This one is dedicated to those of you suddenly and unexpectedly working from home. Alan is doing this for the first extended period of time. Right now there are four loaves of sourdough in the oven and 350 pounds of honey waiting to be extracted on the table. In other words, a pretty normal day. Except that he periodically feels the need to herd me like a managerial border collie. Last night he blurted out “We can work on your vision statement!” before slowly adding, “…if you want to”.
If you’re not used to working from home, at first the whole notion sounds great! It’s like vacation! With paychecks! And you don’t even have to wear pants!
The glamor typically wears off by Day Three as the hours bleed together and you find yourself staring at your laptop drinking your 14th cup of coffee not knowing what day it is while wearing only a blanket. It’s even worse when you’re forced to work from home due to some random pandemic that threatens the very existence of humanity. You check your phone mindlessly to pass the time and end up consuming enough dire news to stay depressed for a decade.
So how do you keep your sanity?
1. Continue to bathe regularly
Your coworkers may not know the difference, but your family sure will. More importantly, self-care routines keep us grounded and give us peace of mind. Plus, it will help you keep track of mornings and nights, which are going to blur together like a bad Snapchat filter.
2. Make a list
Write down the top 3-5 things you want to accomplish each day and do them. It’s easy to lose focus when the workload is squishy and the days don’t seem to end. It’s also easy to lose track of things you’ve actually done. When you finish something, cross it off or write an “I Did” list. It will remind you that you’ve accomplished something, and keep you from fixating on what’s yet to come.
3. Eat regularly, not constantly
This one is tricky. You will be in natural proximity to lots of snacks when working from home, especially in a pandemic-induced WFH situation. It will suddenly feel like a great time to bake (you bought a ten pound bag of flour and life as we know it is ending! Time for pie!), but you must resist that urge. Your waistline and sanity will thank you.
4. Take a coffee break.
This one is good for two reasons. One, you will likely consume more caffeine than usual, and it’s a good idea to put down the cup (or fill it with hot water and lemon, a slice of ginger, or a stick of cinnamon). Two, taking coffee breaks – the break part – will give you an important chance to stretch your legs and look at something further away from your face than your screen.
5. Check in with coworkers
Much of what you’ll miss when you work from home is social. We’re wired for community, and when we’re suddenly not around each other, it can feel very isolating. You probably normally have a hundred micro interactions over the course of a typical day, and working from home will reduce that to almost none. Reach out to others to keep those exchanges happening.
6. Make your own crowd
If you don’t have coworkers or other people to connect with, make your own. Listen to a podcast to keep your mind active and remind you what human voices sound like. Need to concentrate? Play music instead. Music taps into a different part of our brain than language, so it’s less distracting than speech. Plus it has been proven to have therapeutic effects, and we could all use a little of that right now.
7. Force your workday to end
Choose something healthy that signals the end of your workday. Maybe it’s going for a walk outdoors, maybe it’s saying goodbye to your coworkers and hello to your dog. It doesn’t much matter so long as you give the work part of your brain a signal to shut down for the day.
This one is especially difficult in times of stress – many of us dive into our work to avoid facing fear, sadness, or uncertainty, and there’s an abundance of those right now. A better way to deal with them is…
8. Do good
If you’re feeling bad about the world, be the good. Send gently used books to people who might like to read them. Give art supplies to school-age kids stuck at home. Donate money or food to a charity. Send postcards or letters to loved ones. There are endless ways to give, even when you can’t leave the house. And you’ll feel good about doing them.
9. Find balance
Balance analog with digital. Outside with inside. Moving with sitting. Connection with solitude. Creating with consuming. Resting with doing.
10. Remember that this too shall pass
When this is all over, how will you remember it? You’ve been given a gift of time on this planet, and you only get so much. There are lots of things outside your control, but plenty within it. If this time at home was a gift, how would you spend it?
The unfortunate truth is that there are many people working under far more perilous conditions than their living rooms right now, or are not able to work at all. We honor them by staying home, and by supporting each other as best we can.
Thanks for reading, and remember~
We’re all in this together.
– Chris Zielski, self-isolating since 2007
I did have to laugh out loud at the … since 2007! Love your musings and sharing. Always.