I’ve been working from home for (checks watch) almost 19 years now, and I’d love to share some tips with you all on how to make it work for you.
Except I can’t, because this has been incredibly disruptive for me. See, my home is usually otherwise empty during the day—spouse at work, kids at school—which means I can crank up the beats and swear to my heart’s content at my code typos. Now, not only do I have to wear headphones and monitor my language when I work, I also am surrounded by office-mates who basically play video games and watch cat videos all day, except for those times when I really get focused on a task, when they magically sense it’s the perfect time to come ask me random questions that could have waited, derailing my focus and putting me back at square one.
Which, to most of you used to working in an office setting, I suppose might seem vaguely familiar. I’m not used to it at all.
Here’s what I can tell you: if you’re having trouble focusing on work, or anything else, it’s not that you’re terrible at working from home or bad at your job. It’s that you’re doing this in a set of circumstances completely unprecedented in our lifetimes. It’s that you’re doing this while worried not only about keeping yourself and your loved ones safe from a global pandemic, but probably also worried about your continued employment—not because you’re doing badly, but because the economy is on the verge of freezing up completely. No spending means no business income means no salaries means no money to spend.
We can hope for society-level measures to unjam the economic engine, debt leniency or zero-interest loans or Universal Basic Income or what have you, but until those measures exist and begin to work together, we’re all stumbling scared in a pitch-black forest. Take it from someone who has been engulfed by overwhelming, frightening, pitiless circumstances before: Work can be a respite, but it’s hard to sustain that retreat. It’s hard to motivate yourself to even think about work, let alone do a good job.
Be forgiving of yourself. Give yourself time and space to process the fear, to work through it and you. Find a place for yourself in relation to it, so that you can exist beside it without it always disrupting your thoughts. That’s the only way I know to free up any mental resources to try to do good work. It also puts you in a place where you can act with some semblance of reason, instead of purely from fear.
Stay safe, friends. We have a long, unknown road ahead. Adjustment will be a long time in coming. Support each other as much as you can. Community is, in the end, the most resilient and replenishing force we have.