Working Remotely in the Time of Coronavirus

I’ve been working from home since November 2013, so I like to think I know a little bit about it. I know a lot of people work from home, it’s not that unique, but I work for a fairly large company that is 100% distributed, and has been from day one. I like to think that we have this “work remotely” business down pat, so I’m here to share what I’ve learned in the past six and a half years. Of course, what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, so take what you like and ignore the rest.

Give yourself a space for working

I don’t live in a huge house or anything, but it is vital that I have a separate space with a door I can close while I’m working. I also need to be able to close it when I’m not working. It’s not to say this room I work from is only an office. In a three bedroom house with triplets, that’s not a luxury I have. But once my husband goes to work, this is my office, it’s no longer a bedroom.

Get ready for work

Working in my pajamas got old, fast, for me. I didn’t feel truly productive unless I showered and got dressed. It seems like a great idea to roll out of bed and get right to work, but it doesn’t put me in the right mindset. You might not need to put on real clothes, but maybe you need to exercise first, or put on mascara.

Communicate!

Another reason I like to be showered and dressed is that I participate in quite a few video calls. We use Zoom at my company for those, and I prefer to be showered and presentable for them. My favorite thing about Zoom, though, is the Virtual Backgrounds feature. What I don’t have to do is make the bed behind me! Instead, I can work in front of Hogwarts or the English countryside or even the moon!

Working from the Lake District in England today!

Zoom is useful for more than communicating with your colleagues – set up a free account and use it to talk to your friends and family. Let your kids call their friends! Have everyone you know set up an account. (And no, I don’t work for them – I just use it a lot and like it.)

Slack is great for text-based communication. Set up a group and invite friends and family. You can create channels to talk about different topics, and there’s even the option to do 1:1 video calls on the free plan.

Or start a blog! Writing can be very therapeutic, and you can document what this weird time is really like. Or share stories or tips or pictures. Set one up on WordPress.com for free! (okay, I do work for them…)

Take breaks

It can be too easy to sit in your supremely comfortable desk chair and stare at your giant monitors for hours on end, but it’s not a good idea. Stand up and stretch. Go put on a load of laundry (I know, not much of a break, but at least you won’t have to do it later!) or stick some food in the crockpot for dinner. Of course it depends on what your job is – I’m very lucky to have a pretty flexible schedule, so I can (or could, pre-COVID-19) work out in the middle of the day. Whatever you do, get up and move!

With kids at home, these breaks will probably end up being math or science lessons, but that’s okay. Need suggestions for lessons? Look here.

Tune out, if you can

I realize that if you’re reading this, it’s unlikely you’re home alone right now. Your kids are probably sitting quietly, reading or writing an essay in the other room. (Of course I kid. They’re probably sitting at the kitchen table, devouring a box of cereal and watching YouTube. No? Just mine?) But if you can, even for a little while, put on headphones. When I need to concentrate, I turn on white noise from Spotify. But my kids are older and this is a luxury not everyone has. Even if it’s for 15 minutes while your kids watch something “educational,” try to make the most of the quiet time to be productive.

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My name is Pam, and I live in Algiers Point with my husband George and my identical triplets Linus, Oliver, and Miles. I work from home as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. I enjoy reading and photography and sewing (and blogging!)

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