There is no doubt that many of us in the United States are feeling our normal routines disrupted by the ongoing spread of the 2019 Coronavirus, SARS-Cov-2. For me, the timing of this pandemic has been especially odd, as I was leaving my previous job at Ring and beginning a new venture as the shelter-at-home orders came to be.
I am lucky. During my final two weeks at Ring, we all started working from home, as many other companies did. I transitioned out of that role and into a new freelance career with relative ease and it was done entirely remotely.
I’m also used to working from home. Before heading into Ring’s Santa Monica Offices for work, my previous writing contract with a middle-east based social network startup was entirely remote work. I learned many lessons working from home, on and off, for the past three years.
Before all of this, I worked out of a rural California workshop designing a new type of stove for over a year. Scheduling time for productivity, research, and personal projects was something I learned by trial and error. Between cutting, welding, and testing, I was writing and producing a play, filming and editing short videos and music videos with friends and going on regular hikes in the nearby national forest.
Today, things are different. Because of social distancing, many of us can’t get together with our friends or go out and enjoy nature’s treats.
We are being urged to remain home for the safety of ourselves and others, and there are many temptations during this time to grow frustrated with the lack of sunlight and the disruption to our routines.
For me, something as simple as being able to go to the gym before work has forced me to schedule home workouts into my mornings. Now, after a good sweat, I’m getting fully dressed, doing my hair, shaving, etc. before sitting down in the office and getting to work.
I’ve learned that anyone working from home requires a designated space to do their work.
At one time, I had an apartment with an open layout and no distinct space to call an office. The dining area was also my office. This made it all-too-easy to be distracted by my kitchen and living room, what’s being streamed to the TV and what smells good in the fridge.
Time and Place
Set up a time and place to do your work. Never work in your bedroom. If you must, never work on your bed. Admittedly, I’ve never had to contend with housemates in recent years, but when I did have them, I made sure to isolate myself so I can get into deep work effectively and without distraction. Even at home, those noise-cancelling headphones come in handy.
Now let’s talk rationing.
At home, unlike in the office, there are ample opportunities to have a TV show going in the background while you work or have podcasts going all day. Think about what media you were consuming in the office. Are you giving yourself time to sit quietly with problems or are you allowing yourself to be constantly inundated with content?
Deep work requires extended periods of attention.
Remember the times you simply cranked through projects with headphones on and music going? Build momentum. Allow yourself to sit with your work for extended periods, but don’t overwork.
There is this emerging issue with working from home that is overworking. Take breaks. Pace yourself.
For me, my fitness and mobility are essential parts of my life. As this shelter-at-home order in California extends indefinitely, I am coming up with ways to make sure I do not allow myself to remain idle and seated for longer than I normally would in the office. There is ample time in the day to stretch, sweat, work, cook, and clean. I am lucky to have a backyard, and I take time to walk around and get some sun. Please do the same, whatever that looks like to you.
Your work laptop may still be open on your desk when it’s 9PM.
Pack it away as you would any other day in the office. Visual reminders of work disrupt the flow of thoughts during personal time. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to fret about work during this time unless you are an essential on-call worker and there are critical projects happening now.
Evenings are yours.
Take time to read, finish lingering projects, and learn new skills. But remember to unwind. Like any other day of work, it’s essential to clear the mind and calm the spirit. Many of us now have more free time now since we’re not commuting. Use it wisely. This time will pass, and we shouldn’t pass up opportunities we have now to improve, even if that means relaxing more if you’re a person who typically works themselves to the bone.
Ultimately, optimism will get us through this healthily. While the news channels are following this pandemic with every new case that’s reported, it isn’t healthy to be glued to the news every hour of the day. It is enough to check in once a day, unless you work in the news industry and it’s your business to know and report. Since that’s no longer my purview, I will be drastically cutting back on my news diet and only soliciting information directly from known sources. Knowledge is power, so long as you source it properly.
Hang in there and thrive. Resilience is learned by experiences like this one. Before long, we will be able to move freely again and see everyone we’ve missed.