Working From Home
Working from home seems like all the rage these days. Even Scott, who is not typically one to follow trends and actually scoffs at them, has been working from home. Not by choice mind you, but still.
"I didn't really enjoy it, to be honest," Scott proclaimed at the end of his first week.
As his fellow (self-identified) co-worker, I was slightly taken aback. He didn't enjoy me bringing him snacks at 10am everyday or catching a quick kip together after lunch? Pfft.
Actually, he did enjoy those bits. Turns out Scott is a social creature — just not around people we know in a non-professional setting. i.e. my friends. (To be fair to Scott, my friends and I regress to our giggly and shouty 16-year-old selves whenever we get together, which I imagine, can be rather disorientating.) We've always preferred to keep to ourselves on weekends, turning down brunch dates with other couples and feigning prior commitments whenever an invitation to partake in a fun group activity pops up — even before all this social distancing hooha — but work Scott really thrives on being around likeminded people to talk world domination (business development) and numbers (pricing strategy). Fortunately, we aren't on a complete lockdown yet so the option to go into the office for a few hours here and there during the week helps abate his restlessness arising from this recent lack of mentally-stimulating interaction.
As someone who has enjoyed the privilege of working from home for the past year (and I say this very, very, very loosely), I see myself as some kind of pro, actually. I know all the productivity traps — because I've fallen for each of them at one point or another. So, here are a few handy tips and best practices so you don't have to make the same mistakes I did.
1. Have a routine
We are creatures of habit after all. Scott and I get up between 6:30-7am daily, regardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend because we are morning people. It is when we have the most energy and feel most inspired. We have breakfast together before Scott goes off to his work station and I go out into the garden. Depending on the day and weather conditions, my tasks vary between watering, weeding, pruning, mulching, building trellises, seed sowing, transplanting, harvesting, seed saving, and pest control. If I have a nasi ulam order or workshop that day, I skip the garden and work in the kitchen instead. (Although in this COVID-19 day and age, we've put both on hold for the time being.)
I do computer stuff from 10am to noon, because it's too hot to be outside at that time anyway. Some days I am writing grant applications or putting together pitch decks for potential clients. Other days I am creating graphics for marketing purposes or for events. I haven't been actively pursuing any new projects lately so apart from a handful of emails that take me no longer than half an hour to get through, there is not much else that needs doing. I spend the rest of my 'computer time' scouring the internet for whatever I happen to be interested in that day. How do banana leaves happen? What are the layers in a green roof? How to make natural sunscreen? Why does my tomato plant suddenly die? What is 'bank branch code' and what is it for? What is herd immunity? (Because I like to pretend I'm informed.)
I eat lunch some time between 12-1pm. I'm fortunate to be living at home with my parents who have a helper, so lunch is usually taken care of by my mum (a housewife) and helper. I don't involve myself unless it is something fun like Hakka yong tau foo or Hokkien mee or mee siam. I've realised that the best way to learn how to cook is by being in the kitchen.
2. Communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you "We can play mahjong!" my mum exclaimed when she found out Scott was going to be working from home for the week. "... But I still have to work," Scott said. "Oh," mum said. 3. Take clear breaks and set a definitive finishing time each day I am a firm believer of frequent snacking throughout the day, and like clockwork, my stomach will rumble at 10am and then again at 3pm. Taking it as my cue, I'll wander into the kitchen in search of some Marmite on toast, cheese and crackers, CRISPS (my favourite), fruit, or yogurt and nuts. 15 minutes is all it takes to make a snack (or open a bag of crisps), eat it, chat with whoever is around the kitchen, and wash up after myself. I typically call it a day at 3pm but those couple of hours after lunch are usually when things get a bit hazy for me — the heat of the day, food coma, most pressing issues on my to-do list already cleared. I'm always tempted to just put my feet up and take a nap, but as much as possible try to stay awake and keep active. I make jam, make pesto, brew kombucha, experiment with some pickling, draw naked ladies (a favourite past time), design my dream garden (another favourite past time), whatever. For those unable to work from home but still find themselves confined to the spaces of their living quarters, hopefully this time provides you the much needed respite from grind culture. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, and reflection are all essential parts of a meaningful and happy life. Boredom will probably come knocking on your door, but try to remember how profoundly lucky you are to be just that: bored during a pandemic. What a privileged life!