When I started writing about working from home due to the pandemic, I never thought I’d be writing about it again in 2022, but here we are. The
omicron variant has caused many workplaces to either continue their work-at-home policies or reinstate them. I’m hoping that this surge will be gone soon but — given the history of the past two years — I’m not banking on a return to normal any time soon.
As hard as it was to make the transition from commuting to working at home and/or having our kids schooled from home, most of us thought it would be for a short period when we started this process around March of 2020. But we’re now going on two years, and based on what I’m hearing from friends, people are getting tired of it. Personally, the pandemic hasn’t changed my daily work schedule because I’ve been writing and broadcasting from home for many years. But a big part of my work has always been traveling and meeting with people locally or in other parts of the world, and those meetings are not happening except on Zoom or a rare in-person outdoor meeting.
Equipment and lighting
I’ve already written about the technology you need to work or study from home, and it’s not complicated. You mostly need a good internet connection and a device with a webcam. The only two things that many people overlook is good lighting and a decent microphone. Lighting is very important and not that hard to set-up. I’m happy with my home office’s overhead lights, but not everyone has those. If you can, put in a tall lamp so you have light coming from above or lights in front of you that provide illumination but don’t blind you. Back lighting is usually a bad idea, and it’s also usually a bad idea to sit in front of an undraped window during daylight hours. If people are having trouble hearing or understanding you, consider an inexpensive USB microphone or headset. Because I also do radio and TV interviews, I generally use a relatively high-end broadcast microphone, but I’m pretty impressed by the sound quality of my Sennheiser Consumer Audio Sennheiser PC 8 USB – Stereo USB Headset, available on Amazon for $22.50. USB microphones start at under $30, and almost any external microphone is likely to be better than the ones built into laptops and webcams. Having said that, I’ve been impressed by the sound of some built-in mics, so try what you have before buying something else.
Where you work
Not every family is able to dedicate a private space for everyone who needs to work or study at home, but try to find a quiet place to work where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic. For some, it may have to be a bedroom where you work during the day and sleep at night, but try to find a place that gives you some solitude and doesn’t disturb others. If you must share a space with a working partner or housemate or kids doing remote learning, set some ground rules to make sure you don’t disturb each other. Having headsets (or even ear buds) are a start, but try to avoid situations where people are talking around others who are working or studying. I used to do a lot of my writing at coffee shops, but these days, I’m again avoiding being around non-household members, especially in places where people don’t wear masks.
We have central radiant heat at our house, but to avoid sky-high heating bills and unnecessary contributions to global warming, we keep the thermostat at about 62 degrees most of the day. That’s OK when walking around but too cold for working, so I have a space heater in my office. I always set a timer to shut off the heater in an hour or two so it doesn’t stay on if I forget to turn it off. I recently purchased a WiFi controlled space Atomi Smart Heater, which does the job nicely and lets me turn it on or off from anywhere. Prices vary from about $69 for the table-top model to $119 for the tower model. Both have the same heating element, but the tabletop model is less expensive. Costco has them for $70 and $70 respectively. Walmart had them a few weeks ago for even less, but they raised the price, so shop around.
Trying to maintain your well-being and supporting the well-being of others is probably the most challenging aspect of this pandemic. For me, taking breaks has been very important. I try to go for walks at least twice a day and take frequent breaks where I just get up, walk around the house or perhaps grab a glass of water or a snack. For obvious reasons, too much snacking can be problematic, which is one of the dangers of working from home.
While I like video conferencing and generally prefer it to audio-only, there is such a thing as “Zoom fatigue.” One way to mitigate this is to intersperse video calls with old-fashion phone calls, perhaps while going for a walk. Even when I’m on a video call, I sometimes turn off my camera so I can relax and not feel that I am “on” all the time.
I’m no mental health expert, but I do know the importance of relaxation and breathing. The American Lung Association has breathing exercises that can help. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends the “4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise,” which you can learn about by Googling “andrew weil 4-7-8. It takes less than 2 minutes to do four sets, you can do it from your desk, and it does seem to work.
Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety activist.
We are now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TechiUpdate) and stay updated with the latest Technology headlines.
For all the latest Lifestyle News Click Here