Work in the age of coronavirus

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 3/17/20

Have you been asked to work from home for a while, or even for the foreseeable future, given the uncertainly of the coronavirus? Even if this request comes as a surprise, you can work from home …

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Work in the age of coronavirus

Posted

Have you been asked to work from home for a while, or even for the foreseeable future, given the uncertainly of the coronavirus? Even if this request comes as a surprise, you can work from home without a massive loss of productivity … or sanity.

For more than 15 years, I’ve had a home office, either as a remote worker or as a freelancer. And, even all those years ago, we held team and client meetings via conference call, chatted on instant messenger, and swirled documents around the globe in cyberspace.

Then Skype appeared, and then Facetime, and and and … the opportunities to be virtually present today are nearly limitless. We use Microsoft Teams at the global corporation where I work as a contractor, and I had my first experience with Zoom for a virtual writing workshop over the weekend. Sites such as SharePoint, Dropbox, Basecamp, Slack and any number of cloud providers make it easy to see, hear, talk, collaborate and work pretty much as if we’re all in the same room.

I’m something of an old hand at this, so I’ve accumulated the tools, the equipment and the mindset needed for this arrangement. Whether you plan on a more permanent situation or the current state of affairs means you’re trying the work-remotely thing for the first time, here are some tips I’ve learned.

First, and perhaps most importantly, remember that the concept is work from home, not work as home. Resist the temptation to just keep going because it’s easy to do so. I admit, this is one principle that’s hard for me, because much of my own work-from-homeness is as a freelancer, when flexibility to plug away at all hours is a benefit. But if you generally have set hours to be in your office, be sure to observe those from home, too.

In terms of your physical space, it’s obviously easier if you have a room for a home “office,” but even if you’re in this for just as long as you have to be, carve out a place specifically for your work. Usually this means a corner of a room or a patch of space where you’re likely to be undisturbed (but, on the other hand, if your toddler or your four-legged friend wanders in during videoconference calls, for example, you could become an Internet sensation.)

Seriously, though, any space that is appropriately quiet and appropriately private for your type of work is what you need. I once built a desk out of wire shelving on wheels that rolled in and out of a coat closet. Maintain good ergonomics, too … screen height, keyboard level and proper chair support are important for comfortable and productive work at home.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for when your kids are home because schools are closed and you need to care for them as well as do your job. Or for when that document you really need is sitting printed out on your desk back at the office, or your latest password change is on a sticky note attached to your computer screen.

But, consider this: although I personally don’t have the desire to work in my jammies, your home setting does allow for more comfortable attire. … just remember those videoconferences.

Stay safe, everyone, and wash your hands.

Andrea Doray is a writer who loves a commute that only involves a trip down downstairs for a cup of coffee. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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