The Greater Seattle area is currently dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak, and many companies are requiring or requesting that their employees work from home for the foreseeable future. This is new territory for many households. Can one be productive Working From Home (WFH)? Can one or two people be WFH and not drive each other crazy? Can they still do fun couples’ stuff in the evenings and on weekends? Yes, yes, and yes! We’ve got two points-of-view here, and we think they both have insights and experience to help make WFH be a positive experience for all involved.
POV 1: The Newly Working-from-Home Partner
Define your working space
Even if your WFH situation is temporary, take an hour to set up your environment as a real workspace. If it’s just the corner of a study or spare bedroom, make it your own: put up a couple pictures, have a cup with pens, and make everything in your sightline look like an office you would be happy to work in. If you don’t have a functional desk, buy one—you should be able to find something decent for under $100 (Note: There are currently over 1,500 desks listed on Craigslist.). Trying to work from a round kitchen table will feel foreign and difficult as far as forearm placement. And if you are on frequent video calls, look behind you to be sure the background doesn’t give off an America’s Most Wanted vibe.
Define and protect your working hours
The possibilities for distraction at home are endless. Most information-age jobs can look to family members a whole lot like you are just sitting around. But after even a quick distraction from a mental task, it takes the human brain about 10 minutes to restore focus. Establish your office hours and tell everyone in your household when you are available and when you are not.
Once you establish focused working hours, enjoy the flexibility. The lack of commuting time may buy you an extra hour or two per day. As you schedule your time, work in lunches with your spouse or friends, go to your kids’ games, even take a quick nap. I have found that the flexibility to segment my own time and work rhythms has made me far more productive.