It has been a couple days since the “shelter in place” order in the Bay Area due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have all been forced to become hermits, and give this whole work-from-home thing a go. Those of us who already work from home have an advantage, and are probably staying a bit more sane (and hygienic) amidst the crisis. I have been working from home for over a year in San Francisco, and I actually prefer working from home to slogging through a dreadful commute everyday, to get to an office full of distractions.
If you are sinking 5 feet into your couch, but still feel like there is a bit more depth, and plenty of shows for endless binging on netflix, then this will not be helpful for you! On the other hand, if you are feeling a bit stir crazy, have that cabin fever (hopefully not due to COVID-19!), or want to bring a little normalcy back into your life, some of this might be helpful. As with all advice, only pick and choose what is applicable to your life.
Dedicated Work SpaceCreate a semi-permanent, dedicated work space for yourself. I am using an oversized closet as an undersized office. I love it because it helps me focus.
- Keep everything you need within arms reach - coffee, pens, calculator, files, notebooks, textbooks, headphones, cables, etc.
- Make sure you have an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Your laptop’s tiny keyboard and trackpad are not ergonomic.
- Make sure your chair is the right height for your desk to help maintain good posture. If you aren’t using a monitor, a laptop stand is a good idea.
- Get good conferencing gear for your remote meetings, and think about moving to a meeting specific location in your apartment that has good light, and a nice backdrop. It makes a difference when your teammates can hear you clearly, see your facial expressions, and cannot tell that you are at home (even though they know you are!).
I use this microphone with noise-cancelling headphones.
Some of my teammates use this headset.
Shifting Your Mental Space
It’s important to create some mental separation between your personal life and your work life, which only becomes more blended when working from home. You will have to shift your mental space between professional and personal, without changing your environment.
- Your dedicated work space will help a lot! Make it a habit to zone into work when you go to this space, and a habit of zoning out of work when you leave this space.
- Don’t give up your morning routine. Read the news, drink your coffee, listen to a podcast, whatever.
- Set a rough work start and end time for the day.
- Find the best time for your activities and hobbies. An amazing benefit of working from home is that you get to dictate your own schedule. For example, I like to exercise between breakfast and lunch (after digesting, before I get hungry).
- Change twice a day. Get out of your pajamas, and back into them at night. This will help to shift your mental space, and improve your hygiene.
- I usually like to take a walk outside at least once a day, but make sure to maintain social distancing measures by staying at least six feet away from others! One positive impact of the crisis is that air quality is improving all over the world due to the drastic reduction in car and airline traffic. Even waterways in Venice are clean and clear.
Respect Your RoommatesMake sure your habits are not distracting or bothering your roommates. They might not be expressing their frustrations because they are nicer than you are. If it is the other way around, tell them to read this!
- Keep the kitchen clean! Wash your dishes or load them in the dishwasher immediately after use, and don’t leave stuff out on the counters. It’s a pleasure to use a clean kitchen when you go get a snack, make a coffee, or cook lunch.
- Agree upon a type of music and volume level if you’re all working in a shared space.
- If you are eating / cooking lunch with your roommates, schedule a lunch time.
- Unless you enjoy making random eye contact with others, face your work space away from others.
Cooking and CoffeeAnother major benefit of working from home is cooking at home! My girlfriend and I have been cooking almost every meal at home for the past year. We only order takeout, or go out to eat once or twice per week. We treat “going out to eat” as a luxury, keeping it out of our lifestyle creep. Unfortunately, none of us will be going out to eat at all for the foreseeable future, but even after this crisis I still intend to treat going out to eat as a luxury. Doing so saves me a lot of money, and when I do finally go out to eat, it is so so splendid.
I love coffee, and since I work from home, I brew all my coffee. I am quite particular about my beans, roast, and brewing process. If you are also a coffee drinker, and are having some trouble getting caffeinated amidst the crisis, my advice to you is to start ordering some good beans from a local supplier. You will be stimulating the local economy, and your coffee will be so much better. After trying many roasts and beans, I have settled on the Mocha Java Blend from Wolf Coffee in Healdsburg. It is a medium roast with beans from Africa, Indonesia, and Central America.
Stay healthy and distant, friendsLastly, I just want to re-emphasize the need to stay healthy and socially distant during this time. You are not only keeping yourself healthy, but just as importantly, keeping others healthy. Leaving your shelter increases the risk of spreading the virus, so be mindful when you do go outside, and only for essential reasons.
More about the Bay Area’s shelter in place order.