Do I need to wear pants? The questions that everyone has about working from home, but is afraid to ask

Thanks to COVID-19 a whole lot of us have had to make an adjustment to working from home this year. Sure, it allows us to skip a commute and sleep in a little longer. Still, it's strange to roll out of bed and roll directly into the office.  I know that I'm not the only one who has found the transition awkward at times. I'm not complaining, because at least I still have a job. Here are my Noname Nerd answers to the questions about working at home that you have, but are afraid to ask.

What do I wear? Do I need makeup?

It's all about the webcam and software.  If you don't have one or don't need to use one, you can wear whatever you want whether it is working buck naked or cosplaying as Homer Simpson. I mean, I'm sort of assuming that you live by yourself and/or have your own room because your roommates might wonder why you are in front of a computer naked. If you do have a webcam, consider at least putting a shirt on. If you are not wearing pants, be sure not to stand up and stretch during long meetings. Socks are decidedly optional. Make up is required only if your camera is high resolution. Also, if you are using looping video so that you can nap during conference calls, be sure that your clothing matches.

Seriously though, getting dressed, at least changing out of your pajamas will help your mind shift gears and focus more on work. Office dress codes are decidedly more casual online and it does look awkward to be wearing a suit when you are actually working in an unfinished basement. Still, put on that polo shirt with your company logo so that you look professional when your boss calls you up.

When am I supposed to show up to work?

15 minute before work officially starts, be sure to send at least 1 email message and schedule 1 meeting from your phone while laying in bed.  Then go back to sleep.  That way you look super productive even though you are going to sleep in for the next two hours.

OK, it's probably a better idea to stick to similar hours that you had before. However, let's not kid ourselves about the distractions that we confront especially in an era of closed schools, everyone working from home, and just the stress of a pandemic. Do your best to follow the schedule that you had before, but if you need to make adjustments do so. Maybe start and finish earlier so that you can work more hours while everyone is sleeping. Change your lunch hour so that you can enjoy time with your family during lunch.

What about when I have to go to the bathroom during a conference call?

A well-positioned bucket will allow you to discreetly take care of any necessary body function off-camera without anyone knowing. The very, let me emphasize VERY, important thing is to remember to mute your microphone. Otherwise you may have a lot of explaining to do to the other people on the call.

I seriously can't be the only one who has dealt with this. It's just like a real meeting.  If there are lots of people on the call, just casually get up and go take care of business.  If there are only a few people there or your absence will be very noticeable for some reason, just excuse yourself and do what you have to do. No need to share details, just excuse yourself.

When can I take a coffee break?

There are several software packages that will allow you to create looping videos of you sitting at your desk attentively watching the screen and typing furiously.  Strategic use of a variety of looping videos will allow you to take breaks whenever and for as long as you want. Please review the section about what you wear since you will want to make sure that your clothing matches. Minimize variation in what you wear to avoid getting caught.

You don't really need to be in front of your computer during your entire shift.  In fact, it's probably a bad idea.  If you were in the office, you would be getting up to stretch, walking to meetings, chatting with co-workers, stopping by the break room vending machine. Do the same thing. Get up, move around, get some coffee, chat with your family (if you aren't sick of them yet). Get some steps in by taking a walk during lunch. 

What are the best video games to play while working at home?

Definitely stay away from multiplayer first shooter games.  Turn-based role-playing and strategy games are your best bet.  Nothing infuriates your teammates more than suddenly being pulled away for a meeting when you are in the middle of a fight.  Also, it is awkward if you forget to turn the sound off and your boss hears one of your teammates screaming violent expletives.

The real answer is that you need to make sure that you create some separation between work and home, even though this is much more difficult when you are working in the dining room.  Put on some headphones and listen to music. Keep the door closed and make clear to your family members when you are and are not available. If there is something that you don't do at work, like play video games or watch TV, than don't do it when working from home. As you develop a routine this will become less and less of a challenge.

COVID-19 is a challenge to the entire world right now. I want to say thanks to the front line healthcare workers who are putting their lives at risk to keep us all healthy and safe. I want to reassure the many people that are confronting financial troubles, that we will get through this. Take care of each other, even when you are at a distance. Be safe out and keep washing your hands.

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