Getting Used to Extended Working from Home

I have been working from home for close to two years. The majority of that time was not for full-time, every day work. But since I’ve been doing this for awhile, it’s interesting for me to hear the difficulties some are having with working from home for an extended period of time.

There are, of course, extenuating circumstances that have caused this shift, but the pendulum will swing back the other way. It will just take a little time. And when that happens, a new re-adjustment will need to take place.

In my previous jobs, I had some opportunities to work from home (rarely, but the opportunities were there). When I was snowed in for more than a week due to a blizzard, I had no other choice. During those times, I learned a lot about how not to do things. Since we are now in week 2 of the mandatory work from home for some people, I decided to share my thoughts.

DRESS FOR WORK

I have been doing freelance consulting work for most of the last two years and that is very different from office life (which I’ve done for more years than I would like to mention). When freelancing, your time is not necessarily set, although there are days where you might be pulling 8-10 hours or more. But there are also days where you can decide to do some work in the morning and some work in the evening, but go out and run some errands during the day. You aren’t expected to have meetings all the time, so you can wear what you want, sit where you want, and have any distractions you want. There is no problem with that at all, because that’s a different mindset than a full-time working from home job.

The first couple of days of working from home, you might be thinking that a t-shirt and sweatpants are going to be your new reality, but you should adjust that mindset. Maybe a day or two to start, but it will be better if you start dressing for work.

More companies are leveraging messaging and chat platforms for work. If there is a possibility that you are pulled into a quick video call, you want to make sure that you have the appearance that would portray you in a more positive way. You probably don’t want your boss to see the t-shirt that you first started wearing more than 20 years ago that has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Does this mean that you should be wearing uncomfortable clothes and shoes? No, it does not. Unless there is some reason that your feet might be on camera, I would say go with whatever is most comfortable. But for your day to day outfits, just be mindful of what might be on camera. If you have a comfortable shirt that would look good enough on an emergency call, then wear that.

I think it’s good to dress for work because it helps put you in the “office” mindset. This isn’t a day for goofing off or sitting around doing nothing. There is work to be done, so you should make sure you “feel” the part.

KEEP YOUR ROUTINE

In order to keep your mind fresh while still in the “office” mindset at home, it’s good to keep your routine. If you normally take a 30 minute lunch, continue to do the same. The temptation might be there to just eat while you’re working, but if that is not your normal routine, don’t do it. Your mind will need the familiarity of the break, and it will help with your productivity in the long run. If you normally take breaks during the day with co-workers, continue to do that if possible. Maybe it’s having a video conference or picking up the phone and talking, but try to keep that routine going. Some jobs result in the need for “venting” time with co-workers, and that should not change. If your office has a tradition for the end of week, try to keep that going. It will be beneficial to keep the camaraderie and social interaction, and will help you stick to your normal routine.

MOVE AROUND

This is one thing that I would recommend you do that might not be the same as your normal routine. Not everyone has the same setup at home as they do at the office, so adjusting to a different desk, different chair, different monitors, etc. can be overwhelming. If you are able, it would be good to move around every hour or so. Get the blood flowing, help get your mind re-focused. If your home setup is not as comfortable as your office setup, you might be pinching a nerve, tensing up more than usual, stressing out more than you normally would. Moving around can help relieve some of the tension and can help keep your muscles from tightening up too much. Moving around can be both a physical and mental benefit.

SHOW YOUR FACE

If you are working for a company that is leveraging video calls/conferencing, try to show your face when you can (if possible). If you are used to social interactions at work, this can help more than random emails or messages. If you “see” your co-workers, it will feel more like an office setting, which can lead to either more or less stress, depending on who that other person is. But overall, if you are used to seeing people, you should continue to do so. It will just be in the non-traditional way.

BE UNDERSTANDING

I know this is probably an obvious one, but I think it still needs to be said. Be understanding. There is a lot of stress and tension. Some people are more comfortable and go with the flow, while others have more extreme thoughts and fears. People who are usually calm might be more quick to anger. They might yell. They might say things they wouldn’t normally say. Be understanding. You might get angry much quicker than usual. You might snap at co-workers, or at the people you are living with. People who you are living with might get angry and snap at you. Be understanding. Don’t get overcome with all of the negatives. Don’t let them persist and grow. Take a step back and think about how things would be under normal circumstances. Be understanding.

