Working from home everyday for the last 8 weeks has really made me think about the significance of work.
I knew that I was a creature of habit, we all are, but since COVID I had to change my daily routine and this has brought a new level of stress that I was not expecting. Everything has changed.
The New Morning
On a normal morning I would separate 1 hour to get ready for my workday. During that time, I would prepare my clothes, my coffee, my mind and body for the day ahead. There was a line that was crossed when home ended and work started. Leaving home in the morning was the crossing line.
For the last 8 weeks, I’ve been having a hard time drawing a line for when home ends and work starts. This has nothing to do with what I’m wearing or how I look. I have no problem working with pajamas, sweatpants or any other attire. This has to do with atmosphere. When home and work look exactly the same, it becomes difficult to feel at home, or for that matter… at work.
I am trying to work in a different room in my NYC apartment to see if that works. I had a standing desk at the office so I decided to try to replicate the same “feeling”. I decided on making a DIY (Do It Yourself) standing desk. I am using an ironing board open to its highest setting and putting my laptop fully open on top of a Catan board game box. I added a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for ergonomic purposes.
Creating a new morning routine
Since working from home seems to be the new normal, I decided that I have to create a new morning routine.
My new morning routine looks like this:
- Wake up and stretch out my arms, legs, back for 10 minutes.
- Make coffee
- Prepare my workstation
- Put on noise isolating headphones.
Make your body believe you are preparing for work
Since I no longer have to commute to the office, I’m creating a pocket of time for some stretching so that my body knows what my mind does. It’s time to work. There has to be a connection, a link from my brain to my body, so that they are both in sync of what’s about to take place.
Our bodies understand context. They know when it’s time to sleep, eat, exercise, work, etc. We have to communicate that to it, so that there’s no confusion.
Coffee is the lifeblood of work
Most of the time, I would get coffee on my way to the office. Now, I spend a careful amount of time creating the perfect cup of coffee. I start that perfect cup by having some fresh YESPLZ coffee beans.
The coffee takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes to make. I am methodical in every detail so that I can have the taste notes that come with the beans. This makes or breaks my day.
Work is a feeling and a place
In order to feel productive and for my brain to really work, I have to create a place to work. Yes, I cannot feel at “work” if I’m not “at work”.
After my coffee is done, I bring my cup to the place I have designated as my workstation. I fire up my email, task application and get to work.
It’s important for me to make sure that in this place, in this DIY desk setup, I only get work done. My brain needs to believe that this place is “the office”. This is where work happens, not hobbies, no personal writing, drawing, etc. This place has its content. It’s work! Nothing more, nothing less.
Tune out your home
My wife is also working from home, so she inherited our home desk. My two kids are also e-learning during the day so they’re also getting “school work” done. As you can imagine, there is noise all around us. From my wife on her own video calls, to the kids watching educational videos for school and the bickering that comes with being together at home all the time. I need to block out all that noise to get work done.
I have a pair of noise isolating headphones that have become one of my most important and favorite accessories. Once I turn them on, the noise isolation drowns the noise around me and all I hear is my inner breathing. This is absolutely necessary in order for me to focus. I also use them for Webex video calls and when I’m in the mood for some background music during intense work.
Color me surprised
So after implementing these changes, I have noted a change in the way my brain and body work at home. I still don’t love that I have to marry home and work but I am starting to see a line drawn between both. Though I much prefer to go into an office to get work done (and a day here and there to work from home), I am starting to see some changes that is making me feel a bit more comfortable.
Every person approaches work differently. Some people need a wardrobe to feel more at work, while others can just feel confortable in any setting. It has been harder for me, since I have never enjoyed working from home. Home is where I rest, play, sleep and where I escape work. Work is the place where I escape home. They are both necessary evils and now they live together. My new job is to make sure they get along.