WFH - Back to the Early Days, Yet All Different

When I first started Stax – I worked from home. We started in the kitchen of the place I shared with two roommates in the South End, Boston; then the sunroom of the place we got in Brookline; then the basement of the two family I bought in Somerville, where I worked alone in the basement through a long Boston winter (the old ones that were really cold). Isolation can be tough (this was the 90s, no video, no real Internet, no meme sharing). By the time we moved, I was even spotlighted in a Wall Street Journal article Working at Home Can Be Fun Until It Engulfs Your Space.

What helped me first and immensely in the early days was advice from my friend Aaron. He said he could always tell who was at home working in their pajamas. The person who worked remotely who Aaron most admired told him that she had a solid routine, go out for a coffee and come back to work, even when work is your house. I did that for a while, ‘cept it was the Japonaise Bakery in Brookline. Coffee, baguettes, and a younger metabolism. By the time I moved to Somerville, building out the basement for the office, working on the business, back to the working on the house – there was a lot less time, so I just made the coffee, cereal, cleaning up, getting dressed routine like I was going in work. Gave me clarity that I was in the ‘office.’

Today is a bit harder, because of social distancing. So, the social element of not seeing folks is tough and must be more so for folks who live alone. For those of who already co-habitat, we have the benefit of our families and then trying to jostle the calls with the family discussions, being the person you are supposed to be at home, and having the focus and mojo you’re supposed to have at work. Nothing makes a conference call on a negotiation, like the additional, “daddy can I help you with work?”

So, what to do? Really – you read this far and thought I’d have the answers? Not by a long shot.

A few ideas, but no real answers.

  • I still use the routine. Trying to be better about ‘closing time’ for dinner, and then pick up later in the evening. After this, I need a real break before trying to sleep. Sleep – it’s everything.
  • It’s good to take the normal breaks that I would at work, but now with the family and I’m working on getting better at mentally shifting when I take that break. Those commuting hours saved instantly get channeled into work, so work is already getting plenty more time.
  • Mobility in the apartment. My desk isn’t really my desk, so much as a piece of furniture taking up shared space in our place, so I now move around more to accommodate. I like to think of it as water trying to find the lowest location. I’m just trying to find the lowest ambient noise.
  • All those things around the house that I notice need fixing, and notice so much more because I’m home every day. Yeah, they’ll stay that way. I’ll just start appreciating them more for the uniqueness and plan to get to them by summer or fall.
  • I’m going to work on using video. The folks I know forever, while we don’t need it – I think it will make us feel better and the folks whom I’ve worked with less or am newer to working with – I think it will be tremendous.
  • I will attempt to lighten up. Plenty of things going on that are not so light and fun to deal with, but a lot of which are just an inconvenience, and we need to distinguish between the two. And if I'm talking to you, I can help us both do that.
  • Take a little time to check on other folks. All of those great causes we all try to help in good times – they need even more help now. Even if they don’t know how they’ll need it. And our parents and anyone in an older age category, gosh do we all need to make time to communicate more with them now. Just a couple of minutes here and there. Not to mention, they’ve probably been through a few things in their lives, and may just have some perspective too.
  • And, as someone who works a lot, I need to remember – excuse me, it’s 9:40 pm and it was a good idea to write this because it will be cathartic for me and I hope it helps others, but I’d like to go hang out with my wife.

Have a good night and day at the home office.

Rafi

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