‘Work from home’. Work, from home. Work. From. Home. Has there ever been a more bittersweet phrase uttered? Initially, the possibilities seemed endless. With no meetings, we stopped shaving for an entire week. We finally finished those spreadsheets while whipping up a mean Eggs Arlington for second brunch. And those bottomless emails? At home, we worked our way down our inboxes while also working our way down a bottle of 2016 Château Méaume. Bliss!
But all novelties come to an end. And, suddenly — after two glasses had turned into five, we’d missed that immovable deadline and, worst of all, still had our slippers on — it was 2021. Working from home became the new normal, and it’s now been months since we left our offices in March 2020.
With no end in sight, we’re really starting to realise how tricky the whole business is. So what shall we do? How can we introduce some of that carpet-tiled, strip-lit sparkle of office life into our homes? For starters, maybe you should pop the cork back in that bottle of red. And take a shower, because even students and start-up types can find the time to wash. Got that? Good, because we’ve got a few more thoughts below…
Pyjamas and slippers do not a productive worker make
Remember the time HR sent around that email about inappropriate cufflinks in the office? Well, what would they make of your novelty dressing gown and T-shirt from Reading Festival 2006? It was a good one, wasn’t it? Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys headlining. But that’s beside the fact. Such casual dressing wouldn’t fly on the fourteenth floor — so nor should it be acceptable when you’re working from home.
Our first rule for establishing an efficient workspace at home is to dress appropriately. If you keep your pyjamas on all day, you won’t work as hard — even if you don’t realise it. Put on a pressed shirt, tuck it in and — bear with us here — lace up your work shoes. You may be sceptical, but the minute you’ve tied those double bows everything will feel a whole lot more normal, formal and office official. Also, this way, when you slip your shoes off at six, you’ll be all the more relaxed.
Don't underestimate a good cup of coffee
Chances are you don’t drink the best coffee at work. There’s that jar of something instant over by the microwave and, although you drink three to four cups of it a day, you’re still not completely sure it’s not gravy granules. But hey-ho, it keeps you awake — and everyone else drinks it, too. Thankfully, now you’re holed up at home, you don’t have to sip the same slurry as your colleagues. You can finally splash out on some tip-top, richly roasted expensive beans — and all without worrying that Jan from accounts is going to snaffle them.
And don’t skimp on your equipment, either. A coffee break is a great way to press pause on your working day, and the more ritualistic you make it — we’re talking the full grinding, brewing, percolating and pouring affair — the more likely it is that it’ll do the job. It’s also a good idea to have a brimming caffeinated cup on hand or desk at all times — never before will your nearby nap-ready bed have seemed so appealing.
Don't even look at the television. We mean it.
People knock Bargain Hunt — but two or three episodes in and you’ll be rifling through your attic for antiques with the best of us. And that’s why it’s always best to keep the TV turned off during working hours. Rid yourself of the remote and you won’t even be tempted to have a quick scroll through Netflix’s obscure Japanese anime offerings. Because one episode of something will soon turn into two, and then a series, and then a film, and then a franchise — and the day’ll be done before you know it.
Instead, stick to your usual schedule. There’s no opportunity to kick back and watch half a season of Westworld at work, so don’t do it when working from home. As soon as that clock ticks over to 6pm, feel free to settle in for a binge-session. But not before.
A conducive workspace is key to success
Anything can be a desk when you think about it. Breakfast bar? Why not. Upturned laundry basket? Suppose so. Golden Retriever? If it sits still long enough. Your house is just a den of would-be desks, and the only limit is your imagination. One of the worst things about modern office culture is that we spend the whole day staring at the same wall, the same potted plant, the same not-so sneakily snacking co-worker — so be thankful that working from home at least allows you to move.
That might mean a morning session churning out emails in the dining room, a quick spell proof-reading at your coffee table over lunch, or even a conference call on your back step to wrap up the day. Our secret weapon in the home-desk department? The ironing board. Portable enough to move around the house, tall enough to use as a standing desk and, if you ever do need a break from sifting through your spam, you can always press pause by practising the perfect trouser crease.
Remember to breathe air. Fresh, lovely, stimulating air.
You wouldn’t think we’d need to discuss this one, but it turns out we live in a world where people drink more coffee than water at work. So here goes: remember to open a window, to go for a walk around your garden, or just to stand on your front step once in a while — aaand inhale. Even if you’ve convinced yourself that you can still be productive in your fusty, musty, hermetically-sealed bedroom, know that nothing gets the mind ticking quicker than a lungful of clean, clear air.
Even if you just crack a window next to your workspace, you’ll immediately feel the benefits of the crisp outside thanks to the breeze. Because if you hole yourself up too comprehensively, your working day will soon descend into horrible, fuggy drudgery — the likes of which even the briskest of walks won’t be able to shake off.
Make use of your newly free commute time
Would you look at that? It’s 8:58am and you’ve still not stepped outside your front door. Usually, you’d have left over an hour ago and you’d almost be at your desk by now. But have you used this extra hour wisely? No, of course you haven’t. You treated yourself to an extra few bashes of the snooze button, a second helping of cereal and 30 minutes of inane Instagram scrolling. What a waste. Be better — and use your usual commuting time constructively instead.
This might mean getting a jump on the day, making a checklist of tasks that you need to complete — and deciding the order in which you’re going to tick them off. But we’d take another approach. Rather than working, we’d use that newfound extra hour to complete some household chores. Otherwise, they’ll just hang over your head all day. It may sound unlikely, but we can guarantee that if don’t do your chores now, at some point today you’ll feel an inexplicable, overwhelming desire to hoover. And no-one wants that…
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