Every established work-from-home employee is feeling a low level sense of panic right now as it looks like our deepest fears are coming true ~ the office people will be joining us. These heroes who navigate rush hours and button pants and after work errands…all of our work-from-home secrets about to be exposed to the office people population. Will our jobs be safe when they learn our ways? Will this new world become a permanent fixture thus crowding the daytime haunts of the WFH’ers? How long until they figure out our coded handshakes and winks? What if the Starbucks guy learns their orders and forgets mine? What if they wear their button pants and laced shoes in public?
(It’s okay, Jyl, let them in. Be welcoming. Offer a false sense of security. Calm their fears.)
Oh, hello friend…working from home for a bit, are you? Why don’t I help you with this difficult transition…let me guide you onto my turf. My turf. Mine. No, that’s not right.
Let me guide you into our very enjoyable world. Be cool, man.
It does actually take some discipline. Having your laptop and all your company’s magical systems basically tethered to you like a cyber baby bjorn is tricky. You have to be able to shut it down. And, in order to do that, you have to be able to get started. All on your own. You have to find your work- schedule sweet spot. This may be dictated by your company, in which case, whatever they say goes. Or it may be a free for all – out of company sight but not mind – get the job done however or whenever you want to, just get it done. I’m somewhere in the middle – I must provide a certain level of availability during US hours, but as those cover three time zones…I tend to float around a bit.
In no particular order (that’s how we WFH’ers roll…pure chaos…), here are some tips.
#1: Switch your alarm to approximately 30 minutes before clickity clackity time. That will allow for two snoozes, teeth brushing, face washing (Really. Your days of morning showers just ended), deodorant, hair push-around, wardrobe change from bedtime pajamas to your work pajamas, and a dash to turn on the coffee pot before logging on. Check!
#2: Assuming there are more than one of you working from the same home, decide who makes a better breakfast. Hopefully, it’s not you. If so, just half ass the eggs a few days in a row. The likelihood is you’ll be suspended from morning meal preparation. You may be called to the breakfast plate at times due to scheduling conflicts (damn early meetings) – don’t be a superstar. Don’t panic…remember, you’re already logged on…but no need to make pancakes in the shape of your company logo.
#3: Think about all the things around the house that you’ve had to shove to the end of the day or the weekend in the past. Laundry, vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, grocery shopping (I just realized this entire list is for the mom-agers), dry cleaning, oil changes (there you go)…all those things that take up your evening hours…just got moved to daytime. Learn to multi-task. If you can flip between work and home continuously during the day, you will find yourself with a seriously lightened after work load. This will seem like a dream at first. Done working, dinner cleaned up and no need to run errands? Magic! If you have children, they will find ways to defeat this free time. If you can see it coming, pull out your laptop again, open a word doc and just type random words. Sound busy.
#4: You don’t have to be sitting at attention at your computer at all times (unless you run a crisis hotline, then maybe, yes). You likely don’t sit at attention at your office-office, so excuse yourself at home as well. All that’s changed is your water cooler. It’s not a fridge. Or the mailbox. Or a quick nap. Or your neighbor’s front porch at 3pm on a Friday. It is these small (or large) standing and walking around moments that will let you knock out items in Lesson 3. Do it…breaks are healthy yet we feel guilty about them. Channel that guilt into washing the windows.
#5: LEAVE THE HOUSE. Oh right, potential quarantine. If it’s safe out there – go. Into the world. Talk to people. Make eye contact. Maybe put on real pants for an hour and take off your house slippers. Don’t be alarmed when half of the people at Target give you the side eye – those are the regular WFH’ers wondering who let you in. (Dear Target, is it possible to have separate shopping hours for your daytime regulars than your daytime newbies? Asking for a friend.) If there is a quarantine, speak to someone. Have lunch with the others locked in your house. Make a standing phone date with a friend. You’ll be surprise at how exciting it is to stay on hold with the cable company for twenty minutes just because you’re going to get to speak to another human. Take thirty minutes and look out a different window. Do some deep knee bends.
