So you’re finding yourself in a new reality. A world where safe social distancing and virus mitigation strategies make it necessary for you to work from home. Kinda weird, isn’t it? I’ve been doing it for about a decade and, yeah, it’s still strange to exist in a space in which the siren song of Netflix or a nap can quickly send my productivity to rocky and unforgiving shores.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make the most of the WFH situation. Look at me, an adult who hits deadlines and is really good at seeming capable and enthusiastic in brief bursts over a teleconference line. And there are others like me. All eager to share whatever wisdom they’ve gained, random advice, or “don’t be like me” warnings.
I asked a few of UPROXX’s grizzled, PJ wearing WFH veterans (Jessica Toomer, Dane Rivera, Zach Johnston, Chelsea Frank, Steve Bramucci) to share their expertise for you, the weary-yet-pure remote work virgin. May their words help you survive without a water cooler to rally around.
— Jason Tabrys, Features Editor
Your Bed, Your Island, Your Downfall
Step one of working from home is: get out of bed.
If there are blankets and covers on you and you’re wearing your silk hair bonnet, you’re still in bed. If you sleep on the couch because your wife hates you, that counts as a bed. Look, I get it — the bed is your island. It’s cozy, it’s warm, it’s where the magic happens. Bed is what dreams are literally made of. But your brain associates the bed with sleep and relaxation; it is no place for coding or doing spreadsheets. Do your productivity a favor and kick back those covers. (I say this as I write this entry from underneath three sheets and a duvet). — Chelsea Frank
Set Up Shop
One of the few perks of office life is the certainty that once you clock out, work stays there (ideally). For people who work at home — that’s you now — the separation between work and home can be harder to define. We can’t cure your obsession with checking your email every five minutes, but we can offer some solid advice about work stations in your house: have one. Set up a place specifically for work tasks (and anything remotely connected). A separate room for your desktop, a designated place at the dining room table, in your bathtub with pillows and a blanket (we’ve all tried it once, right?)… what matters is that this spot is separate from whatever space you retreat to when you need to Netflix and chill (the hell out).
Keep your relaxation spots and work station as far apart as your housing situation allows. — Jessica Toomer
A few days into working from home and you’re going to realize it’s awesome. You’ll quickly find that not having someone over your shoulder, being able to work at your own pace, taking as long a lunch as you want, and not having to wear pants actually makes you more productive. Until you start slipping. Which isn’t a question of if, but when. Maybe one day during a break you smoke a bowl of weed (go ahead, no one is watching) and you stumble and fumble your way through whatever work you’re doing. You’re good, no one is picking up on it. In fact, your boss just called and you two had the best conversation of your freaking life. You’re not as productive as the other days, but you’re still making it work (this is fun, we’re so bad).
The next morning rolls around, hey remember how much more fun work was when we were high? Might as well wake and bake. “I think there is a theory video on YouTube I could watch. Or hey, have you ever seen Al Green do ‘Jesus is Waiting’ on Soul Train? It’s maybe around 9 minutes, might as well watch it. Wow, look there are more!”
Don’t fall into that trap. Make something like smoking weed, or taking a nap (which follows the same trajectory as weed, but in hours asleep not YouTube videos watched) part of a reward system. You’ll smoke that bowl, or take that nap after you get more than enough work done. Goals will motivate you to stay productive, and rewards will be that much sweeter and enjoyed without the anxiety of needing to, y’know, stay gainfully employed. — Dane Rivera
Why You Probably Should Eat More Than Cereal
It’s vitally important to eat good food if you want to stay healthy. Hey, this is as true in regular ol’ everyday life as it is when you’re on day ten of a quarantine (self-imposed or government-mandated). Now, if you’re working at home, that’s going to be a lot harder. After all, you’re going to be at home where all the good food is. It’ll be almost too easy to jump up from your computer to “clear your head” and then mindlessly find yourself pouring a second bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch even though it’s only 9:15 in the morning.
Don’t fall into that trap. The same goes for other meals. Just because no one is watching, doesn’t mean you should eat two microwave burritos for lunch.
The real key here is planning. Take stock of what you have, get a calendar or even a pen and paper, and write out a menu plan that includes breaks for pre-decided snacks and lunches. Be creative but be realistic. You don’t want to be experimenting with new recipes with every meal. Maybe save the new recipes for one or two meals per week.
