Alec and I have been working from home since last March. That’s over 10 months and oh boy have we learned a lot. Prior to the onset of the pandemic we used to work from home sporadically, but transitioning to every, single day was an adjustment.
During this time, we have tried many different desk configurations. We have three adults working in a small townhome with competing schedules and video calls to manage. I started at a small desk in our bedroom, Alec was at his computer desk in our loft area, and our roommate was at the kitchen island. This setup worked for a short time, until it didn’t. I couldn’t stand being in the same room day and night - talk about cabin fever. Our roommate also wasn’t comfortable at the island. We each would move around the house from room to room to take calls; for privacy and for a change of scenery. After a few months of this we decided to try something new, rearrange, and build some furniture.
The small desk was moved to the living room for our roommate. This allowed our bedroom to go back to just being where we rest and relax and our roommate to have an actual work space. Alec and I decided to share the loft office, but the desk wasn’t big enough for two. We searched online for something bigger, IKEA, target, etc. However, we didn’t want to waste money when we weren’t sure how long this WFH situation would last and we knew we would be moving to a new home soon.
So, Alec and I channeled our inner handymen. We went to Home Depot and picked out a butcher block counter top with a beautiful wood grain. A few table legs, brackets, and screws later and we had everything we needed. Honestly, we had a blast building our new desk! It was fun working together to create something we needed. Now Alec and I share a lovely 7ft long desk in the loft. Obviously, we can’t take phone calls sitting right next to each other. But it hasn’t been as difficult as you’d think. Most of the time our calls don’t overlap, and if they do, one of us just find another room. Finding our respective spaces was the first step in making this WFH environment productive.
Another thing that has helped us survive WFH is investing in our equipment. Let me tell you - a comfy, ergonomic chair makes a huge difference. A long day sitting in a bad chair gave me such back pain. I mean, I know I’m getting older but man it was rough. Alec being a gamer has always believed in using a quality mouse and keyboard. I didn’t really think there was a big difference, that is until I tried them. Typing on Cherry MX Reds is very satisfying. I will warn you, the keys are much louder than your average keyboard. But, they are so light and easy to press it makes my typing that much faster. Getting a quality keyboard can change your life. Typing for hours a day can take a toll if you have bad keyboard keys. Razer gaming makes great keyboards, and so does Ducky. The main thing that sold us in investing in our equipment is the sheer amount of time we spend using them. Eight hours a day, five days a week - plus if you use your home desk set up for your personal computer as well you will be using them even more. We won't count the time Alec spends gaming and using his peripherals after work hours.
All that being said, I think the biggest way to thrive while WFH is to set boundaries. Boundaries on time. There is no more commute to help separate myself from the work. It’s easy to continue sitting at my desk and working through meals or late into the night. At work, I used to take walks outside and eat lunch with coworkers in the cafeteria. These breaks were essential to keeping me focused throughout the day. Without them, the burnout can come in fast.
Now that we are WFH for the foreseeable future, it is so important to remember to step away. It’s helped me to set an expected start and end time to my work. To get up from my desk at lunch and eat at a table. I know meetings often get scheduled around midday so lunch doesn’t have to be at the same exact time everyday. But don’t wait until it’s 3:00pm - I’ve ruined my dinner a few times doing that. Also, a personal side request: try not to eat during a meeting unless your on mute. Loud chewing is only amplified now that we’re all wearing headphones. I’ve found it helpful to try and get those walks in still even at home. If you have a dog like Valor, I’m sure they would love a 5 minute stroll.
When it’s time to end work, sign off and close that laptop. Get up from your work station and go do something active, get your body moving and release whatever stress you have. If you have your work email on your phone like I do I know it can be tempting to check those notifications. But if it’s after work hours and it’s not an emergency, leave it alone. It will still be there tomorrow when your start time rolls around again.
As far as Alec and I have been told by our employers, this WFH isn’t going away anytime soon. I actually really enjoy it now, I was never a fan of my traffic filled commute. If and when we start to go back into the office, I hope to keep working from home on a more regular basis. We have survived the first 10 months and found our rhythm. I do miss my coworkers, but hey now I have some great new ones at home!
What has helped you survive WFH so far?