April 3, 2020
Things are tough for everyone these days, and most of us are struggling to figure out either how to adapt to working from home (often while getting kids to learn virtually) or we’re looking for some way to make enough money to tide us over until… whatever is next. So, with that in mind, I wanted to offer a few tips and resources to navigate this new but temporary normal.
Working from home:
There are lots of bits of advice floating around out there, but I wanted to offer some experience from people who have done it on purpose, as well as some science-based thoughts on the matter. First, I offer my friend Richard’s excellent series about what he’s learned from going through the process. Second, here’s what science has to say on the matter. Of course, the most important thing is that you find what works for you, so identify when you are at your most productive and focus on that instead of the advice you find online.
That said, I have found it very helpful to have a dedicated work area. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. This is my setup, and as you can see from the food processor and the top of the rice cooker behind my screen, it’s in my kitchen.
(Yes, that’s a cooling rack under my computer. I’m doing lots of videos and it heats up quickly!)
I have a screen I can put up around myself so I’m less distracted by the goings-on around me, but the main thing for me is having a space I associate with work and not other stuff. It’s also helpful that the kitchen is as far from my TV as it’s possible to be, so I’m not tempted to binge-watch anything.
It’s also important to take lots of breaks, because this stuff is hard. This isn’t voluntarily working from home for most people; it’s being forced to make the best out of a scary and uncertain situation. So be aware of being extra kind to yourself as we trundle through this: take 5-minute breaks between tasks, go for solitary walks if you can, spend time talking to friends via phone or internet. For those of you who are having trouble focusing, try a free app for the Pomodoro Technique, a way of focusing your attention in short, productive bursts.
Looking for work:
If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, you carry the extra burden of personal uncertainty. The first thing I encourage you to do is file for unemployment. The states are overwhelmed with applications now, so the process can be daunting, but you should act as quickly as you can because hiring is happening at a snail’s pace these days, and you need a source of income. The faster you get on it, the faster your money will come.
If, like most of us, you would rather work for your money, there are lots of places that are currently looking to hire immediately. (Those are all live links! Don’t miss ‘em.) These are not fabulous, high-paying jobs, but they are worth looking into for the short-term. If you have kids at home or are caring for a loved one, you may also want to explore remote work options. Be aware, though, that your odds of finding a remote job are much higher in your home state because most employers don’t want to have to deal with the tax laws of multiple states.
If your hours have been cut and you’re just looking to add to your current income, you can also look for side gigs and passive income options. As a rule, these aren’t huge money-makers, but in this economic climate, every little bit helps!
And if your main fear is how to pay your rent, talk to your landlord and read up on what you need to know.
What to do now:
Regardless of your situation, now is the time to be focused on networking. Yes, I know, you probably hate the very word, but do it anyway. Reach out to family, friends, old colleagues, people you want to college with. Start, of course, with a check-in. Some people are handling the stress better than others, and chances are good that at least one person you know is feeling the loneliness of this situation very keenly.
Of course, what the situation means for the time we’re allowed out of our homes again is unclear to everyone. Hiring managers and economists and people who study business are predicting some interesting changes, based on things like previous recessions, and much of it is at least a little hopeful. It seems that some segments are making changes to their recruiting and hiring, and that feels very positive to me.