Bui: Establish a Morning Routine
Working from home always sounds a breeze: Wake up and immediately turn on your laptop! Stay in pajamas all day! No need to leave your bed at all! Let me tell you, I’ve done that before, and I felt terrible. Suddenly, the entire day has passed by, it’s getting dark outside, you’re hungry, and you realize with horror that you really haven’t left your bed at all. So the most important thing to do when you start working from home is to establish a routine.
When you wake up, hop out of bed and hop into the shower (if you’re a morning shower person — personally, I like my steamy night showers), brush your teeth, put on some comfy pants. You don’t need to dress up in the full work outfit, just something that you didn’t sleep in all night. Make your bed, because otherwise it will be staring at you all day, just inviting you to fall back into it and sleep. And get out of your bedroom into your designated workspace, whether it’s a desk, or your kitchen table, or even your couch. Even just a short one-minute walk into your living room will switch your brain into “work mode,” and make that all-important separation between your work space and resting space. I’ve also heard that taking a walk outside your apartment is a good way to make that separation and “trick” your mind into thinking it’s walking into the office, but I’ve never tried it and can’t recommend that during quarantine. But at the very least, make yourself some tea or coffee before sitting down, and you’ll find you’re actually energized and ready to start working.
Chris Evangelista: Stay Comfortable (But Not Too Comfortable) and Know When to Switch Off
When I first started working from home, I heard advice from many people suggesting that you should treat the situation exactly like working in an office. “Get fully dressed every day!” they said. “Always sit at a desk!” they said. The desk thing I agree with – I’ve tried working from the couch, and just can’t do it. As for getting fully dressed – forget it. I tried that for one day, and felt like an idiot. I’m not saying you should become a full-blown slob, but if you want to wear your comfy clothes while your work, there is nothing wrong with that. Beyond that, I’d advise trying not to get too distracted by creature comforts. I know some people can work with the TV on, but I can’t – I get too distracted and just want to watch the damn TV. Sometimes I can listen to music, but more often than not, I prefer to just “get in the zone” and work.
Also: I’d say try to call it quits for the day when you’re done. I say “try” because honestly, I don’t do that. I work in the morning, take a break at night to have dinner and watch some TV with my wife, then I’m usually back working on stuff from 11 PM until around 1 AM. That may not sound ideal to you, but it’s worked for me (although I am very tired all the time, so there’s that). One final thing: surround yourself with dogs and/or cats. They are your coworkers now. And best of all, unlike real coworkers, they don’t bore you with small talk.
Jacob Hall: A Little Physical Activity Goes a Long Way
It’s very easy to sink into your desk chair (or into your couch) with your laptop and work like a cozy slob for the entire day. You’re at home. You’re in your safe cave. No one is watching you! However, the creature comforts of your abode can wreak havoc on your body, which can quickly extend to your mental well-being. If you’re a slug all day, stuck in one place, you’ll continue to feel like a slug once you log off, especially since you can’t leave the house to go out and socialize and feel human again.
So here’s what I recommend: every so often, instead of checking Twitter or Reddit, stand up. Stretch. Run in place. Do some light cardio. Hell, invest in some resistance bands, set them up near your workplace, and do sets of light exercise every hour or so. I started doing this over a year ago and it soon became a habit, a habit that evolved into me investing in a home gym and often working from my garage, peeling away from my computer to lift weights and engage in other fitness activities.
I’m not saying you need to become a fitness nut. But what I am saying is that working from home can turn you into a slob or it can open up opportunities to better yourself and keep your mind focused by occasionally standing up and being active. Take advantage of the fact that no one is watching and create some new good habits. You will feel better and you will do better at your job. I promise.
Ben Pearson: Let Silence Be Your Friend
This piece of advice may not apply to everyone, since these unprecedented circumstances have forced families to spend every waking moment under the same roof and young children (or significant others/other family members) are not always quiet at convenient times. But one thing that I’ve found helpful is trying to give myself a few minutes of silence several times per day – little micro-breaks which don’t add up to very much time overall, but often let me refocus in a positive way.
Personally, I don’t work very well with a lot of background noise, so most of my day consists of working either in silence or with headphones on to try to block out sounds from outside my apartment. And during my lunch break, if I’m not looking at Twitter or Instagram, there’s a good chance I’m listening to a podcast. My recommendation: try to embrace silence during downtimes like that. No phones. No podcasts. Nothing. Maybe even close your eyes. I find those little bursts of quiet can A) give your eyes a rest from staring at screens all day and night, and B) help give clarity to work-related solutions that I might not have been able to figure out otherwise. So if it’s possible in your present conditions, give silence a shot. You can thank me later.
Ethan Anderton: Keep Boundaries with Friends and Family
If you’re working from home, you have to treat your designated work area just like you would your office. That means you need to keep boundaries when it comes to communication and interaction with your friends and family.
Unless you’re used to working in a pretty relaxed work atmosphere, you probably wouldn’t let your friends or family interrupt your workflow if you were hard at work in an actual office. So make sure that you avoid personal phone calls, casual texting, and general hanging out during the time you’re supposed to be working. It won’t help you be productive if you’re always available for quick tasks or small chats. However, if you have designated breaks, which is what you should be doing when you’re working from home, you can use them to hang out with your family, FaceTime with a friend, plays games on your phone, etc.
Obviously, since many more people are working from home than usual, some couples may find themselves in the unique situation of dealing with kids that are home from school and figuring out where and when each of you can work without constant interruptions. But that’s why it’s important to at least try to establish some boundaries and figure out when you can make yourself available. Your family will appreciate it so you’re not grumpy from being interrupted, and your employer will appreciate it because you’ll be productive.
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