When I first started to figure out how to work from home six years ago there weren’t nearly as many resources as there are now. I had worked from home here and there for a few hours previously for one company, but through the use of a VPN and a specialized virtual / remote desktop program that blew my mind. Of course, that particular company dealt with sensitive personal information because we filed and managed bankruptcy claims on behalf of financial institutions, corporations, and debt buyers. We were into data security before I really understood its importance because I didn’t have a whole lot to do with legal tech…and it was shortly before the shit hit the proverbial fan and I had to get a permanent VPO against the ex where he, among many other extremely dangerous things, destroyed my laptop, stole information and data, and, well I have CPTSD now. It’s one of the reasons I work from home.
So, I’ve been at this a long fucking time, especially in dog years. Now because of COVID-19 schools are closing down, the NBA is temporarily suspended, weirdos are hoarding shit that has nothing to do with it….and businesses are sending employees just like to work from home. And most people react in one of two ways:
- This is gonna be fucking amazing!
- This is fucking terrifying!
As someone who has worked from home for six years, here’s what you need to know about how not to go bat shit crazy.
Recognize You’ve Already Won the Battle
You have an employer. You’re not starting a business. You’re not a freelancer. You’re a remote employee. Learning how to work from home is a change in environment. It’s March…so you’re probably dealing with spring break if you have school-age kids. Working from home for most of us who are parents of school age parents mean it is always bring your kid to work day. And since many schools are cancelling classes are a precaution to protect the children from COVID-19, I’m presuming that most day cares are doing it as well. I have no idea. Just a presumption.
But…we’ll address the spawn factor in a moment. You aren’t dealing with the issue of advertising your services or looking for clients. You know what you need to do. You don’t have someone micromanaging you. In my opinion, that’s one of the best things about working from home. You don’t have that one annoying coworker that doesn’t pull their weight leaving their shit for you to do. They have to do their fucking work.
Stick to Your Regular Work Schedule (Because Your Boss Probably Expects It)
One of the most important things to know about how to work from home so you don’t go crazy is to stick to a fucking schedule. It’s something I talk about. I even put it in my book. I even made a fucking planner. A schedule is important. One of the biggest issues those of us who work from home regularly deal with is that people think we don’t actually work. And it’s bullshit. I kinda think some of yall are about to learn a very important lesson. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Stick to your regular work schedule. Your boss probably expects you to do so. More importantly, it will help you feel less likely to feel like you’re going nuts. Yeah, it’s nice at first to think about the fact that you can do what you want when you want, but the new of that does wear off especially when you have work with deadlines…and most of us do. I know I do. That “do it later” mentality leads to rushed work and a lot of problems. So, do yourself a favor and stick to your regular work schedule.
Nice Weather? Laptop? Sit Outside or Open the Windows!
If the weather is nice enough and if you have a laptop with a good battery life, the right software, and (if your battery sucks like mine does) a good extension cord, take your shit and go sit outside. On Thursday, it was 75. I sat out in the backyard with my dogs for about three hours while I worked. I have an indoor / outdoor extension cord of 50 feet. It was glorious. Once the dogs decided they were tired and hot, we came back in and I opened the windows. Bean Bean is a black and brown min pin. Crom is a blue nose pit. Pandora is a fluffy akita mix. I left the back door open, the ceiling fans on, and had plenty of water out for them…but they were ready to come in. And we did. Yeah, there are days those fuckers call the shots. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Getting some fresh air and sunshine (or just some fresh air) can help you feel a little more human.
Dealing with the Spawn Factor
My sons are 21 years old, 19 years, old, and 10 years old. Only the 10 year old lives at home. I worked in higher education and in the legal industry when they were school age and then created this digital agency business when they were older teenagers. When I realized that my 10 year old, who is my bonus baby, was non-verbal that was yet another reason that I knew that working in a traditional environment wouldn’t work. No way was he going to day care. No fucking way.
When my older sons were younger, I always took off on spring break. My Aunt G always took off during my spring break. My cousin, her son, was my age. We wen to the zoo, to the Science Museum, and did all kinds of fun things. That’s what I did with my boys. And we also just hung around the house. We did crafts, we played board games, we played outside, we went geocaching. I am used to being around my children. In fact, when the older two got, well, older…I went through a big adjustment. Huge. I am very proud of the men they are, though.
Anyway…the spawn factor. It’s spring break for many and there’s not a lot you can do to get them out of the house because many places are shutting down because of COVID. You’ll need to get creative. Please don’t let the TV, the internet, YouTube, the PlayStation, the XBox, the Nintendo Switch, etc., babysit them. I know you need a moment of peace. I know. My 10 year old has echolalia. I may hear the same sentence for 10 hours straight. And he doesn’t give a shit about the internet or video games. I get it, okay?
Age appropriate activities.
Babies…they can be very tricky. If you have a spouse or significant other, you may get to play the game of “pass the baby” and “amuse the baby” while the baby is awake so you can both get some work done (if you both work) if the baby isn’t able to self-soothe or otherwise wants attention. And babies are babies. And I promise it is just a season and before you know it they are 21 and 19 and 10.
Toddlers…age appropriate crafts and activities. Pinterest is a gold mine and you may have a lot of stuff around the house that you can use. Sit in the floor while they play. If you have a laptop, you can watch them while they play. Make eye contact. Let them play with your hair. Help them dress dolls. You’ll have to multitask a little bit.
School age children…give them things to do. Let them help you around the house and make them feel as if they are helping you and that it’s not just more chores. Explain some of your work. Explain the significance of what is happening without scaring them. Teach them self-sufficiency. Make it a time of extra family bonding.
There will still be times where you are frustrated. And they will still get bored. They are children. You might talk with your supervisor because, depending on how long the overall shutdown of everything lasts, some flexibility and working hours may need to be given. It might be easier for parents of babies and toddlers to work alternate hours when they’re asleep. Which will come with its own set of issues.
Make Time for Things You Enjoy
Learning how to work from home is stressful. Being cooped up for most people is stressful. I don’t mind being at home. I don’t feel cooped up. Your children not being able to go to school and you being stuck at home and having to work at the same time can be stressful. For your own sanity, is imperative that you make time to do things you enjoy. If you don’t, you’re just asking to lose your shit.
Work out, cross stitch, crochet, start a cult. I dunno. Just do something you enjoy. Make it a priority.