The Workin’ From Home Blues

It’s 9 a.m. and you’re sitting in your home office, your second cup of coffee cooling on the desk, and no pants on. You must be new to this “Work From Home” thing. Or “WTF” as the cool kids say.

Those of us who spend our days staring down the laptop screen, doing chair yoga, fending off barking dogs and probing cat paws, while dousing our eyeballs with dry eye drops welcome you.

We know you office social butterflies who flutter around the workplace kitchen Keurig and complain because someone forgot to buy non-fat creamer are going nuts at this point. Buck up, you’re only a few weeks in. If you’re an introvert, you can’t hide your smirk. Introverts have spent a lifetime getting ready for this.

We understand you have no routine, maybe your kids are home, you have four-legged office mates that have strong opinions about going pee and eating snacks. You are living on the edge of chaos. You might be working your way toward 12 cups of coffee a day with a side of Oreos. Can we help?

We know most of you weren’t prepared to go from the sprawl of your office desk to the dining room table. Frankly, some of us fell for the charm of a vintage library table or lugged home a desk that came in a box with a few bits missing. We understand how you can wind up with hunched shoulders, a turtle neck from squinting at the screen, and a permanently numb rump. We are simpatico with your pain. If you can find a space where no one will mess with your collection of used coffee cups and Post-It notes, capture it. Make it your own. And, no, this is not temporary.

Next, we want to encourage you to never under-estimate the value of office mates. Acting like a grown up when you actually are a grown up cannot be under-estimated either. If you think the office culture is bad, your two and four-legged menagerie have by now figured out you are an easy target. You must be firm. Yelling will not help.

Remember the British diplomat who was working from home and doing an interview on the BBC and his kid in the bouncy chair burst in just as he was making a Very Important Point? That is now you. Every conference call is an opportunity to scream, wail, bark, meow, chew on the laptop cord, knock your notes onto the floor, or disconnect you. If you have to use Skype, Zoom, or any other video conferencing programs for a big ol’ collaborative effort, you can kiss your credibility goodbye.

Eating at your desk is a thing of the past. No more wondering who burned the popcorn or who brought in the tuna salad for lunch. Your new office mates will lick their lips and stare at each forkful. Children and animals are people watchers. Stalkers, actually. Some of us have learned the hard way that even keeping snacks at the desk is an invitation to persistent barking and the meddling of small paws. Go eat in the kitchen.

Get up, make your bed, and dress for the office. This is not the time for your Star Wars pajama bottoms, bunny scuffies, or a lapse in personal hygiene. Working from home is serious business. Dress for success.

You must resist the urge to roam around and call it “thinking up a project idea,” turn on Netflix to peruse its educational content, or look at all the cute UPSDogs on Instagram. Be vigilant. The Boss is watching.

You may find yourself at a loss at the beginning and end of the day because you no longer have to risk your life playing bumper cars on the work journey. Call your insurance company and tell them you are now working from home and the car is not leaving the driveway. Ask for a discount based on low miles driven. They hate it when people ask. But too bad. Be firm.

Working from home used to be the domain of rebels, rogues, introverts, shady guys selling bitcoin or pretending to be a Nigerian prince, and IT nerds. If you told anyone you were a “freelancer” it meant you couldn’t hold a steady job, the kind your parents wanted you to get and never leave. The old “go in young and come out old” way of looking at work. If you ever sat at your desk at the office wondering “is this all there is,” now’s your chance. Welcome. You’re now working from home. WFH. Get used to it. Don’t fight it. You’ll never want to go back.

About Phyllis Alberici

Hanging a few lanterns in the darkness. Let me know how it's going.
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