DON’T CREATE DISTRACTIONS

When you have the freedom of working from home, you might feel that it is the perfect time to catch up on some TV shows, movies, books, etc. You should try to avoid all of that. While it might be nice to binge watch your favorite series while you are working, it will take away from your effectiveness. When you are working, you should keep your focus there. Don’t try to bring distractions where they shouldn’t be. If you normally listen to music at work, then continue to do that. Just don’t bring in other distractions simply because you are home. If you want to catch up on some things, you can always use the break time or lunch time to get some of that in.

DON’T WORK OUTSIDE OF NORMAL HOURS

This is a tough one, but it’s one that I did not do when I had the occasional work from home days. If I would normally leave the house by 6:30 in the morning, I would sit down and start working at 6:30. If I didn’t get home until 7:00, I would stay working until 7:00. Instead of having an 8-9 hour day, I would end up working 12+ hours with no lunch (I would just have something that took less than 5 minutes to prepare and eat while I worked).

If you continue to do that, you will burn yourself out very quickly. Think of when you normally arrive at work as your start time. And when you would normally shut your computer down, shut it down. Your normal travel time is some “you” time. You can use that time to sleep, exercise, read, catch up on shows, spend more time with loved ones, etc. It’s something special that won’t be there once you have to go back to work, so take advantage of it while you can.

BE POSITIVE

This is not a normal blog for me, but I have had some learnings over the years and thought I could share. By the way, thank you to anyone who is still reading this.

There will be good days and bad days. There will be days where you wish you were in the office and days you wish you never had to go back. There will be times when you just want to scream at your monitor, or at your co-workers, or at the people around you. Try to think of the good things that can come from this experience. You might be able to find common ground with a co-worker you never saw eye to eye with. You might be able to get in a little more exercise now that you don’t have to be stuck in traffic for a couple of hours each day. You might have time to try making something for breakfast or dinner other than a microwave meal. Finding one positive thing can help make your day better. Be positive. Stay positive.

Remembering the past – The Vinyl Single

The last time I visited with my parents, I was looking through a container that had some of my old vinyl singles (also known as 45s or 7 inch singles). This had me remembering back on the good times with vinyl albums and singles. I know that vinyls are making a comeback now, and I’m happy about that.

When I was growing up, 8 tracks were still around, but losing popularity. We still have a few 8 tracks and 8 track players lying around, but I have no idea if any of those would still work after 30+ years of being dormant. I have a few cassette singles here and there, but the 45s were where it was at when I was growing up.

I was able to find what I think was my first single. It was for my first favorite song – “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. I’m not sure if the single was a gift to me or it was given to me later. I remember singing along to the song when it played on the radio when I was a tiny kid. Who knew I would grow up to be almost 6’5″ and still singing along to that song? I might have liked some songs before, but that was the first one that truly stands out in my memories.

There were some very cool things that came along with the vinyl singles. There were B-sides. These were sometimes songs that were on the same album, but not released. They were also occasionally released at the same time, so you got a two for one in terms of hit singles. The B-sides would also at times include remixes of the main single, or new songs that you could not find on any album or cassette. Sometimes you bought the singles just for the B-sides.

The art work for these singles could also be very elaborate. You could have the basic single release, such as the one shown on the bottom right of the picture (Ready for the World, “Oh Sheila”). You could also get some very cool packaging, like the top two of the picture. In addition to the cool art work you could get on the vinyl albums, you could also get some additional art work on the singles themselves.

There were also the 12″ singles, which would usually give you a few remixes on each side and 6 or 7 songs instead of 2. Vinyl singles started fading away in the late 80s and early 90s, which came with the rise of CDs. I still buy CDs, so I am definitely not going to knock them, especially with the sound quality that you can get from them. But playing a vinyl album or single is a fond memory for me.

The digital age is upon us and is phasing out the CDs, so I have to adjust again. I don’t mind buying the singles digitally, but it’s not the same. It’s more impersonal. When you buy an album or song digitally, there are no memories of going to a record store and fumbling through all the rows of vinyls to find the one or two titles that you are looking for. No joy in opening up a present that you know has a record in there, but you don’t know which one. Clicking a button to purchase just doesn’t bring that same type of joy.

If I got the Debby Boone single as a present, I can only imagine how happy I must have been back then. A small little present, lasting just under 4 minutes to play it once. Probably played it hundreds of times when I was younger. Recorded it onto cassette a couple of times for special mix tapes. Those are the memories that came through my head when I was home and looking through that container of vinyl singles. Good times. Happy times. Positive times.