Beyond that, cook ahead what you can and eat your leftovers. This is not the time to be throwing away uneaten rice or quinoa after too many days of just sitting in the fridge. Remember, you can always make fried rice with leftover meat, vegetables, and rice (or quinoa for that matter). Most importantly, have a snack or meal that is comfort food. If you need a bowl of cereal one morning, it’s okay. These are traumatic times. Especially if you know you’ll be having a healthy lunch and dinner later.
Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to hydrate. Stay on that water game, fam. — Zach Johnston
Casual Chic And Shower Serenity
Whenever I read these articles, there’s always someone telling people to shower first thing. Which is a great way to sort who does and doesn’t actually work from home. Because no one showers first thing on a daily basis when they work from home. Literally zero humans. Ask our own Mike Ryan:
I've been working at home for five years now (we have an office but I don't go) and the only thing that makes me laugh these days are the "how to work from home" tutorials. They always start with, "still get dressed in the morning," and I read that and laugh and laugh and laugh
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) March 17, 2020
Work gets in the way of that. The Slack messages start, then the deadlines, and suddenly the day is roaring in full and you’re still in sleep clothes. All good. No hate on that here. It’s what I do, in fact. But you do need to shower eventually, even if you’re in full I’m-not-leaving-lockdown mode. So use that shower. Not just to get clean, but to reset. To be creative without your eyes on a screen. To mull over some inscrutable problem. Now, I’m not advocating two hour showers, here. I’m just saying — it can be hard to remember to take breaks at home. Let your shower be one of them.
Once you’re out? It’s okay to go back to cozy clothes. Wear underwear with them this time, to be a little more formal. Put socks on inside your house shoes (everyone who works from home has fur-lined house shoes, even in the tropics). If you’re really feeling stylish, try some jeans. You’ll find that this will give you a midday or afternoon jumpstart and help you be productive again. — Steve Bramucci
A wise meme once said employees who work from home are houseplants, just with more complicated emotions. And like fichus or a tiny baby fern, we need water, fresh air, and sunlight to survive. That’s why movement – inside if you’re self-quarantining or outside if you’re lucky enough to have a patch of green and few neighbors – is so important. Look, none of us are gym rats here. We’re not telling you to buy a Peloton and start drinking protein shakes (though you could!). But standing up every 15-30 mins, walking around, maybe taking the stairs in your house a few times or doing some laps around your dining room table will help get the blood and ideas flowing. Mostly, the blood. You don’t want to get to the end of the workday only to realize you haven’t left the couch in eight hours and now the very real fear of deep vein thrombosis is likely to keep you up at night.
Need further reason to keep blood clots at bay with a little movement? You really don’t want to go to a hospital right now. — Jessica Toomer
Talk Through The Pinch Points
Hello again. By now, you’ve read some really great advice on how to get into the right headspace while working from home, but now I’m here to close it out with some tough love: everything (and everyone) in the world is engineered to throw you off your path toward getting sh*t done. And I don’t just mean the obvious techno enticements like the 11ty billion things to stream, the dopamine hit of social media, or the warming glow of your Playstation controller.
Example: Is it just you and your dog hanging in your freshly minted home/office/office/home? Did you even realize how many naps doggo takes? The cute flop of their ears when they sleep? All of these things are born for the gram and sooner than later, your phone is vibrating its way off your well-configured home workspace as you set up lighting to make Fido into a pet influencer.
See, distractions abound. And if you’re working remotely but also sharing that (claustrophobic) space with a partner or friend or roommate who is also WFH (or worse, NOT WFH), every one of your new office mates is on a different rhythm than you are. “Hey didja hear about?” they begin, telling you about the latest CDC update or putting a meme in your face. You’ve got a conference call coming up? They’ve gotta cook… loudly. By the end of week one, you will realize that working at home beside your favorite people on earth isn’t just filled with cool hangs and noon sexy time. Remember that Daniel Day Lewis character’s forehead vein throb in The Phantom Thread when his quiet time was pierced? You will think about that a lot.
What can you do? You could breathe deep and write it off as a temporary thing, but a little communication also helps to make things more tolerable. Remember, people (even you’re most beloved people) can’t read your mind or your schedule. Let people know when you need quiet or space and hope that they can understand that there has to be a work from home version of you (that is open to less hijinks) and a home home version (way more into hijinks). After all, one of the hardest things to get through while working remotely is the lack of human interaction. Video conferencing and taking time out to check with friends helps, but if you’ve got people with you, make sure to bring a little empathy and affection to the party… and then show them this article, point to this entry, and make them understand that you gotta get some shit done now. – Jason Tabrys