Suddenly we are all working from home. And just as suddenly, the Net is filled with advice on how to WFH — from some who love it and others who find it one more thing to survive.
I have been working from home for six years now, and let me first state the obvious: It is a lot easier when you can work for a few hours by yourself then go out to an exercise class, lunch with friends or to play with the grandkids.
Some have long thought working from home sounded ideal -- no commute, wearing whatever, having the contents of the kitchen at hand and loving pets nearby. You could be home to accept packages and to deal with repair people. You could set your own hours.
But from the outset, I saw the downside. Primarily, that it is isolating. I missed working on stories out in the community then returning to the office to share the news and everyone's enthusiasm. Plus, at the Pleasanton Weekly, we are all involved in the Wednesday production of the print edition, proofing pages and inspecting layouts before we go to press. We were a team, so it was an adjustment to be separated.
Now managers recognize this, and offices, including the Weekly, are holding virtual get-togethers as well as staff meetings. At our first "fun Friday" gathering online last week, it was particularly enjoyable for me because it had been many months since I had seen anyone from work, in person or virtually.
What I enjoy most while working from home is telephone interviews, connecting with another person. Since I cover arts and entertainment and write features on people doing interesting things, everyone I interview is truly engaged and excited to share with me.
When I hang up the phone, I tell my cat all about it, and we discuss the best way to approach the story. JK. I usually wander into the kitchen to refresh my coffee or tea, then come back to capture the subject's enthusiasm in words while it is fresh in my mind.
Which brings me to another drawback of working at home: distractions. My mind is clearest and I focus best from 5 to 9 in the morning so the main distractions are the need to refill my coffee cup and the lure of watching the sun rise. As a deadline approaches, so does my concentration, which is pretty typical in my business. Story not due for a week? Facebook beckons.
One oft-stated tip is to get dressed, but at 5 a.m. this does not seem a priority. However! Even a telephone interview calls for a certain professionalism in my attire, I believe. I am not talking pantsuit and heels here, but something I could answer the door in. I give myself a 9 a.m. deadline to be showered and presentable. A department store's email just featured outfits for WFH. This distracted me for about 10 minutes but I managed to resist spending $62 on the attractive, comfy loungewear.
Another tip is to set up a defined place to work. I have a corner that has everything within reach – screen cleaner, telephone charger, good light and my Bluetooth speaker at hand. But I sometimes write at the dining room table for a change of scenery. Or in the guest room, which stays cool even on the hottest summer days.
A key tip for me, which has proven so true these past two weeks, has been: Have a pet. Of course, a spouse might be better. And this brings up the subject of children. If you are working from home with children, God bless you and good luck. I cannot even imagine this in my own life although I am "watching" with admiration as my daughter and son manage their families, including working and home schooling.
As we are all learning, we make do with what we have and we cope the best we can. I am giving myself permission to slack off sometimes – watch that old rerun on Netflix, even in the middle of the day. We have to be kind to everyone these days, including ourselves.