When I decided to relaunch here, I planned a helpful post full of tips on working from home. The way I figured it, a whole lot of people accustomed to office life have recently been forced into makeshift workspaces in their houses and apartments. I spent much of my 6 1/2-year tenure at USA Today working remotely, and I thought maybe readers could benefit from my experience.
Then I realized, wait a minute: I’m unemployed! How am I going to give people advice about how to succeed while working from home when I demonstrably could not do it myself?
And, truth be told, none of my best or most productive days at USA Today came while working from my apartment. I always did my best work on location or in coffee shops. If that job — and my enthusiasm for it — died by a million pinpricks and a couple sucker-punches, working remotely was undoubtedly one of the pinpricks. I think I kind of stink at working from home. It’s boring. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but I think I actually prefer human interaction to not wearing pants.
The only good advice I could give to someone working remotely would be to get out and go to a coffee shop, and for a lot of people that’s not currently an option. It’s too bad, because I have a really good mental map of Manhattan coffee shops with ample seating, reliable wifi and clean bathrooms.
Here are four bad pieces of advice for working at home:
1) Plan to exercise later: It might be nice to go out for a jog or a ride or a skate or a power-walk first thing in the morning to get your blood pumping. But that also sounds like a lot of work, and your TV is right there. Plus, you’ve got to eat breakfast! Why not plan to exercise later, and enjoy some television now while you eat your breakfast? And then, when breakfast is done, continue enjoying some television because you might as well finish the show.
Now that you’ve watched the show, you definitely don’t have time to exercise before starting work, but you can always exercise in the evening when you’re done. Or tomorrow, I guess. Tomorrow sounds good. You’ll start exercising tomorrow, for real.
2) Always be snacking: Portion control is tempting, and one might even suggest you’ll eat less and be more productive while working from home if you transfer any snacks you’re going to eat into little bowls before taking them to your work area. But you show me someone the person who suggested that, and I’ll show you a sucker with an extra dish to clean.
Eat right out of the bag, baby! You’re cutting out a needless step — that’s just efficiency — and as an added bonus, an empty potato chip bag makes for a handy trash bag for the detritus of the rest of the snacks you’re going to eat in the day, since you’re best served lazily munching on junk food for nine straight hours instead of taking the time to prepare and enjoy a proper meal. Some trash is inevitably going to spill out of your makeshift trash bag onto your desk, but luckily that fits nicely with Tip #3.
3) Wallow in your own filth: My dad worked from home my entire life — still does, matter of fact — and started every day by taking a shower, putting on a button-down shirt and khaki pants, and heading upstairs to the room in the attic that served as his office.
What’d he do all that for? Since there’s a chance you’re going to exercise in the evening, it’s downright wasteful to shower and get dressed now. Stay in your sweatpants. Are they starting to stink? Nah, that’s you. But you’re not going to see anybody anyway. Try to avoid mirrors.
4) Take everything personally, say nothing, and let it fester: Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you have to be the squeaky wheel. It’s often hard to gauge someone’s tone in electronic communication, but if you feel like some offhand comment in a work chatroom or supervisory oversight is a personal slight, it almost certainly is, and you should definitely take it that way. Don’t bother following up, either. Just stew. Let it eat at you over time. It’s just more evidence of how little they appreciate you and all the hard work you’ve done. To hell with them, really.