#6: Don’t fall for the corporate ‘hey, I know you’re RIGHT there next to your laptop or pc, because we made you take it home…so…if you could just log on a minute…yeah, yeah, we know it’s 9pm and your kids are going to bed, but this is super convenient…’ Before you do anything outside your normal-ish hours – ask yourself, ‘Would I drive back to the office to do this? Is it that important that I would get in my car to get it done?’ If the answer is no, then the answer is no – it will wait. Being a WFH employee does not mean full-time just went from 40 something hours a week to all-of-the-hours a week. This is not your opportunity to show how much you are willing to give – do not set yourself up for an 80 hour in-the-office week when the coronial fog has lifted.
#7: Commute. What? Yes, commute. The thing you will not realize you miss the most until you are snapping at your kids or spouse after work is the decompression that takes place on the drive home. On your way to work…you ramp your brain to ‘on.’ On your way home…you bring it back down. That will go away. You have to create it yourself until you get used to and successful enough to do it without thirty minutes in the car. Or make it thirty minutes in the car. Start your day with a drive around the block and finish it the same way. It’s okay, no one will know about your fake commute. Your fauxmute. You will eventually be able to signal to yourself that the workday is over – whether it is leaving the room you primarily work in or switching from your work pajamas to your dinner pajamas or aggressively shutting your laptop lid or having a cocktail on your neighbor’s porch – you will figure it out. So, if you husband, for instance, tells you to take a few breaths and turn it off…just know you’re not quite there yet.
#8: You know how you have a ‘schedule’ for your doodies? Throw it out the window. You don’t have to wait for your favorite stall to be open or the bathroom to be empty or for your lunch break or until you’re home. Clenching your way through your commute will become of thing of the past. Limiting your coffee intake so you aren’t crowning mid-meeting will no longer be necessary. Word of caution, though – make sure you are hyper familiar with your phone or laptop mute button. And, if the WORST happens, and you are the one who stops a virtual pow-wow dead in it’s tracks with a toilet flush – IMMEDIATELY say these words, ‘Oh man, glad I’m not that guy. Could everybody mute please?’
#9: Speaking of con calls, welcome to the cyber meeting world, where if it can go wrong, it will. Get used to hearing ‘We’ll just wait five more minutes for everyone to join,’ and ‘Hi, who just joined please?’ and ‘Is anyone else having connectivity issues?’ and ‘Can everyone see my screen?’ and ‘Are we supposed to be able to see your screen?’ and ‘Could everybody mute please?’ The second you hop on a call, your dog is going to start barking. If anyone else on the call has a dog – their dog will start barking too. Or, your dog will imprint on a co-worker’s voice and come running every time she hears it, parking herself next to your laptop and gently panting just loud enough for everyone to wonder who has con-call-asthma. At some point, you will accidentally turn on our camera while still in your shower towel (thus really ending your morning shower routine). If you never, ever want to use the camera, put some tape over it. If you have to use your camera, be ready for somebody or some thing to show up behind you. If you’re lucky, you’re spouse will show up behind you dressed as a llama. Or an elf. Or a horse. Or a unicorn. Or a wookie. I personally love getting texts from my husband that read ‘on an important call, please no costumes.’
10#: You no longer have to wait until the entire house is asleep to, um, get busy. And by busy, I don’t mean run a vLookUp. Afternoon Delight. Look it up. Not recommended for those with small children. Make sure you tape over your camera. And are on mute. Are you still reading, Mom? Oh man. Okay. Anyway. Enjoy your earlier bedtime.
Welcome to our tribe. Just be cool and maybe this can become your new lifestyle. Like, don’t be the guy who eats celery or an apple while on calls. Or the guy whose productivity drops to nothing but basket weaving.
Don’t ruin it for the professional work-from-homers.