Susan Smith Blakely

Working at Home During Coronavirus




I know that you probably have read articles on line recently with advice about working from home in the age of coronavirus.  The themes are generally the same.  Here is my take on it for young lawyers.

I believe that the best way to survive an extended isolation and working from home is to maintain a ROUTINE.  Establishing a routine and sticking to it will reap huge rewards when the time comes to go back to brick and mortar places of business.  You will have created fewer bad isolation habits. 

Routine also will help you establish a healthy mental state to go the distance until the clouds clear and we can get back to the lives we knew before coronavirus --- lives that include a return to our places of business and the ability to embrace those we love and have missed in our daily lives.  

We know that time will come.  We know we will prevail over this virus.  How we do it within the confines of our homes and home offices is one of the things we can control.  One of the only things we can control right now.

In your personal life

  • Keep regular hours.  Sleep when you always sleep -- not interrupted by naps in the afternoon and night owl behavior.  Keep to your regular schedule.  
  • Get dressed!  Spending your day in your jammies is not a good idea.  Even though it may not be obvious on Skype or Zoom, it is obvious to others in your home and changes the way you approach your job.  It is like a flashing neon sign that says, "These are not normal times.  I am letting myself go and demonstrating my disappointment and inability to cope."  Forget it.  Be powerful against this virus.  Dress when you always dress.
  • And clean yourself up.  Shower.  Wash you hair.  Visions of mountain men and women, wildly unkempt, in person and on screens is not comforting to others during these trying times.  That includes your colleagues and clients --- especially your clients.  Having said that, forget the make-up, ladies.  This is a war!
  • Eat when you always eat.  Not all day long.  Maybe you have heard of "Freshman Fifteen" --- the weight that newbie college students gain after finally escaping the family dinner table and concentrating on junk food and carbs.  Some people are now referring to "Coronavirus Nineteen" --- the weight that we risk gaining from bad eating habits and limited exercise during our home confinement.  Don't let that be you.  You want those bathing suits and cute little shorts to look great on you when the clouds clear out. 
  • Exercise however you can.  Yoga, free weights or machines if you have them.  Be creative.  No free weights?  Canned goods work just fine!
  • Limit your consumption of bad news.  Encourage endorphins.
  • Practice "nice" whenever possible.  Everyone is stressed.  Be nice.
  • And for those of you with kids, enjoy them.  Take advantage of this unique family time.  Closeness like this may never come again.  For those of you without kids, be mindful of the stresses on your colleagues who are homeschooling for the first time and have different demands on their time than you do.  Take that into consideration when planning calls and other scheduling.

In your professional life,  

  • Communicate with colleagues and managers on a regular basis.  Make sure that people know what you are working on and that you are treating working remotely with the same seriousness that you treat working at your place of business.  Don't make a pest of yourself, and keep it short.  These managers have a lot on their minds these days.
  • Create a private and professional work place in your home.  Away from mates and kids whenever possible.  A place where you can close the door for video calls and conferencing.  And remember that kids and dogs have no place on those calls.  Baskets of laundry have no place on those calls.  Plates of half-eaten food strewn around your desk have no place on those calls.  Business as usual as much as possible.
  • And don't panic about the furlough situations any earlier than you must.  Employers are going through some reorganization, and that is to be expected.  It may or may not impact you.  Just keep to your work ethic and continue to create value.  That is the best job insurance you have.

I know it is not easy.  Most of us are not used to this kind of isolation and constant stress.  And that is especially true for those of you who live alone.  With government "Stay At Home" orders in place now, it is hard to even take a drive or a walk to connect in some small way with humanity.

Fortunately, this is not only the age of coronavirus, but it is the age of technology.  This is the time when technology works for us in the most important ways.  Reach out to friends on social media.  Skype with your family and friends.  Connect in ways that will comfort you and others.

And include special little things in your schedule each day.  Things that will delight you.  Things you will look forward to.  Things like playing a musical instrument, working in your garden, reading a book, listening to music, watching a new TV series or catching up on movies.

You CAN make this work.  You are smart, capable and innovative.  Create a new reality that draws on those qualities in a way that allows you to carry on and bridge the gap.  If we all do this, we will come out on the other side with improved values as foundations for improved lives.  Of this I am certain.  

Stay safe.  Be well.



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