10 Easy-to-Follow Rules for Working at Home

The coronavirus has changed the national work landscape because, for many, working from home has become the new normal. Here are 10 time-tested rules I’ve learned from years of avoiding my office or talking to clients’ employees who weren’t making that daily trek to work.

1. Don’t Vacuum the Living Room

Don’t laugh. It’s shockingly easy and tempting to putz around and do some housekeeping “just for 15 minutes.” You wouldn’t vacuum at the office, and those 15 minutes add up. The biggest damage that occurs is disrupting the work rhythm and flow.  Set work hours at home just like you would at the office.

2. Take Lunch

Don’t have lunch at your desk or computer. Taking a break from work, especially staring at a computer screen, will keep you sharp.   During lunchtime, finish reading the newspaper, chat with those at home, talk about a topic that is unrelated to work, or call a friend. You’ll return to work refreshed.

3. Get to Know Your Tech Person

If you’re unsure of who handles the tech issues in your company, now is the time to introduce yourself. Become familiar with tech support and how they handle IT problems. Remember that your tech person is probably facing an avalanche of demands. Learning what the protocols are for help now will save you from a panic attack if the system begins to misfire. If you haven’t had a “tuneup” for your computer, do it now before problems develop. Suggestions include making sure that you (or your tech person) have applied all Windows updates, ensuring that anti-virus and anti-malware software is operational, and being on the lookout for phishing emails. The hackers are ready to go.

4. I Got This Idea For a Book

Don’t we all? You might never have a better opportunity for self-learning to improve yourself for that future advancement or just for fun. You can do it formally through a MOOC (massive open online course) or self-education. If it’s job related, take this to the bank: You’re going to appear so much smarter than when you left.

5. Stay Fit

Maintain a fitness regimen.  At home, you’re not even walking across the parking lot to get into an elevator. Hate exercise? Try walking. My friend says, “Easy, free, and is the perfect no-excuse way to stay trim.” He always reminds me that “The worst workout you ever had is better than the best workout you never had.”

6. Conference Call Mania

Conference calls are skyrocketing. If your calls don’t have video, it’s impossible to “read” body language. Don’t incessantly talk over your coworkers. Wait for that definitive pause before speaking. It helps to jot down what issues you want to discuss in bullet fashion, starting with the most important. Be sure to use your “polite” tone when talking. Watch the sarcasm and humor. They can’t see your face.

7. Dress for Business

OK, you can be more casual, but looking like you just crawled out of bed is a no-no. A recent viral video shows an attractive young woman on a call, and her male friend bounds into the background wearing underwear. Take a minute and examine your background or consider how to prevent anyone from disrupting the call, whether it’s a spouse, child or pet.

8. Yes, Dear

Being confined at home, especially with family members, lends itself to becoming crabby. The best solution is to have a separate room or space as your at-home office. Sometimes it helps to take a brief pause outside to get a fresh start on those daily tasks. 

9. No Attention Span?

Most people struggle with this, but Toggl saved my friend. It’s a time tracking app operated by some smart techies in Estonia. They have a free version, but he opted for the paid version with extra features. It tracks your time in the increments you set. My friend works in sets of 25 minutes with five-minute breaks.

10. Don’t Spill the Wine

It’s easy to reach for the liquor cabinet. Don’t if it’s during working hours. A simple tip: Don’t drink when the sun is up. (And don’t cheat by pulling down the shades.)

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