6 Survival Tips for Anyone Working from Home for the First Time

Working from Home 1200
(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Devin Boyer)

The COVID-19 outbreak has presented an entirely new situation for many Americans: working from home. While this has long been a dream for some, it could be catastrophic to others -- because you actually need to be productive to keep your job.

This isn't a one-time deal. The quarantine could last for weeks and, given the economic downturn it's caused, people are being laid off and some jobs are being lost entirely. Companies are no longer enjoying the free cash flow they once did, so they're about to be a lot more picky about which employees they keep. Make your case to stay on the payroll by being an effective teleworker.

Here are some productivity tips for those first-timers out there.

1. Make Your Bed

Take the advice of one of the U.S. military's finest commanders, retired Adm. William H. McRaven, the former SEAL Team Six commander who organized the raid on Osama bin Laden: Get out of bed and make it every day.

This will be the perfect start to a day of productive work. Find yourself an area in which you work -- and only work. Your body will be programmed for work when you enter this area.

If you work from your bed, where your body is programmed to rest, you will find yourself becoming tired. The best part is, if you make your bed, you will, at the end of the day, still have accomplished something.

McRaven probably would have added that you should get dressed for the day, if a quarantine had been part of his calculus. So do that too.

2. Organize Your Kids

Nothing is going to be more distracting than children who are also working from home. Schoolwork is going to take them only so far. After all, did you listen in class all the time? Now imagine having an Xbox at arm's length all day. When they get bored, guess who they're going to turn to?

Now is the time to get them a new video game, subscribe to Disney+ or, better yet, teach them the value of a hard day's work. That laundry isn't going to clean itself! Or maybe teach them chores that could be spun as "fun." Perhaps there's a shed that needs painting or a bathroom that needs to be cleaned.

The quarantined world can be their oyster if you make the case for it.

3. Take Care of Yourself

Gyms are closed, and supermarkets will have a run on fresh foods. Unless you're vegan and gluten-free, your healthy food options are going to be limited. Working from home brings together the dangerous combination of limited movement and overeating. Welcome to the ultimate first-world problem.

Besides the danger of gaining what this author is going to call "The Coronavirus 20," there are other physical and mental considerations. Anyone who's worked from home for a long time knows that sitting all day will cause your feet to swell, so get up and move once in a while. If your workspace is in a basement, be sure to make fresh air and sunlight part of your day. And get a fitness app like Sworkit to keep your job prospects growing instead of your waistline.

4. Be Professional

Be the person you are at work. The "Work You" is reliable and professional. When someone asks for your help at work, they want the person they know will deliver what they promised.

Most importantly, mute your mic during telemeetings. No one wants to hear you sigh every time Kelsey in sales pipes up with her unpopular opinions. We're all thinking it, but no one should say it just because they're not in the same room.

5. Use Your Work Computer as Intended

Use a work laptop for work; use your personal computer to watch "Law and Order" reruns. If your company issued you a laptop to get business done, do business things on it. If you can work from home, so can those IT guys -- and part of their job is to watch you.

Jeff is watching you. (U.S. Air Force)

Lenny Briscoe is everyone's best friend, but you shouldn't be visiting him while you're supposed to be writing reports. If you decide to take a break and drop in on one of New York's finest murder investigations, don't use your work computer. Even an incognito window can't hide you from the IT department.

6. Change Your Passwords and Update Your Wi-Fi Plan

Remember, you aren't the only person sheltering in place at home. Your kids will need more bandwidth for their new Disney+ subscription, and you're going to be streaming "Investigation Discovery" half the day. If you gave that cute airman down the hall your Wi-Fi and/or Netflix password thinking it would make her more likely to date you, you know she's about to double down on it.

Call Comcast to update your bandwidth offering for the time being and change all your streaming passwords to stop leeching.


-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com.

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