Home Cup

I think many of us feel a real urge to try to get the world back to normal as quickly as possible — which for us working stiffs means going to the office and rolling up our sleeves to do our jobs.  At the same time, however, attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are only going to work if we take steps to make sure that “social distancing” has a chance to be implemented.  That means we need to listen to our inner Moe Howard, of Three Stooges fame, and “spread out” a bit.  I’m doing my part in that effort by working from home today. 

For me, at least, a key part of the work at home process is to set up a proper work space.  The best spot in my view is our kitchen island, which has a good, wide surface with plenty of room for my laptop and papers, good lighting, and a hard wooden chair to keep my posture in line. 

It’s also important to pick the right accoutrements for the home workspace — the things that signal that you’re really on the job and ready to dig in.  Picking the right coffee cup is a crucial decision, for example.  At the office I’ve got the same stoneware coffee cup that I’ve had since, literally, since I first started law school in 1982 and that has been my dependable office mug ever since I started working at the firm in 1986.  Pouring a steaming hot river of joe into that mug tells me immediately that the work day has begun. 

So, what to do for my home office cup?  I can’t pretend to pick a cup from the motley assortment in our kitchen cabinet that will have the same storied history and workplace kinship as my office mug, but it’s still important to select something that will send the same knuckle-down message.  I’ve decided to eschew the beagle cup and the cups with the southwestern designs in favor of a plain white cup with a row of dots near the rim.  It’s got a solid, no-nonsense feel to it, and also carries a significant volume, which is important when you regulate your coffee intake by trying to remember how many cups you’ve already had during the day.  It’s also got a big surface area, to allow the hot java to cool promptly.

With my coffee cup carefully selected, and the coffee pot charged and brewing, I’m ready to face the work day.  Of course, there will be one key difference between my home workspace and the office — I won’t be allowed to dispose of leftover candies and other goodies by leaving them near the coffee pot.     

Working From Home

Increasingly large numbers of Americans work all or part of the time from their homes. Estimates and data on the precise number of at-home workers vary, but somewhere between one in ten and one in five Americans regularly perform work remotely.

IMG_5989Over the past month, as I recuperated from my foot surgery, on certain days I joined the crew of periodic work-at-homers so that I could try to keep my foot elevated. I picked my spots, and for days where I did not need to be physically present at the office I brought home a lot of work-related reading, participated in meetings by phone, and used a computer and smartphone just as I would at the office. I worked full days, with a lunch break, and got a lot of work done without a problem. The work was the same; the only difference was the location where it was being done.

As the stories linked above indicate, employers debate the merits of at-home work. One of the concerns some employers have raised is whether remote workers face too many distractions and therefore won’t be as productive. People who are successful working from home would respond that the key attribute needed is discipline. You go to your home work place, and once you cross that boundary you are at work until the work day is done and the boundary is crossed again. During my intermittent work-at-home days, distractions were not a problem. (Of course, being hobbled by a bandaged foot and crutches that kept me from moving around undoubtedly helped.) In fact, in some ways working in a solitary, quiet, at-home office involves fewer distractions than working at a bustling office, where your co-workers might want to bend your ear. Whatever the venue might be, you still need to resolve to get your work done.

I can see the attraction of working from home. You cut the commute time out of your day, don’t have to pay for parking, and don’t have to worry about your attire. I found that I ultimately missed being at the office, however. I was glad when my recuperation progressed to the point that I could return to the office and rejoin my co-workers.