Home Sweet Office

March 27th, 2020

Hallie From Home

(As published in The Daily Memphian)

(photo: Hallie Conaway Schorman working from home in Syracuse. Yes, they're all in one chair.)

As I write this, more and more of you are working from home. In this different time, all of us are figuring out the new abnormal.

Our daughter and son-in-law are in Syracuse and are both working from home. Her office is the living room and his is the den. Boundaries are being respected. Except by the dogs.

Our son has been working from home since long before coronavirus and his wife works her real estate license out of the house as well. Boundaries are being respected. Except by the dogs. And their three kids.

I’ve spent much of my career, including the last 13 years, working from home. Since that career started when the earth was cooling and slide rules were home computers, I’ve learned some lessons about managing the home officing process. Now seems a good time to share some general rules.

Go to work. You’ll love the commute. But whether it’s five miles or 25 feet, you’re going to work, so act like it. Respect the job.

Assign the hours. Work when you’re supposed to, and get the work done, but don’t work just because you can and your computer is right there. Be sure and give yourself down time.

Shave. Whatever you shaved before, however often you shaved before, keep shaving.

Wear pants. Or whatever you wore at the office. This is the office.

Brush your teeth. Morning breath can fog a monitor. Related: Before a video conference or call, check your teeth. That green thing stuck in there can be just as disconcerting on camera as it is across a conference table.

And your hair. Morning hair can be frightening, and those horns can be the subject of later office conversations, or even screen captures. 

Be aware of your surroundings. When you’re on camera, your background and work area are visible. Don’t make them the star of the show. For instance, a home bar in the background or a TV screen on a freeze frame of Game Of Thrones reruns ... or worse ... are out. Know where your bong is, and the cheeseburger wrappers, and remember the pants I referred to earlier.

Don’t watch, surf, stream, post, play, or play with anything you didn’t do at the office during working hours. Bonus Exceptions: Dogs; you can play with the dogs. Significant others; if they’re working from home too, well, things will happen. You will get together and – let’s just say – play. So long as you recognize that the phone will blow up, both phones, while things are in progress. And computers and tablets. And the doorbell. And the aforementioned dogs. This phenomenon is not limited to just working from home; it’s tied to the activity. So is a phone call from your mother-in-law. However, many of you will have your kids at home as well, so the whole event isn’t happening anyway.

Stay in touch. Check in with your colleagues during the day – not just about projects and workflow but also about Grace’s promotion, or the new guy in accounting, or will they have that leak in the men’s room fixed when we get back ... or see above ... somebody’s hair in the video conference that morning. Don’t underestimate the value of continuity of contact. I just made that term up. Human Resources would be proud.

Get out of there. Go to lunch. Even in the time of Covid-19, you gotta eat and you gotta get outside. Pick up a sandwich – God knows the restaurants need the business. Take it down by the river or over to the park or just out on the porch and enjoy. Then take a walk.

And every once in a while, take the rest of the day off. And stay well.

I’m a Memphian, and I’m going to go play with the dogs now.

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