Working and writing from home? A veteran’s tips for Corona times

As the novel Corona virus pours increasing amounts of poisonous snot all over our daily lives, equally increasing numbers of workers are considering (and some are obliged to) work from home.

COVID-19 EPIDEMIC: After you’ve washed your hands and sung Happy Birthday for the 18th time today and fought the best of three rounds in the grocery store to nab a roll of toilet paper, read this article. It will cheer you up. A bit.

I have been working from home since the Ming Dynasty and am still alive (and solvent) to tell the tale. If you look on Google there is lots of serious and very valid advice about working from home. But here, on the other hand, is some slightly less serious but a damned sight more pertinent advice straight from the coalface. Enjoy.

New to working from home? Here’s the knickers-off reality …

How to dress
Many advisors who regularly drive their kids to school in scarecely-camouflaged pyjamas and slippers insist that for you to feel genuinely that you are going to work now you’ve been asked to do so at home,  you should wear your normal work clothes even when hacking at your laptop from your kitchen table which still is cluttered with last night’s Chinese takeaway detritus. This is utter b*llocks. To get into the right mood for work put on a track suit and clear up the mess before you start work. Clean workspaces are healthy: last night’s prawn balls stink and obscure your thoughts. And wearing a suit to sit in your kitchen? Don’t be silly. Even if you’re using Skype or Zoom for video calls, you only need to look half-decent from the waist up. Enjoy the chance to dress comfortably for once (and the opportunity to send all your work clothes to the dry cleaners.)

What hours to observe
If you have worked from home before for whatever reason, you’ll know that keeping ‘office hours’ in a normal home is about as realistic as telling your two-year-old to stay quiet from 09:00 – 17:00 hrs. Don’t kid yourself that you can impose office hours on a household of kids, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, etc. and your frantic partner if they’re working from home too. You will fail. Horribly. The answer? Be flexible. And be consoled as there are times in a household routine where everything goes quiet: usually between 22:00 hrs and 05:00 hrs. Plenty of time to get your work done!

Where to do your work
If you have a laptop that’s part of your job, you may think it’s easy to sit down in your living room (OK, in your tracksuit, too) and work from the sofa while keeping one eye on the TV and gurning at the vast range of utterly hideous daytime TV shows that, should you have caught up with them previously, will (or should) make you vomit. These televisual pearls are not normally permitted for viewing on corporate-based systems in the workplace, and now you will know why. Kitchen tables are iffy unless you’re a compulsive dirty-dish-washer/stacker and/or you live alone. Dining tables are a safer bet except when they kids get back from school (see below) and use your occupation of said table to ditch their homework and go straight to the Playstation. Serious negotiation will be called for.

What to do about household chores
Before you start feeling guilty about all that laundry that has piled up from the weekend or the grass needs cutting or the flower beds need weeding: hang on there. How did you folks cope when all adults were out at work? Remember how you managed then. Don’t slap yourself up just because you can see weeds out of the window and want to pull them up rather than crystallise your thoughts for a new marketing strategy. Weeds, dust, laundry and long grass can wait: good ideas can’t.

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What happens when the kids get home from school
This is one of the many beauties of home working, because it gives you the chance to say f*** work, put it all on hold, and spend a lovely short time with your kids when they get home in what used to be the mid-afternoon at your office. You can catch up with their latest news, problems, questions and much more. And don’t worry about that cutting into more of your time later: unless they’re very young, by the time you have exchanged some smiles and stories they’ll be off checking out their phones and won’t interrupt you again until dinner time at least.

Don’t wriggle out of your new-found freedom to walk the dog
If your partner is still attending work elsewhere they will, understandably, expect you to take doggie out for walks – and why not? A half-hour of walking out in the fresh air will help you do a better job, and that’s a bonus of working from home. At the office your break is likely to be spent chatting with boring colleagues drinking insipid coffee and wolfing down half a warm sandwich. Now you can go for a jog or a run (most fit and healthy dogs love to trot alongside their owner) which will do you both a lot of good. And dogs make better conversationalists than Les from IT who has halitosis, acne, BO and a passion for stamp collecting.

How to cope with the professional loneliness
This can be a tough one, although I’m sure companies facing the Corona Virus issue are working on creating virtual networking and working environments that will keep as many employees as possible in the loop, discussing / creating / managing and achieving the best possible alternatives to F-2-F business communication. And in amongst all this high-tech clutter don’t forget that sexy instrument which has been around since 1849: the telephone. Call your colleagues; set up Zoom or Skype calls so you can see each other, or do the non-visual variety of conference call if everyone’s still in their nightclothes. Just because you’re cut off physically doesn’t mean you have to turn into a Trappist monk.

Where can you find other networking resources?
This is where the beauty of social media really does shine through. If you haven’t done before, check out the main social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and look for groups which are appropriate either for your work, and/or for your personal interests. Join these groups, comment and post actively, and soon you’ll find you have a good few virtual friends and contacts who will be there for you right now in Corona times and beyond.

Don’t lose your optimism or your sense of humour
I found a very good article on Huffington Post recently that for once talked not about the ‘bright side’ of COVID-19 (there isn’t one) but at least it’s a slightly less pessimistic view. It’s well worth a read after you’ve washed your hands and sung Happy Birthday for the 18th time today and fought the best of three rounds in the grocery store to nab a roll of toilet paper. Huff Post also has devoted a whole section to working from home: have a browse, as it offers some good advice. And if you need some laughs, come and join us over in my Facebook group, The Joke Street Journal. Not quite SFW but not too ‘adult,’ either. (Spammers and weirdos get nixed.)

Want to write a book and get it published, with some help from an expert?
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Sz xx