Saturday, January 30, 2021

Working at Home During the Pandemic

This is the 5th time I’ll be blogging on topics that are related to the pandemic. Given the profound impact it’s had on our lives, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. 

About 6 months before the pandemic really took hold in the US, and well before it had serious impact on how we work, I changed jobs. My new job involved about 75% work from home and about 25% travel. The company I work for has offices around the United States, some of which have large numbers of office workers, but my job wasn’t assigned to an office under normal circumstances. By March of 2020, as things were changing radically for many workers, I was very lucky in that I kept my job and could continue to work. More than that, the shift to 100% work from home for me was a fairly minor adjustment.

Working at home


Those who have been working from home for years probably have many “pro tips” that make them successful in working from home. I’ve been learning along the way.


Space: Some things are obvious, like having a dedicated space that’s laid out well and ideally is separated from the distractions taking place around the house. I spend a lot of my day on camera, so my space has to be well-lit and tidy, too.


Time, part 1: Some things changed immediately. In the past I had a 1 hour commute each way, so I gained back 2 hours a day. Even if I spend one of those “found hours” on work, getting even more done, I still get back one hour a day for myself and that has been great. As the family cook, I often use that time to get dinner going while listening to audio books or podcasts, which is therapeutic for me. Other times I use 5 minutes of that hour to place an online food order and then watch television or play piano.


Time, part 2: Managing time became a little different. One of the first things I began to learn was exactly how long mundane things in my life take. If I have 3 minutes before my next meeting, do I have time to run to the kitchen, get a cup of coffee, and be back and on camera before my meeting? Yes, easily. I don’t even have to run. Within the first few weeks I learned how much time I needed to make and eat lunch, or visit the restroom, or grab a sport coat for the next call. As it turns out, a few minutes are all that are needed for lots of things when they are within the limited confines of your home.


Lunch: Since I’m not out and about, I don’t buy my lunch at restaurants or delis. I have to plan ahead a bit more and have food in the house, which has been good for several reasons; I can plan for healthier lunches, and I can save some money. But the best revelation about lunch didn’t occur to me until several months in to working-from-home. For the last 35+ years I chose my lunch in ways so as not to impact my breath. Now, though, if I choose to have leftovers from last night’s garlic-laden dinner, or if I want a bunch of raw onions on a sandwich, I won’t offend my boss or my clients in afternoon meetings. This is surprisingly freeing! Of course, I still need to be considerate of others in the house.


Dress Code: The usual joke is that while on camera professionals must dress the part with shirt and jacket but don’t necessarily need pants. I do, indeed, wear pants. But while in my last job my pants were usually part of a suit, my pants these days are often jeans, or the warm-up pants I used to wear to the gym while my top half is generally neat business casual. The thing I generally don’t wear is shoes!


Clothing budget: Related to the above, there was a big change to my spend on clothing. When I wore suits, there were dry cleaning bills and the occasional additions of dress shirts or ties, and at least once a year a new suit. That stuff added up! All of that past spend is now savings for me (which I’ll probably blow all at once on a piece of music gear or a fishing trip).


The pandemic has been a terrible chapter in our lives, with many of us suffering losses of loved ones or health impacts or economic impacts. I feel very lucky so far to be managing well and will remain committed to masking, washing, and social distancing. And getting vaccinated when I am able. I remain hopeful that the second half of 2021 will look better than the present or recent past has been, with chances to visit restaurants and theaters and gather together, but will continue to adjust my life in the meantime.


How are you managing? What are your tips and tricks? Leave a comment and let us all know.



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