With companies up and down the country sending employees home to work remotely because of HSE Coronavirus guidelines, rogue’s Louise Bruton – who has worked from home for years now – gives her take on how to do it well (with a little musical guidance from Fifth Harmony).
In recent weeks, I’ve appointed myself an expert in self-isolation. As a self-employed freelance journalist, working primarily in the arts and music industry, who has worked from home for the last seven years, I am a professional loner. By my very own design, from the moment I wake up to the moment I close my laptop, I have myself, my dog and Home and Away’s Alf Stewart for company. And it’s bloody great.[restrict]
For added impact, please hit play and repeat on Fifth Harmony’s Work from Home… NOW.
The fact that I work from home is something that baffles a lot of the people I know. “How do you get up in the morning,” they ask, confusing me with a villain suffering the reverse effects of not sleeping at night for all the wrongs they commit. “How do you stay focused,” they probe, understandably mistaking me for an overactive labradoodle with close to no work ethic. While yes, my nose is always wet and my coat glossy, I am not a high-priced cross-breed pooch. And while I have evil tendencies, I haven’t committed any war crimes just yet. I am simply a woman who works from home and with my reassurances and expertise, you too can work from home without getting distracted by the mundanity that is a midweek afternoon.
GET UP, GET ON
Starting with the basics, getting up in the mornings is surprisingly easy when you work from home. Your alarm clock will always startle you, even though it was set by thine own thumbs, but you do not arise with the dread of power walking into work, while the lashings of rain undo last night’s hair wash, all the while hoofing half a yoghurt into ya. On top of that – the cherry on top of this no-effort sundae you might say – you can bounce into the day knowing that you won’t have to engage in any office small talk or passive aggression. And if you do, it’s by email. When you work from home, no one can hear you screaming “fuck off, you bint” to your laptop now, can they?!
Yes, the chorus will never leave your head. I’m so sorry.
When it comes to staying focused on your workload, your mind will absolutely wander in the same way that it does in the office. Mind wandering – an official medical term – is an extremely natural thing to do. Except when you’re at home, you don’t conceal the genius freeze with a trip to the coffee machine or a chinwag with your desk buddy. In the confines of your own abode, kind of like a cat that is following a piece of fluff dancing in the sunlight, your eyes glaze over for a few minutes until you snap out of it and return to the reality of licking your groin. Or, you know, filing… financial dividends or whatever your job is, because you need to get paid. Money is the motivation behind all of this or have you forgotten that we live under the thumb of capitalist overlords?
A HAMSTER ON A WHEEL
One thing you will soon learn from working at home is that you can actually get through your tasks a hell of a lot quicker than you do in a traditional work environment. Like a hamster that has somehow stumbled upon a bag of speed, you can burrow through your workload at double time but the thing that will dampen this thrill is the guilt of having some idle time in the middle of the day. Don’t feel guilty. Take your hour for lunch, even if it’s just a bowl of soup and a slouch on the couch. My lunch hour is always dedicated to soup and Home and Away. That’s my routine. Sometimes my laptop slips back into my hands in the second half of the soap but I mostly commit to the Bay.
Look at this gas live performance. This is how you do NOT work from home.
Some jobs require constant presentation, like stacking shelves, stitching wounds or preventing two toddlers from killing each other, but if your job has stagnant moments where you’re waiting for a reply, a green light or an idea to appear out of thin air, embrace them. Even if it doesn’t look like you’re working on the surface, you don’t have to hold up that pretence at home with your audience of zero, so use the lulls to put on a laundry load, disinfect the kitchen counter or walk the dog.
Why not even put on an episode of Peep Show? You’re still working but you’re not forcing inspiration to happen. You’re also making a curry. And reorganising the presses. And hoovering underneath the couch. And researching communal vegetable gardens in your area that you’ll never properly commit to. This isn’t procrastination. You’re just letting your brain organically deliver the goods.
But there’s a limit to how long you can faff about until it turns dicking about, a phase far more sinister. If you continue to dick about, just remind yourself that your life has value and the sooner you finish working, the sooner you can start living. Stop dragging out the drear and work towards having dinner. Oh, when you work at home, meals are the literal carrot to work towards. “Get this done by lunchtime and you can have a Crunchie with your cup of tea,” you tease, blackmailing yourself with your known weaknesses.
Work, work, work. You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work…
Working from home requires an element of self-control but it’s quite likely that you practice more self-control at actual work, lest you become a HR disaster. Like, in work, you’re conditioned to wear trousers or a skirt. At home, you don’t have to wear either. In work, you’re smiling through gritted teeth as you listen to coworkers regale you with details of their terribly boring weekend. At home, you don’t have to talk to anyone at all. For days! It truly is a blessed existence.
Of course, if you are new to this, there is a risk that daytime TV or the snooze button will lure you into a false sense of comfort. You will start bargaining with false promises like “Oh, just one more episode of Friends and back to it” or “I deserve this lie-in” but these things are a slippery slope that leads to eating beans straight from the tin. To survive this temporary – I’m being hopeful here – new way of working, just remember the wise words of Ally, Normani, Dinah, Lauren and Camilla: “Baby, you’re the boss at home”.
Faff about. But do not dick about. And get your damn work (work, work) done.