Do you have any memories of vinyls or 8 tracks? Please feel free to share. I’d be happy to hear from you.

The Smell of Rain

Since Autumn/Fall has arrived, I hope for there to be an increase in rain activity. Not just because it reminds me of the B.J. Thomas song – written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, but because it reminds me of the smell of rain.

I spent a large chunk of my early years on the East Coast. We had plenty of rain and I never thought too much of it. I enjoyed it at times and was annoyed by it at times. When I was in college in Maryland, I remember getting hit with rains that were so hard that you didn’t really need to use your windshield wipers (I still used them). The rain came down so hard and fast that it was almost like another layer of glass that you could see through. Heavy flooding would cause major puddles and driving over the hidden potholes were nerve wracking, but I enjoyed it. Not something I would want to do all the time, but for those moments when there was a massive rainfall, I found joy in the experience.

When I moved to Southern California, things definitely changed. I drove across country and when I arrived in Southern California, they were at more than 200 days without any real rainfall. I think they had broken a record at that time. So that was quite a shock to the system.

After I had started to get used to living in California, I was able to recognize the smell when rain was coming. It was something I never paid attention to in my time on the East Coast, but I finally started to recognize that there was something familiar about the scent. The first time I mentioned the coming rain to my co-workers, they snickered at me. They couldn’t smell anything and didn’t believe I could smell when the rain was coming. But…I was right. It did rain. And then there was another smell that came after the rain.

I remember going on walks/runs with one of my sisters in California and we would talk about the smell of rain coming and the smell after the rain falls. We both knew it was a thing, even if other people thought I was completely off base on this. And we both really enjoyed the aroma, even if it meant we were going to be rained on sometime during our runs.

When I moved back to the East Coast, I decided to drive across country again. When I drove across country the first time (from Maryland), I took a Southern route, leveraging the I-40. I drove through Oklahoma, Northern Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, so there were definitely some nice sites to see. When I drove from California back East, I decided to take the I-80, which took me through Utah and Colorado. I was fortunate to witness some incredible rains during that drive. Not only was the rain coming down hard for good portions of time, but there were some flashes of lightning that lit up the sky. I had a feeling of pure amazement as I could see those bolts of lightning in the sky some 2 miles ahead or 1 or 2 miles behind me. I might have had very different feelings if those bolts were a few feet away, but being able to see them from a distance was something that I can still picture in my head, four years later.

You can look things up on the internet pretty quickly now, so you can learn that the smell before rain is the aroma of ozone that is being picked up by the winds. And after the rain hits the ground, the scent is known as petrichor. I’m not a scientist, so I won’t go into the chemical and scientific meanings for these experiences.

Now that I’m living on the East Coast again, the smell of impending rain and the smell of rain falling on the ground is something that I gladly welcome to my senses again. Some people hate the rain. Some people tolerate the rain, but don’t really like it. Some people like the rain, but only from a distance. Some people absolutely love the rain and would sing and dance in the rain all the time if they had the chance. I appreciate the rain. Not just for what it does, but for what it means on a personal level. It reminds me of past conversations. It reminds me of past moments when I’ve had those same smells. It reminds me of some fun times driving I’ve had in the rain. It keeps me positive.

The Littlest Things

Just a few (or many) words about myself and this space. I live in a small town. I’ve lived in suburbs most of my life and worked in small cities and big cities. I’ve seen the advantages of having everything within walking distance, but I’ve also seen the advantages of being away from the fast pace.

For some people, being in the hustle and bustle of a big city is the dream. They live it, they love it, they can never see themselves anywhere else. I like to have some time in crowds, but mostly enjoy being away from all the stress and pressure that come with the city life. I get enjoyment out of driving past some deer on the side of the road, or seeing some horses or cows or sheep on someone’s farm as I drive by.

I am a lover of food. I like to create sometimes, but right now I mainly like to go out and try different things. It may be a place that is within a mile of me that I’ll go to at least once a week. It may be a fast food place that has new menu items to enjoy. It may be some hole in the wall place or some established place that is a good 30-45 minute (or more) drive away. If I have a chance to go out for a scenic drive and get something good to eat or drink along the way, then it’s been a successful day.

I’m writing this blog because I do enjoy these little things and want to share them with others who might want to find those little nuggets of goodness along the way.