Few tips on working from home

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Mar 18, 2020

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Full disclosure: I deliberately exclude any kids-related advice here, because I have two of my own and can barely deal with them 🙂

Up until very recently a desire to work from home developed gradually. You would talk to a friend who does that, you would imagine working in your PJ’s or not commuting at all. You then talked to your manager (or sometimes left the company to start free-lancing) and started working some time from home.

Now, however, with the global outbreak of COVID-19 more and more employers are limiting their employees’ access to the office and mandating working from home policy. All of a sudden, people who never considered staying at home and being productive are urged to do so.

I have been working from home full-time for almost two years and had maintained a proper home office for many years before.

Read on and hopefully some mistakes I have made, will be insightful and/or funny to you.

Work, but don’t stay at home [all the time]

Now that the commute is gone and interactions with colleagues have been reduced to corporate messengers/video-conferencing tools (email, Slack, Hangouts and many others), how do you stay sane?

When you are in the office, you typically walk to the kitchen, washroom, meetings, step outside to buy lunch. For most of us, you don’t move as much in a typical house.

So it is important to go for a walk, even for 15 minutes around the neighborhood, park or trail. A breath of fresh air, a little bit of sun, a little bit of wind and surrounding sounds will greatly improve your wellness.

Get a comfortable chair

A lot of tech-companies are proud of the fact that they only buy Herman Miller chairs for their office. Those are the best chairs! Long hours spent working should be comfortable and cannot sacrifice your health!

One of the most popular model, Herman Miller Aeron will cost around $1,400 depending on the store. While that’s a very sizable price tag, it will be a great investment in your back and comfort. They are also incredibly reliable – I have clients who own Aeron’s from the 90’s.

If Herman Miller seems out of range for you, there are some very decent alternatives.

Space Seating AirGrid is one of them and only costs about $350.

Coffee and naps

If you have a good espresso machine at home, resist visiting it every hour. With easy access to very cheap coffee, it may be tempting to treat yourself too often.

Coffee is one of my go-to beverages, ranking strong second after water. My personal caffeine tolerance is rather high, so I can comfortably drink between 5-8 espresso shots in a single day without any side-effects.

Others, however, will have hard time falling asleep after 1 or 2.

If you can avoid drinking coffee, it is best to do so. A great alternative would be going outside for 15 minutes. Another amazing way to recover is take a short nap, between 15 to 30 minutes.

I find that 15 minute naps work better for me. Anything longer and I don’t feel the same energy. If you go over 30 minutes, you risk falling into the REM sleep cycle, which lasts about 90 minutes. If you don’t finish the full 90 minute cycle then, you may wake up feeling groggy and tired.

However, if you are seriously sleep-deprived and have time for a full 90 minute nap, it will provide a lot of energy and focus for you to last until bedtime.

Pajamas

Yes, they are comfortable. Yes, everyone wears them. No, you shouldn’t wear them during work hours even in your house.

It is best to wear what you would wear in a typical office environment. That way, you are telling your brain that you are getting ready to work and be productive.

I know a person, who stopped going to the office a few years ago. However, he still shaves every day, puts on a full suit, takes his briefcase, goes around the block for 10 minutes and then returns home to be productive during the day. It works for him.

Depending on your work habits, you don’t have to go that far.

Just, please, don’t work in your PJ’s!

Expenses – some may be deductible

If you foresee that you may work from home for a long period of time, speak to your employer about amending your contract.

When your contract stipulates working from home, your employer will provide you with a T2200 form to go along your personal tax return.

The form will enable you to deduct certain expenses from your taxable income. While some items cannot be be deducted in full, a portion of utilities, maintenance, insurance and property taxes (for commission-based employees) can be deducted.

Talk to your colleagues and friends

Everyone will have their own recipe to the success in working from home.

Share your story with people close to you and collect their feedback. It is important to do that with your coworkers also, as it will set the right expectations from your response time and how accessible you can be during the day.

Stay positive!