Home Not Quite Alone

By Robert Goldman

April 9, 2020 5 min read

What do experienced work-at-homers know that you don't know?

It can make you crazy. It can also make you fired.

It's true!

There are advantages to working from home. The hours you used to spend sitting in traffic will become a distant memory when your daily commute consists of making your way from your desk to your refrigerator and back again. No matter how many times a day you make this commute, it's zero strain on your nerves — though, to be brutally honest, it may create a strain on your belt.

And though not hearing the annoying twaddle of your co-workers and not seeing the sinister stare of your manager are positives, the absence of these workplace realities could make you paranoid, as well as fat.

That's why I was happy to see Ron Charles, book critic of The Washington Post, jumping in with a review of "Eat Sleep Work Repeat." It's a sorry mantra, but according to its author, Bruce Daisley, the book is an exercise in "improving office life."

Daisley provides a number of interesting suggestions for newly minted work-at-homers, most of whom are well beyond the 280-character limit you'd expect from a vice president at Twitter. I think it's worth spending a few extra syllables to discuss what he has to say.

One aspect of the new home-alone work style that may surprise you is, "Stress levels of remote workers are significantly higher than those of people who work in the office." You would think that the opportunity to work in your jammies would make you totally relaxed, especially if you can keep Mr. Fuzzy J. Bear in your lap as you work.

But there is a psychic price to pay when you "no longer can see the smile of someone near the elevators or someone nodding in a meeting."

At your job, that should be someone nodding out in a meeting, but the point is valid.

"We get so many nonverbal clues from people around us that when those are removed," author Daisley says, "we start filling the void with dark thoughts, especially in the time we're in right now."

If the peace and quiet of your home office is filling you with dread, collect all the TVs and radios in your house and arrange them in a circle around your desk. Crank up the volume, and let the cacophony of snarky podcasts, rabid talk-show hosts and strangely toxic reality TV shows chase away those dark thoughts. You'll soon learn that you don't need people in your work life, though a big bottle of ibuprofen may prove necessary.

If the soundtrack you've created is not enough to replicate office life, Daisley suggests you may have to "take on doing an action that initially feels a bit uncomfortable: picking up the phone and calling a few colleagues once or twice a week."

Yes, he's talking about a phone call. Not an email. Not a text. Not a tweet, but dialing a phone number, letting it ring and actually conversing with another human being.

It's probably been a long time since you've used your phone for this purpose, though I am told it was quite common in the old days. You won't know what to say, of course, so here's a surefire conversation starter:

"Hello. You don't know me, but your best friend has been arrested and urgently needs your Social Security number and the password to your bank account."

Don't be surprised if the response is somewhat negative. What counts is that you've made a human connection.

Another challenge the work-at-homer faces is a severe drop in their "presenteeism." Your hostility may be maximum and your productivity minimal, but if your manager sees you present and sitting at your desk, you're safe.

If you're working from home, this is a problem.

In order to improve your presenteeism rating, you may have to spend most of your day in endless Zoom meetings. This makes no sense since one of the best reasons to work from home is to escape endless meetings.

Fortunately, a variety of lifelike dolls are available to take your place. I personally recommend a Disney Princess 32-inch Playdate Ariel.

If you are taller than 32 inches, simply position the doll closer to your computer's camera. Easy peasy. You're not a mermaid? Don't sweat it. If anybody in the meeting notices you now have long red hair, a shimmering blue and pink fishtail and a Dinglehopper hairbrush, they'll definitely think it's an improvement.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: TheDigitalWay at Pixabay

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