Due to coronavirus concerns, more and more businesses are asking employees to work from home. Here’s some useful advice:
Get used to it.
I’m no Nostradamus, but businesses have done everything they can to cut costs including firing anyone with experience and replacing them with recent graduates of third grade. (People with experience tend to have larger paychecks and third graders will slave away for a cold glass of milk and a half-dozen Double Stuf Oreos.)
So once penny-pinching employers get used to the idea of you working from home, they’ll realize they no longer need to pay for parking lots, lunch rooms, cubicles, lights, heat or toilet paper which is currently going for about $50 a roll if you can find it on the black market.
Once the virus scare is over (and let’s hope we all live to see that) why not have you continue to work at home and let you foot those expenses?
I could be wrong and often am, but working at home might become the new norm; which you’re about to find out, kinda sucks.
It’s not as cool as you think
I’ve had more working-from-home experience than I care to.
The first time was after I got fired by the San Diego Union and didn’t find another job as a political cartoonist for two years. That job was with the Kansas City Star and I’ve been working from home since December of 2017 after the Star “laid me off.”
Being “laid off” is the employment equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me.” Something someone says to make themselves feel better about what they’re doing to you, but however they put it the bottom line is you’re breaking up whether you like it or not.
You’re no longer getting laid or paid.
At first working at home can seem awesome, but if it goes on too long you feel like you’re under house arrest and ought to be wearing some kind of ankle monitor.
Clothing is not optional
When you have an office to go to, weekends are special because you don’t have to set an alarm, jump in the shower or wear something besides those sweatpants with the big stain on the leg.
Remember how that felt because your weekends are no longer special.
When you work at home it’s hard to separate weekends from weekdays because every day is pretty much the same. It doesn’t take long before you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day without Andie MacDowell to keep you company .
Motivation becomes a problem.
You no longer have a good reason to get up or shave or wear clothes; something I discovered back in San Diego. Back then I was a boxers guy. Like every other sane man I’ve since evolved to boxer briefs and ladies if your guy is still wearing tidy-whities he needs new underwear or you need a new guy.
So because I wasn’t going anywhere and I had yet to develop a beer gut or body shame, I’d sometimes sit down to work while wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts.
I was living in an apartment complex and my mailbox was outside at the end of a block of apartments and one day I realized maybe I had gotten too comfortable with my situation when I was out getting my mail and realized I had walked out of my apartment and through the complex wearing nothing but a faded pair of Fruit of the Looms.
So whether it’s required or not, even if you’re working from home I’d suggest wearing clothes.
Separate work from home
Here’s another problem: you’re never away from work.
When you have a place of employment and leave on Friday most of the time you can forget your work until Monday. Those two days of peace no longer exist.
Back in my San Diego days Monday Night Football was a big deal to me and everybody else in America and one Monday I got some takeout food and a six-pack of beer. That’s what it took to get me through an evening: two before-dinner beers, two with dinner and two after-dinner drinks. (So now you know why I no longer wander around in my underwear.)
I had an unfinished piece of art on my drawing table next to my TV and realized there was a detail I wanted to change and sat down to do it while it was still on my mind. When the MNF game hit halftime I was still working.
That pulled me out of my trance and I thought, “What the hell are you doing? You’re missing Monday Night Football to do some work that you could do tomorrow.”
I read about some author – Upton Sinclair or Sinclair Lewis or maybe it was Justin Upton – but the point is this guy would get dressed like he was going to work and then walk around the block.
Once he got back to his house it was no longer his house, it was where he worked.
When he was done writing he’d walk around the block in the opposite direction and now he was no longer at his place of work, he was back home.
I think there’s something to be learned from this and here it is: all writers are crazy. This is why we tend to develop drinking problems; we’re alone all day and that can drive you insane.
Think of this:
In prison, solitary confinement is considered punishment so that means the average guy would rather hang out with murderers, rapists and arsonists and fight off whatever dude wants to make him his girlfriend than spend time alone.
And if you’ve been told to work at home, you just got put in solitary confinement.
Employers: try to focus on the bottom line
This piece of advice is for your employer, but don’t expect them to listen because when has that ever happened?
Maybe you can use it next time you get in an argument with your boss, but now that I think about it, the absolute worst thing you can do is win an argument with your boss because then they need to fire you so they don’t have to think about the time you made them look like a horse’s ass.
In any case, use this piece of logic with care.
One of the reasons employers like having their employees in one room is it makes them feel like Leonardo DiCaprio standing on the front of the Titanic: King of the World.
“Just look at all my minions.”
Your presence also gives them the chance to over-manage and feel like they’re doing something. That’s why you get directives about how many pictures you can hang in your cubicle and what kind of potted plant you can put on your desk.
Now – as so often happens with me – we turn to baseball.
I knew a minor league manager who was given a bunch of rules about haircuts and moustaches and dress codes and he told the parent club they were focusing on that stuff because they didn’t know how to win.
Guess what minor league manager lost his job.
But his point remains: if a team wins, who cares how they dress or whether or not their hair hangs past their shirt collars?
The same should go for you: if you get the job done and didn’t commit any felonies in the process, who cares how many pictures you have in your cubicle or the size of the potted plant on your desk?
Nevertheless, I predict that control-freak managers will have a problem with their employees no longer being where they can see them and start coming up with rules and requirements that have nothing to do with the bottom line. This will be a mistake, but one they’re probably going to make anyway.
When I had a job I was lucky because that job was drawing a cartoon and if at the end of the day I had a cartoon to give them it was pretty clear I’d done that job.
So if your job is drawing stuff or writing stuff or selling stuff, see if you can get your manager to focus on whether that job gets done instead of focusing on meeting arbitrary goals that have nothing to do with success.
Good luck with that.
And for God’s sakes, put some pants on.