Antisocial Distancing: The Best Worst Advice on Working from Home
As the COVID19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, it’s causing sickness, death, and economic damage. It’s also resulted in a new recommended behavior: “Social distancing,” which means we’re supposed to stay six feet apart from each other at all times.
In response, countless corporations are sending employees home to work – which has generated another reaction: an explosion of articles about how to be effective when you’re not in the office. I reviewed several of these articles and found some of the advice particularly funny or just plain odd. Here are some of my favorite examples:
Create work triggers for your brain.thinkwithgoogle.com (e.g., Google)
I’m not actually sure what this means. The thought of work triggers my brain to turn off, so I can’t relate to the example, “Schedule a separate time to do laundry instead of tackling it while you’re finishing a work presentation.” Are these euphemisms for, “time to binge Netflix?”
Set water-tight physical boundaries around your designated workspace that is off-limits for housemates.Forbes
When I was a kid, we referred to this as “building a fort.” Also, who’s going to believe you’ve banned access to your inner sanctum because you want to work? Talk about suspicious behavior – how’s the meth lab coming, pal?
Turn off the telephone when you need to work without distraction. Turn off IM and email notifications, too. In fact, if possible, shut off the Internet.Zenhabits.net
Excellent advice. At a time when you are more separated from your coworkers than ever before, why not make it impossible for them to communicate with you?
Don’t work an eight-hour day. Your attention might start to wander, you’ll be restless, and your work won’t have its normal level of quality.Zenhabits.net
Why didn’t I think of this when I worked in an office? Oh yeah – because my boss would have helped me out by having me work zero hours per day. Permanently.
Don’t start cleaning projects you can’t finish in 1 day.theartofsimple.com
Having worked from home for years, I can honestly report that never has a multiday cleaning project prevented me from achieving my goals. Your mileage may vary.
Keep a distraction around, but out of the way.Lifehack.org
I guess you want to keep your distraction out of the way so it’s not a…distraction? I’m missing the point here.
Finding grounding every morning is [how I] start my day; I use meditation and visualizations. Afterwards, I set clear intentions on what I want to accomplish and action steps. A Pilates class at 9 a.m., lunch at 1 p.m., etc. Scheduling group remote activities keeps my spirits up.Harper’s Bazaar
To be clear, this is not “working from home.” This is “not working from home.”
Put Fido to work.inc.com
The author claims dogs reduce stress and increase productivity. Someone needs to tell our hound dog, Marty, who howls at eardrum-destroying levels at the slightest provocation – like a train whistle, a siren or our cat, Phil, meowing loudly (I’m not making this up). This does not lower my stress or help my productivity. Of course, the author of this column also has a parrot named Lucy, with, “impeccable timing with her comical comments.” That’ll liven up those conference calls!
Make a stoplight for family members. Tape the red light up when you cannot be disturbed and the green light when it’s OK to come in. Yellow light means to check first.Arise Virtual Solutions
If I taped a picture of a red light on my door, I’d soon find it taped the other way around, facing me. The message would be clear: Don’t come out of your office until you apologize for putting up this stupid sign.
Popular Worst Practices
Lots of these columns carry similar advice on a variety of topics, like “dress up as if you were going to work,” and “set regular office hours.”
Personally, I enjoy dressing casually, and it’s one of the benefits of working from home.
And setting “office hours” has never worked for me. Seventeen years ago, I read the book, “Getting Started in Consulting,” by Alan Weiss. It’s full of great advice but one of the best sections is, “Ten Time Investment Tips.” No. 1 is:
Integrate your professional life and your personal life. You only have a single life. Don’t compartmentalize, trying to create 8-, 10- or 12-hour workdays. If you feel like writing an article on Saturday afternoon, do it. If you want to see your daughter’s dance recital on Wednesday morning, do that. A week has an enormous amount of time if it’s not arbitrarily chopped up and apportioned.Alan Weiss
We all have commitments to customers and teams that restrict our flexibility. But why restrict it further, artificially, because someone wrote that you should have set office hours when working from home? I found Alan Weiss’s advice to be extremely helpful, and I hope you will, too.
Happy and Healthy
No advice column can really give you an exact prescription on how to work productively and happily from home (or anywhere else, for that matter). But the writer of the Lifehack.org column had the best advice I read on the subject:
“Do whatever the hell makes you happy.”Lifehack.org
To which I’d add, “…and healthy!” That’s the reason we’re social distancing in the first place.