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First Local Episode 2 - COVID Coping - Working from home

Hello, bonjour, and welcome to First Local, your public affairs show. This is the second episode of COVID Coping.

I’m Candice Vetter, reporting from my home office in North Russell.

Today’s theme is Working from Home.

It occurred to me, that since I started working mostly from home in the 1990s, I might have some useful tips to people for whom this is new.

First, let’s look at the positive side. I deliberately rearranged my life, including switching jobs and contracts frequently, so I could enjoy the many, many benefits of working from home. I’ll talk about the challenges a little later.

You save money—a lot of money. No commuting costs, no bus, no gas, no parking, no daycare, no stopping for an expensive coffee, no restaurant lunch, no pantyhose, no makeup, and less take-out food. It’s surprising how it adds up.

Then there’s time. I figured out, that when I stopped getting dressed up in the morning, stopped dropping a kid off at the babysitter’s, and stopped driving about an hour and a half to work and back each day, I saved almost four hours every day. That’s 20 hours a week.

Because I could start work as soon as I got up, and because I found it easier to be productive in my own space, I could finish work by mid-afternoon, giving me unhurried time for supper preparation and family tasks.

Life became easier for the whole household once I was at home most of the time.

You can control your space. If you have young kids at home right now and two parents both trying to work from home this may seem impossible. But it’s not. Part of my desk is the computer work station which my husband also uses, and which my kids used to when they lived at home. So we picked times. I prefer to start work early and get the paying work done for the day, so I’d get my tasks requiring the computer or being online done first. My husband got it later in the day, and the kids in the evening.

To be fair, I was the main user and the others didn’t need it a lot, and the kids were at school after the first couple of years. Making that arrangement work when two or more adults are doing their jobs from home and children and teens are attending school at home, with the expectation that parents will help, is harder, for sure.

In 1998 my kids were home for weeks, first with teachers’ strikes, then with a contagious illness (hmm, sounds familiar). One thing I quickly learned is that the schoolwork kids do at home should take about a quarter of the time going to school takes. They can’t hack more without the social aspects of school, and neither can you.

I also learned that a great way to teach fractions is by baking. Substituting different sizes of measuring cups and converting back and forth from fractional Imperial measures to decimal Metric is good practice. Baking is also a terrific teaching tool as there is a sweet reward at the end, and now your kids know how to bake!

If you can manage it, work in a different place than the rest of your family.

With really little kids it’s hard, but I got a neat tip from my daughter. She set up an office in her basement and lives in a house. Her husband is on parental leave. In the morning she says goodbye to her toddler, who cries, then she goes out the front door, around the house to the back door and down the stairs. He has no idea that she’s at home working. Of course that only works if they’re young enough to fool.

Older kids can strap in and buckle up too. This is an emergency and everyone has to do their part. First kid who whines there is nothing to do gets a chore. This includes chores kids like, and can also include some surprise fun things to do. I heard two siblings on CBC radio yesterday who together had worked out their own schedule and had figured out a Lego-jar reward system.

Telephone or videoconference with coworkers. It helps you stay in the workplace zone. One group of office workers sent each other photos of their newly set-up home offices. They said it helped to picture the place their coworkers were in.

For formal conversations, a simple background like a bookshelf or large wall map looks professional and does not require housecleaning.

I liked to work early, but everyone has their own peak performance times. Bear in mind, though, that we usually have more willpower earlier in the day, so start those hard jobs early! I learned that if I hadn’t started a big or difficult project before two p.m. I wouldn’t get started at all.

And here’s the biggest challenge, Self-discipline. How did I motivate myself to go to “work” first every day? I remembered what it was like to go out to work, often to jobs I didn’t like, and the comparison kept me in line.

Look at it this way. Here is the opportunity to test whether or not you have the job, the personality and the tools to work at home. It’s also a chance to show your workplace that it can benefit. I don’t know why way more places don’t allow staff to work from home. Overhead costs can be greatly reduced.

Finally, some people need the social aspects of the workplace. I don’t, I’m a writer and an introvert, but even so I like seeing my colleagues face to face every week or two. So now I call them. Or Facetime them. Or text them. Or video chat with them. There are so many ways to stay connected.

All in all, we are, right now, in the best time and best place for a pandemic that there has been.

So hunker down, stay safe at home, and do your best.

If you have an interesting take on the COVID-19 crisis, contact CJRO. First Local would like to hear from you. Send an email to newsCJRO@gmail.com


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