By Anne T. Donahue
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If you’re reading this, you are likely well-acquainted with the internet. (And if you’re not, how did you find this? Out of every essay on every website in the world, why? I’m happy you’re here, but also: tell me everything.) You’ve maybe worked from home before, and if you haven’t then you certainly know how to use your computer at home, and you certainly know how to exist at home. So this isn’t a guide that includes suggestions like, “Make sure to sit in a seat that’s good for your back!” (Although you probably should.) Or, “Make sure to break for meals!” (Although, again, eating is a wonderful idea and I encourage you do it all day, if possible.) Instead, it’s from someone who works from home every damn day, and would like to spare you the lessons I’ve forced myself to learn upon realizing that if you treat your home like a glorified office, you will, inevitably, cry at your desk.
Work from anywhere you want in the house
Here’s a fact: you’re at your house. You’re at your house, and this means you get to work wherever in the house you want, whether that’s bundled up in bed or curled up behind a chair in the corner on the floor, screaming, “Don’t look at me!” whenever a bird flies by a window. (It’s not my business how you want to get comfortable.) Me? I’m currently at the kitchen table, already regretting this choice because the chair I’m in is terrible, but all my stuff is already out here. Choices: we’ve all got them. So start with making the best one: like a cat, fan out your computer, planner, pens, whatever in the nearest sunbeam. Then, like a cat, lay down and try to do as much as you can between brief naps and long drinks of water. Refuse to respond when anyone asks what you’re doing. Then, when that same bird flies by the window again, snap to attention and put your hands on the glass, making strange chirping sounds so as to signal your newfound interest in nature.
Snack and eat and accept that your day no longer makes full-time hours’ sense
Every time I’ve tried to keep genuine office hours, I morph into a shrew who spends her days wailing atop the roof, draped in large shawl. So maybe, if we share any similarities, don’t do that. Instead, lean into being an adult who’s in charge of their own lives. Do you want to eat chicken soup for breakfast? Terrific. You want to make a full bag of Oreos your lunch-slash-dinner? This is your journey. Structure is great and I love it so much, but also it can make you feel freakishly constrained because it’s also terrible and these are simply the facts. So reject it. Eat what you want, drink what you want, commit to working in a space where you cannot and will not be judged by coworkers who keep asking why you eat so much Smart Food. (BECAUSE IT’S FUCKING DELICIOUS, DOREEN, NOW DO YOU WANT SOME OR NOT.)
Okay, fine, yes, walk around I guess!
Every time I see a guide that’s like, “Make sure to get up and move!” I think that whoever has written the guide has never actually written from home because every three minutes I am desperate to get up and move and to maybe even dismantle my laptop and toss it into the yard without having to remind myself to do it. Now, I don’t do this because I can’t afford a new laptop right now. So instead, I make up bullshit reasons to not be sitting down. I have a dish to wash. I have to straighten a nearby throw rug. I should go find the cat, pick him up, hold him like a baby, and ask if he’s the king of the babies. So here’s a suggestion you can actually use: the second you realize you want to get up, get up. Who’s going to stop you? Are you going to get yelled at? (No.) So get up! Go! Why do you need me to tell you this? This isn’t your open-concept workplace anymore, and no one is watching you. You’re an adult! Stretch your damn legs! Have we learned nothing? Take a nap, even!
Take a nap!
I mean, since we’re here: why not? Why wouldn’t you take a nap? You’re at home. Some people in actual offices take multiple hour lunches. So goddamn it, man: shut your eyes for a precious 30! Sleep! It’s great! Get some! Holy shit!
Watch everything you want while you’re working because you can
Here’s how I feel about the suggestion that if you’re working from home, you stay away from the TV: absolutely not. Watch your stories. My lord, let some joy into your life. The other day I watched Cheer for way too long and not only finished an essay, but convinced myself that I could be a 34-year-old cheerleader if I simply tried hard enough. In short, I was delusional. But these are the delusions that help keep working from home buoyant. Watch the shows. Listen to the podcasts. Stream the movies. Remember how we’d get excited about snow days in elementary school? This is nothing like this, because a global pandemic is very upsetting. But look: you’re working from home, and distractions are important, so put on Succession for the millionth time because it’s a Thursday and you can.
Stand at the nearest window, draped in your shrew shawl, wearing also a haunting look
Then, when a neighbor asks later, “Why were you standing at your window?” you reply with, “I wasn’t standing at my window.” And allow the myth that a beautiful Victorian-era ghost resides in your home to flourish. Then, let them set about solving her mystery.
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