Your Guide To Working From Home (...Or The Library, Or A Coffee Shop)

Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. (Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash)

By Andy Cheatwood and Jessica P. Ogilvie

Thanks to coronavirus precautions, a lot of daily office-goers are finding themselves suddenly working from home. If you have kids, loud roommates, space-consuming partners or particularly excitable dogs, "working from home" might really mean working from a library, coffee shop or friend's house.

That means getting used to a whole new workday, which is a very big change. To that end, we've put together some helpful tips to assist you in making the transition from office to... elsewhere. Here they are:

  1. Track your work time, and try to keep your normal hours. It is extremely easy to overwork, and that's not a good thing. Set up a clock, put a timer on your phone or, if you are so technologically inclined, time your lights to turn on and off to indicate when you should start and stop.

  2. Consistent, clear communication is imperative. No one can see if you've rolled into the office now, so use Slack, Gchat or whatever communication tool your workplace uses to indicate when you've arrived, stepped away from your desk, gone into a meeting, clocked out for lunch or a break, or any other status that takes you offline, even briefly.

  3. Avoid complicated conversations in email threads. If you have questions or topics to discuss, big or small, don't use email. Email is primarily for conveying information. A chat or instant messaging tool is best for quick conversations and coordination. Deeper, sensitive, or more complex discussions should happen via video call. And speaking of which...

  4. Get used to video calls. It's awkward at first, but that wears off quickly. Try to avoid non-visual audio calls; face-to-face discussions are much more effective, and clearly allow you to convey mood, tone, and all those subtle body language things that we take for granted (and that allow us to avoid misunderstandings). Figure out which video call program works best for your team, and use it often. Also, find a place in your home or workspace where you can have those calls undistracted - and for God's sake, if you're in a coffee shop or library, find someplace where you won't be bothering other people.

  5. Take breaks. Every two to three hours, at minimum. It can be short, but get up, move around, get a snack, walk your dog, do a sun salutation, meditate, et cetera. Find something that clears your mind.

  6. If you are sick, do not work. Just because you can sit in bed with your laptop doesn't mean you should. You won't spread germs to your co-workers, but when you're sick you don't think or perform well, and that's no good to the business. Know thyself and take thy sick days when it's appropriate.

  7. Get dressed, at least a little bit. It's going to be very tempting to stay in your PJ's all day, and then maybe into the next day, and then, what the hell, the next three days. Resist the urge. Especially if you're accustomed to getting up and going to the office - where, presumably, you have to be dressed - getting out of your dino jammies and into a clean shirt and pants is a signal to your brain that it's time to start the day.

  8. Let go of the impulse to not want to bother someone. Being overly careful to ask for help or check in can be polite, but also detrimental in a virtual office space. If you normally would visit someone's desk at the office for a question or for something you need, you should feel free to "visit" them through virtual channels. And if interruptions annoy you or you need to go heads down, turn on Do Not Disturb and update your status.