Advice for working from home

I haven’t figured out yet how to stop the feeling that every organ is about to explode from anxiety, but I do have advice for you if you’ll be working from home and are concerned about adjusting to the solitude, absence of people and hubbub, and the significantly shorter commute (unless your home is huge, I guess).

I’ve been working from home on my own since early 2005. I had been prepped for it all my life – my model for employment was my father, who is a sculptor and thus has spent most days since 1973 by himself in a studio, welding bits of metal together and not even taking a break to mess about on Facebook. He’s not on Facebook. The nearest he has come to social networking was when in the 1980s he used to record letters onto cassette, send them to his old college buddies in South Africa, and maybe a couple of months later receive a response. THAT was his Facebook. Perhaps the sculptures are all the social contact he needs.

BTW: bear in mind, I do not have children. I’m sure working from home with children requires a specialised take. My dad dealt with it by marrying my mother and deciding it was her problem.

TIP 1: Get dressed.

Just because you CAN wear your oldest, stainedest pyjamas to work doesn’t mean you should. Your work isn’t less significant than usual, it’s just in different circumstances. Confer some respect for the task from the outside in. Garments with some structure will make you feel like less of a schlub – a waistband or shoulders with seams would suffice, you don’t need to wear a corset and ruff. Although, turning up on a video conference call wearing full Queen Elizabeth I garb would be one hell of a flex.

TIP 2: if you want to work in bed, work in bed.

A lot of the working from home advice tells you not to work in bed. “Don’t associate your bed with work, else when it’s time for bed you won’t be able to go to sleep!” However. I work in bed pretty often. For a start, it’s sometimes the only place warm enough that I can type. Plus, it’s acoustically absorbent when I’m recording. The morning commute is fantastic. The relaxed posture can beget a more relaxed state of mind for the work. But also, the past few years I’ve been travelling a lot, usually living in one room, so sometimes the only places to sit are the bed or the toilet. And “if you associate the toilet with work, when it’s time for toilet you won’t be able etc etc.”

TIP 3: If you don’t have to keep to a set schedule, figure out your own schedule.

Which times of day do you work best? And when are you most suited for particular tasks? Me, I’m shit in the mornings, so it’s best if I use that time for tasks that don’t require any creativity or decision-making, or if I do what other people might do in the evenings – life admin, socialising, watching TV, reading the internet. My brain kicks in around 3pm; my best time for creative work is really from around 7pm till 3am, which is very inconvenient but the later it is, I’m too tired to keep resisting the task I’ve been resisting during sensible waking hours.

I’m not recommending this timetable to you, I’m just relaying how it is.

TIP 4: Nap.

If you want. But only for 20 minutes. And not in bed, because that’s either for proper sleep or work (see above). I favour a sofa. My dad has a little wicker napping chair in his studio, I guess the creaking wakes him up before he gets in too deep.

TIP 5: Fake distraction

If you’re used to working with or around other people, working at home might feel eerily quiet or lonely. This can lead you to seek distraction, and therefore not get work done, so: preemptively create your distraction. Put on something like a radio or TV show or podcast that doesn’t annoy you but isn’t so interesting that you start paying attention to it. For example: reruns of Escape To The Country. Gentle music, shots of British gardens bathed in watery sunshine, Alistair Appleton in a nice clean sweater, househunters who always speak in pleasantly dull monotones; and you won’t get stressed because the biggest problem of the nice couple looking for a retirement home in Wiltshire in 2014 will be whether the house comes with an Aga or not. No danger of getting sucked into that. Now get to work.

(PS I hope you’re OK. I made a special episode of the Allusionist for self-soothing and anxiety-quelling; in case you need it, it’s here: theallusionist.org/tranquillusionist.)

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