The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
I started working from home during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 so I have some advice for you who will be working from home.
Many famous people work from home. Queen Elizabeth works from home. Heck, even the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, once worked from home. You’ll be fine.
The No. 1 perk of working from home is the freedom to sing without co-workers staring at you like you’ve lost your maracas. Right now, as I’m writing, I’m singing the COVID-19 anthem, the great Police song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” to my cats.
Fact: Working from home you will come to resemble Tom Hanks in “Castaway.” Men, too.
Before you name a volleyball “Wilson” be mindful of staying connected with your colleagues. My colleagues and I chat once a day. I enjoy that moment of connection with my colleagues more than I savor counting my corn cobs.
If you’re going to work from home, here’s what you have to look forward to:
Day 1: Cool. I’m working from home!
Day 2: My computer hates me.
Day 3: First client call on the john.
Day 4: Day 4 of same sweatpants.
Day 5: Who are these children smearing hand sanitizer on the cat?
Day 6: When does cabin fever give way to cannibalism?
Day 7: We need toilet paper.
You’ll be fine. (I hoarded corncobs. Email me for bargain rates.)
My home studio is in a spare bedroom. When I told my family years ago I’d be “working from home” they insisted I consider “working from room.”
1. Set down workspace boundaries.
2. Set down work time boundaries.
3. Set down the toilet paper.
My home studio has an existing internet line, a standing desk, a good closet and a window. The window keeps me sane. My standing desk keeps me fit. My closet keeps my corn cobs secure.
Your home and family and the news will offer you endless distractions. You are going to have to prioritize. That’s what I shouted at my telecommuting bride when she disturbed my work focus by screaming, from her new home office, in the room next door, some nonsense about a “rattler” under her desk.
Some telecommuters will use any excuse to procrastinate, to avoid work.
Ration the distractions. The fridge. Cable TV. Feral children. The belts that look like rattlers.
Tip: I posted armed guards in my kitchen with instructions to shoot me if I filch one more Oreo. Costly but effective.
Cable TV news is my distracting addiction. I can quit watching any time. I tell Brian Williams, Nicole Wallace and Rachel Maddow the same thing when we’re looping alone at 3 a.m.
Working at home calls for great self-discipline, great self-care and someone named Ellen who loves you enough to ration your cable remote like it’s methadone.
Identify your favorite neighborhood walks. Time them. Up and around the school is a half hour. To the strip mall and back is an hour. To the bunker out back where you stockpiled your toilet paper and semi-autos is a nice 10-minute stroll. Need a 15-minute break from work? You know where to walk. Walks are great for mindful meditation and maintaining emotional balance. And spying on your neighbor.
Or as we call it in the Age of COVID-19, “checking in” on your neighbor.
When your workday ends, disconnect. If there’s a crisis, they’ll call. Schedule and limit your digital check-ins. And rather than checking your webcam video of your toilet paper inventory constantly, do it at regularly scheduled intervals.
Tip: Spray-paint “Family first” on the wall of your workspace over your work computer.
Here’s a typical schedule for working at home:
7:00 a.m. Wake. Slop the piglets.
7:37 a.m. Kiddie craft time! Macaroni QUARANTINE signs
7:45 a.m. Amazing commute down hall. Check email.
1:00 p.m. Urge rug rats to scavenge food between sofa cushions
4:37 p.m. Finish checking emails. Realize it’s 4:37 p.m.
4:38 p.m. Solve Shrieking Child Mystery
4:45 p.m. Order carry-out
4:49 p.m. Let’s all make 6-foot-long “social Distancing wands” out of pipe cleaners!
5:01 p.m. Pluck Lego out of 3-year-old’s nose. While boss is on hold, little Timmy deletes your desktop. Wild javelinas ransack your workspace.
5:02 p.m. Beat back javelinas by throwing toilet paper rolls at them.
Eventually you’ll find your rhythm. No whining. People are dying. You’re safe in your own home. You’re a patriot and a good neighbor. You got this. This will end. I would have spent more time on an inspiring upbeat ending but I see it’s time for my scheduled walk. And, as I like to say, you got this.
David Fitzsimmons: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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