Working from home: an update

Hemmant, India, 2020.

In the spring we published our contribution to the throng of articles on how to effectively work from home. Half a year later, with many countries back into lockdown, how is it all looking?

Some of us have thrived during 2020, making the most of the challenging circumstances to develop an effective home-working routine — while simultaneously getting fit, learning a foreign language, getting to know the neighbours properly, reconnecting with long-lost relatives, etc., etc. Some of us, however, have not…

With the change of season, and the return of lockdown in many places, this is perhaps a good time to take stock of how things have gone so far, consider what can be done to make the best of the current situation, and plan for the post-covid future. Although it is easy to feel completely burnt out, 10+ months into the pandemic, we do all need to stick at making the best of our circumstances. Amid the many suggestions that are being published, we would like to focus on two things.

Firstly, staying sane in a world that is in fact facing two pandemics, one of which is non-physical. Phone calls and actual handwritten letters and cards have finally started coming back into vogue, with good reason. They really are so much better than pixelated text. For the phone calls, there’s something rather special about using a landline. Most of us have a socket to plug a phone into, and the phone itself can be acquired for next to nothing. Occasional personal phone calls and handwritten cards to work colleagues (perhaps sent to one’s place of employment and forwarded on from there) can also be very good for morale.

Nature is also a prerequisite for sanity, and therefore for effective home working. However, going for a walk after work is not so much fun in these dark evenings. One solution, especially if all the pubs, clubs and restaurants are shut, is to learn to get up extremely early. Get the morning routine completely finished well before dawn (including the washing up!) and then go for a walk before switching on the computer and starting work. There’s nothing like the habit of being out and about during sunrise for lifting the spirits and protecting against that other pandemic. After that: all set for a productive day’s paid employment.

There’s nothing like the habit of being out and about during sunrise for lifting the spirits and protecting against that other pandemic.

With the emergence of effective vaccines it is starting to become clear that covid-19 is likely to be partially or completely defeated during 2021. But it is also clear that working from home is here to stay. It is much cheaper for employers, and is (at least on the surface) better for many employees — no commuting, less expenditure on clothes for below the waist, etc. We can expect more and more jobs to involve hot-desking, with workers only spending a small part of their work time at the office. Job interviews, too, will be much more frequently conducted via video call.

Thriving in this new work environment requires two things in particular. Firstly, the technology has to be right. This includes having the correct equipment for video calls: a good microphone, a camera with a slightly telephoto lens (to avoid unflattering facial distortion), some kind of acoustic baffle to reduce resonance (an old curtain will do), good lighting and a neutral backdrop. A chair that encourages healthy posture will also help create a good impression, whether its inhabitant is seeking to get his or her foot in the door, or is climbing to the top of the corporate ladder.

On a more holistic level, it is so very important to create and maintain a home workspace that is as both efficient and uplifting. This might mean buying a stylish new desk, or perhaps simply developing a robust habit of keeping a cheap old desk completely tidy. Maybe putting a stunning piece of original art on the wall, or maybe just giving that wall a fresh coat of paint. The human mind is a complex thing, and its thoughts are always deeply affected by its surroundings. Good results require a solid foundation.

This story was previously published on www.punkt.ch

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