As Americans begin hunkering down and battening the hatches to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus, Jason Gay counsel WSJ readers on some of the finer points of working from home.
It’s the right thing to do. You might feel fine, but think of your older and vulnerable neighbors, and the critical need to relieve stress upon our health care system.
Working from Home
Consider yourself lucky if you can work from home. Many don’t have that kind of flexibility.
Think of all the health-care professionals, on the front lines of this battle with Covid-19. The fact that some of us can open our laptop in our Spider-Man pajamas and Skype into a meeting is a blessing, for which we should all be grateful.
Now onto “Silly” Advice from Mr. Gay
The Pajamas Thing
I have read 60,000 “So You’re Going to Be Working From Home” stories in the past week or so—this column you’re reading, it’s far from an original concept—and one consistent recommendation I see is that people should treat working from home as, you know, work. Which means taking a shower in the morning, combing your hair and putting on the same outfit you put on every weekday for the office. I get it; it sounds nice.
Let your pal Jason tell you the truth: You do not have to do this. You do not have to shower, you do not have put on a smart jacket, you do not have to find matching socks. If you feel obligated to wear a tie, you can mix it up with some exercise pants, basketball shorts or a Yoda windbreaker. This is not a crime. It’s a fashion choice!
This is another thing the serious “work from home” advisers tell people to do. They think you need a specific place in your home where you work; that you shouldn’t flop in a beanbag chair in the kids’ playroom and think you’re going to be productive. I have a friend who once set up his office in the garage. In the morning, he’d make a big show to his children of “Daddy’s going off to work!” then march out the door, walk straight into the garage, and spend the next eight hours taking calls and puttering on a laptop next to his hedge clippers.
I agree there’s probably value to a designated space, but I live in crazy-expensive New York City, where a three-bedroom apartment is about as big as a doghouse. I don’t have a spare room to put a mahogany desk and a photo of Eisenhower. I work everywhere. I work in the kitchen. I work in the hallway. When the kids are in the living room, I work in the kids’ rooms. When the kids are in their rooms, I work in the living room, until my wife kicks me out. I have written some of my best stuff on the stairwell of my apartment building. I’m not in the stairwell right now, as you can tell.
Eat Drink Work
While working from home, you may put on a few. It’s fine. You think you’re going to be healthier at your place, because you don’t have all the random office snacks (“Whoa! Who brought sugar cookies today?”) and farewell cakes, but you will make up for it on your own. You’ll be good at first, nibbling on carrots and seeds, but soon you’ll be tearing apart your kitchen for carbohydrates, looking like an FBI agent raiding a drug lord’s house. This is normal. Your work-from-home stretch will eventually end, and you can go back to that healthy salad place with the 2,200-calorie Cobb salad, and your daily 4 p.m. latte/fistful of Skittles.
Yeah, you have to talk. It’s important. Nobody likes talking on the phone more than a person who works from home; I’m the only person I know who actually still answers calls. If no one picks up when you call, talk to your pets. Pets don’t understand you, so your yapping doesn’t bother them. If your pets do get sick of your voice, just talk to yourself. Talking to yourself gets a bad rap, in my opinion; it’s a conversation with a close friend. Just cool it when you return to the office, which hopefully will be not too far in the future.
Be well, everyone.
P.S. In the Age of Coronavirus: a Homemade Throat Sanitizer.
P.P.S. If you can’t find hand-sanitizer, you can make your own.