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Labour + Industry

Working from Home, from a Writer Who’s Been There

At least find decent sweatpants.

Dorothy Woodend 12 Mar 2020 |

Dorothy Woodend is culture editor of The Tyee. Reach her here.

As the world prepares to do battle with a pandemic and working from home becomes the reality for lots of folk, we writers can lead the way in helping you make the best of it — offering tips on avoiding cabin fever, actually getting work done and even enjoying the experience.

First, the obvious stuff.

Wash your hair

This is the most basic and simplest solution for feeling like you’re in control of yourself. Although escaping the tyranny of hair washing may seem like a bit of fun insurrection, the greasy good times don’t last. Before the end of day, you’ll begin to feel like you’re channelling Clan of the Cave Bear. That isn’t a good feeling or a good look for anyone. So get sudsy with it and feel in control!

Put on pants

Lounging about in your bathrobe all day is very Big Lebowski, but it gets tired mighty fast. Before the dude abides, he should put on some pants. It’s all about feeling like you’re a fully functioning adult person — able to balance a chequebook, make appointments, clothe yourself and meet your deadlines.

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Set a schedule

Start work at a regular time. It doesn’t have to be 9 to 5. Like a lot of writers, I like to work first thing in the morning, keeping farmers’ hours, from 5 a.m. to midafternoon. Set times to get up and look out the window occasionally, as well as taking a break for lunch and snacks. Being the master of your own schedule can actually be a great thing. You are both ship and ship’s captain and you set a course, however you see fit. Just avoid the rocky shores of Time Waste Island and the great sucking gyre of social media.

More on that sucking gyre

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can suck time like there’s no tomorrow, and if in fact it turns out there’s no tomorrow and we really are in the end times, who wants to spend their remaining days liking dumb stuff on Facebook? Do something that matters, or at least makes you feel like your contributing to betterment of humankind, even if it’s only writing a mean review of that film you just saw starring Robert Pattinson’s phallis.

Go outside

It’s OK to take a walk in the afternoon, especially if you’ve been up for a while. Go for a quick stroll around the block, talk to a squirrel and greet your neighbours. Sit under a tree for a bit and remember that the world is still a beautiful place, in spite of all we’ve done to muck it up.

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Now the good stuff!

There are plenty of benefits and positive aspects to working at home, not the least of which is that you might actually get more work done without the to-ing and fro-ing of the daily commute.

Everyday transit rage might disappear when you don’t have to entertain thoughts of strangling fellow citizens as they push their way onto the SkyTrain. The folk who refuse to remove their elephant-size backpacks, the princess types who put their Louis Vuitton bags on the seat beside them, and even the people who occasionally throw up will all vanish into an unpleasant memory.

Your attitude towards humanity might suddenly blossom into magnanimous compassion and love for all living things. It’s possible. Unlikely… but you never know.

Save money

Working at home is cheap. In addition to not paying for gas, parking or transit, you’ll also save money by making food and drink in your own kitchen. You might even eat better, because you’ll actually have to cook instead of eating hamburgers. With that money saved you can buy yourself a new fluffy bathrobe or some luxury sweatpants.

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When the 3 p.m. lull hits and you can’t keep your eyes open anymore, just give in and take a quick snooze. Even 20 minutes can do wonders for clarity of mind and productivity. Plus, there’s the added benefit of weird daytime dreams that you can incorporate into your work. In my world of journalism, nothing says creativity like the sudden injection of surreal images into an ordinary story. Keep your readers on their toes, as they try to ascertain why a giant lobster in a waistcoat and silk top hat suddenly popped up in a piece on zoning bylaws. Fun!

Peace and silence

Depending on your sociability needs and requirements, this can be a good thing or a very bad thing. If you spend a good portion of your time avoiding people and being an introvert, then working at home might be a dream come true. You don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t want to. Take this time to recharge your batteries, look inside yourself and dig deep into the inner marble, I mean marvel, that is your brain. (Important disclaimer: this advice is all based on working at home alone. If you’re sharing the space with a partner who has also been banished from the office — or, shudder, a toddler whose daycare has closed — you need a whole different set of strategies. And I wouldn’t know where to start in offering them.)

Without anyone around to watch or judge you can be as weird as you like: make up songs to sing to yourself, laugh at your own trumpeting farts, try different things with your hair. Anything is fine, so long as you exercise a modicum of restraint. This is still a workday, after all, so save the experimenting with magic mushrooms until you’ve finished your tasks. Then bring on the chorus line of lobsters in top hats singing excerpts from My Fair Lady.

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Once these scary times have lifted, you might have greater appreciation not only for your workmates, but also for the everyday struggles of normal life, be it the bus being late or the high price of fancy lattes. When the overloaded SkyTrain lurches to a stop mid-track and sits there for 20 minutes, rejoice friends! The world is back to its usual crazy state.  [Tyee]

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