Social distancing, while it sounds like the kind of thing people at parties do when I start telling jokes, is now a serious widespread practice for dealing with the coronavirus, and millions across the world have begun working from home as part of that practice. This way of working can really take its toll, as Medium’s own Molly Schar writes, prompting inactivity, anxiety, depression, and more.
As a freelancer and entrepreneur, I’ve spent years self-isolating as a consequence of working from home. At last that knowledge can be of some benefit! The popular image of working from home tends to feature a shiny laptop and a miniature succulent. But let’s get real. Successfully working from home has some surprising and challenging elements. Here, some tricks to make the new world of social distancing, self-isolation and working from home work for you.
How to work from home and still be happy
DO get dressed, brush your teeth, fix your hair. Yes, you can stumble directly to your desk in your pyjamas, you can take calls in your underwear (hey, I’m in underwear in all my meetings, right here under my clothes, but to each his own!) but by mid-morning you’ll feel yourself sliding toward slackdom, the sofa will beckon, you’ll look up at 3pm and think why get dressed at all? A phenomenon called ‘enclothed cognition’, studied by social scientists, describes the influence that our clothes have on our psychological processes — we tend to do better when dressed for the part we’re playing. Getting ready for your workday at home lends purpose to your day.
DON’T let tidying become a distraction. All this time at home — surely the moment to break out your inner Marie Kondo? Not quite. Allow yourself to do little jobs but restrict them to short breaks or ‘after work’ or you’ll lose hours shredding old utility bills from 2003, just, you know, as an example.
DON’T worry about having a fancy workstation, but do think about your back and bum. If you don’t want to get up from your desk looking like a sclerotic shrimp, you have to get ergonomic — but don’t fret about expensive gear. Stack books to elevate the screen to your eyeline, organise a makeshift footrest, set alarms for regular breaks to stand and move around, imagine squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades, stretch not just shoulders and neck but hamstrings and calves.
DO buy your snacks in little kiddie-style packets or apportion them out in your own containers. If you have children, you’ll be accustomed to eating small portions of things that look cute in your grown-up hands. But individual packets and containers will keep you from tearing through 5,000 calories of Mini Cheddars in the space of 4.5 minutes — especially important as our usual workout routines have been replaced with jumping around in front of our computers.
DO have a proper lunch. Stop at a set time. Make yourself a real, non-grazing lunch. A sandwich fixed just the way you like it. A salad with those vegetables you need to finish off. Last night’s takeaway, fully heated and eaten with real silverware. Hell, put it on an actual plate and garnish it with a little parley sprig. The world’s gone mad but we’re not savages yet.
DO accept you are always a whisper away from masturbating. No problem! And no reason to feel guilty. It reduces stress, boosts concentration, releases endorphins, relieves cramps, may be related to a reduced risk of cervical and prostate cancer, contributes to a good night’s sleep…all a lot better for you than another cup of coffee or a vape. Come to think of it, why not take your well-deserved screen break right now?