Due to the sudden outbreak of the latest coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent closure of many public facilities, remote workers who commonly call the local coffee shop du jour their office away from home have found themselves in a lurch. Most remote workers who choose to work out of home do so for the social interaction, the convenience, and access to amenities, or simply to get out of the house. But now, amidst the public health crisis, many have been forced back to their homes. Now, after weeks of varying degrees of self-isolation or quarantine, they are longing to get out.
Of course, depending on where you are located and the configuration of your living — now working — space, the options you have at your behest may be fewer or further between than what I’ll recommend in this article. That said, there are some tips I’d like to share about finding success working from wherever you are before we decide where wherever could be.
Keep a schedule
Keeping a schedule may be among the most obvious things for the remote-working-vets in the crowd. Still, for folks who work apart only occasionally, understanding this point is critical. In times like these — unprecedented, but chaotic — it’s easy to fall quickly into bad habits. Sleeping in, loafing about, turning on the latest Netflix premier can all be detrimental to your long-term success when working from home. The distractions are all around you, now more than ever, but you must be diligent and do your best to facilitate normalcy regardless of what’s happing on the other side of your front door.
Treat each workday like just that, a workday. In the article, Change is good, I lay out my daily routine to better illustrate what I’m talking about. I’ve been working remotely for more than 20-years now, and still have plenty of off days where my schedule is disrupted for one reason or another, but having the routine is the first step, sticking to it will be the tough part. To summarize, my workdays look like this:
- 6:00 AM — Wake up, get ready. Get dressed like I’m going to work. No jammies!
- 7:00 AM-8:00 AM — Make breakfast for the kids, get oldest off to carpool, and take youngest to school.
- 8:30 AM — First pomodoro of the day. Spanish Practice.
- 9:00 AM — Reading for two pomodoros. Always be learning.
- 10:00 AM — Writing and content creation for four pomodoros.
- 12:00 PM — Email, espresso, croissant (except when I’m low-carbing it).
- 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM — Work. Varies day-to-day.
- 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM — Family time, make dinner, run errands.
- 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM — Exercise.
- 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM — Write more if I have anything left in the tank.
- 11:00 PM — Bed. 11:05 PM if I get lucky. 😜
There is nothing particularly innovative about this list. Just suffice it to say it is about maintaining structure, no matter where I’m working.
Social (media) distance
If you pay any attention whatsoever to the news or social media, you are opening yourself up to a barrage of negativity and bad vibes disguised as useful information. At this time, we’ve been advising adherence to that whole social-distance thing, but what I actually mean is keep social-MEDIA-distance. Your friend is statistically less likely to make you throw up than what you’ll see on Twitter these days. Did I mention that according to Time Magazine, recent studies have found as many as 25,000 or more disease-causing germs and bacteria are living in every square inch of your smartphone screen? That 10x your toilet seat.
PSA time: Maintain a 6-foot space bubble, wash your hands regularly, and don’t touch your Face(book).
In such a turbulent time, it is essential to keep that stiff upper lip and maintain a positive outlook. As mentioned in the previous section, it is very easy to get caught in the trap of (lack of) information overload and take a pivot towards the dark side. Additionally, for those of us who prefer to be around people versus all alone with the voices in our heads, isolation can negatively impact our otherwise positive mood.
To combat this attack on our mental health, do your best to make the best of it. Make lemonade from all these highly-contagious lemons so-to-speak. Wherever you are working from, bring with you the things you enjoy, or take advantage of your new-found flexibility to indulge in some guilty pleasures. Since the coffee shop is out, brew your own and bring it along, pack your favorite lunch, or grab that Bluetooth speaker and rock out to your favorite Danish pop-star while nobody is looking (Mø, I’m looking at you).
Putting the “where,” in “where you working today, bruh?”
While admittedly pickens are slim given the circumstances, you don’t “have to” work from home (unless you are in Spain, Italy, or anywhere else presently on lockdown). But even if you do, you’ve got a little flexibility to change up the scenery here and there.
If you can’t leave home:
- Dedicated workspace — If you are stuck at home and don’t work there traditionally, the first thing you should do is create a dedicated workspace. Somewhere that is comfortable, accessible, and conducive to work. Not everyone has the space to make a private office, but it could be a kitchen table, a cozy corner, or under the bed. Whatever it takes to support you in your work.
Note: Just because the space is “dedicated” doesn’t mean that others trapped in your home will be able or willing to respect your needs adequately. For example, if you post at the kitchen table, others will be likely to need to hit the fridge now and then. Distraction. Scheduled “quiet time” or a good set of noise-isolating headphones might help overcome these kinds of challenges.
- Hit the porch - If you have any outdoor space in your home or flat, it can make for a nice change of pace to post on the patio and soak in a little of what nature has to offer. As close to nature as you’ve got access to anyway. Get some fresh air, soak up some sun, and get crap done all at the same time. Another bonus, on the deck you are generally out of the flow of traffic in the home. If you are sharing your space with a partner and or a wild 9-year old, getting out of the way is probably useful for maintaining productivity.
- Get outside - I know this won’t be everyone, but if you happen to be among those working from home, and your home happens to have a backyard, take advantage of this glorious flexible space to take ‘hitting the porch’ to the next level. For the real overachievers, move your work into the treehouse or build a fort, for the rest, a folding table and a comfortable chair can make for a totally productive workspace in the sun. Your neighbors might think you’re a weirdo, but they’re just jealous.
If you can leave:
- Parks - Fortunately, because of widespread access to high-speed internet access either via ISP’s or communities who provide it or cellular companies who supply it, you may be able to keep the work working in the shade of the old oak tree at the nearest park. If you can keep your distance from the germ-mongers in your neighborhood, go for a walk, find a bench or bring a chair, and post up. Take in the benefits of fresh air and a little sunlight and just see how your spirits are lifted while you get your crap done.
- Formerly occupied, but now slightly less occupied public spaces - Just because the doors to your favorite coffee establishment or open-air mall are closed, doesn’t mean their outdoor space is out of bounds. Also, odds are the public wi-fi is still up and running. If you can safely and legally do so, why not kick it in the courtyard for a little change of scenery? And the good news? No crowds.
I know, times are tough
There is little doubt in my mind that the challenges we are working through as you read this are real and, for some, very difficult to work around. So don’t be confused by my lighthearted handling of the situation in this piece. That said, being upbeat, taking control of what you can control, and dodging rampant hysteria will be critical to your success as you go forward… from home.
How are you dealing with all this?
I would love to hear and see how you are dealing with the current state of the union. How have you adapted to find whatever normalcy you can despite a global force making a mess of things? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or tag @teammateapart on the socials (even though I told you to avoid them) to lend your support to the broader remote community.
Good luck out there. Stay safe!
I am an entrepreneur, creative director, podcaster, remote work advocate, consultant, author, and speaker committed to building authentic end-to-end relationships for my clients — from top management to top consumer. My unique philosophy puts specific importance on human relationships and their inherent value in both business and in life. I believe that as a society, we are reaching a kind of technological saturation point, which is leaving consumers anxious and yearning for tactile human experiences, and it is that core ethic that fuels my purpose — to bring people together.
From my office in Salt Lake City, Utah, or occasionally from my office-away-from-home in Barcelona, Spain, I will offer enlightening insights on a vast range of topics. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my insights and experiences to help others explore fresh perspectives on business, lifestyle, and new ways of working.