Letters I Haven't Written Yet

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So I’ve been self-isolated for 4 days now. My partner and I decided to isolate for two reasons. First, because he was potentially exposed to COVID-19 at work. A few of his colleagues were tested positive for the virus, and his office sent messages out that people should work from home, all while monitoring their health. While we both feel fine, we also know that we could be asymptomatic carriers, and so it’s best to stay home instead of infect those that are more at risk, such as the elderly or the immunocompromised. Second, I’m asthmatic. So even if I wasn’t a carrier, if I did get it, I’d be at greater health risk if I did catch it. So again, another excellent reason to stay home. There’s another awesome reason, though it may not be an awesome reason for everyone. Self-quarantine means that you don’t have to deal with assholes out there in the world. A definite bonus, at least for me.

Let’s start by saying this whole thing is SHIT. Not only are people are getting sick and dying, but governments are putting their economies before lives, and people are using this virus as another excuse to be racist dipshits. Overall, our reaction to this proves to me that as a species, we may very well deserve to go extinct, and this may be the start.

All that being said, I know that my partner and are really are in excellent circumstances compared to others. Are we the ultra elite hiring private jets and hiding out in a bunker? No, sadly. My book hasn’t found a home yet, but when she does, I’m sure I’ll be in that category (I mean obviously right?). But even if we’re not Bezos’s bunker buddies, we’re still really lucky. We both have jobs where we can actually work from home. I’m a writer and consultant, and really all I need is my laptop and some tea for the work I do. My partner too, has a job where all he needs is a good IT set-up, and he’s good to go. So we’re not at financial risk in making the decision to self-isolate. We have work contracts and savings. We have health insurance.

Not everyone is as lucky as we are.

That being said, while self-isolating has it’s good side, it’s harder than it sounds. Because it’s not just about not going into an office or meeting people, it’s about, voluntarily, not going outside. At all. So, after 4 days of hiding out, I do have some tips, just in case you decide to self-isolate, or, if you end up in state imposed quarantine.

Meet my desk. we have a boss chair, some great screens, tea and hand cream. Princess Lea is overseeing all activities.

Organise your workspace. If there’s two of you, and if at all possible, place them on separate sides of the home, so you’re not in each other’s face all the time. I live in a two bedroom flat. The guest room is where my partner works, and I have set up an office space in the living room. It works for both of us – he needs the space, I prefer the light. We sit at our desks and do our thing, meeting in the kitchen from time to time. There may also be random dance-offs in the kitchen, but that’s not a requirement, that’s just us. Also, and this is definitely a #protip – make sure you have a boss chair. Just saying. It’ll change your life.

Be mindful of each other’s meetings and conferences, aka, don’t be a dick. Working from home means a lot more video conferences and telephone calls, coordinating with team members to get different tasks done. Find a way to keep track of each other’s calls, so you don’t disturb each other. In our case, we just tell each other every time we have a VC, always use our headphones for the call, and close the door so as not to disturb the other person. When we’re done the call, we let the other one know. Really, it’s like working in open space, but with someone you actually care about.

Tom & Lorenzo have what is probably one of my favourite Twitter feeds. Always nuggets of wisdom, and killer fashion commentary.

Organise your work-day like you’re in the office. We all have a billion things to do, and so the extra time at home (no transport, no after work beers) means more time in front of the laptop. So that means you can get a lot more done, but it’s also not a positive work environment. In my case, I haven’t done any writing at all, completely focusing on my consulting work. It’s great, I’m getting a lot done, but I’m exhausted because I haven’t been taking time to do fun things either. Time to set up the schedule, and make sure I get a bit of everything in, or as much as possible, while I’m at home.

Get dressed. Seriously. Get up, and get dressed, like at work. I love my pyjamas, and I can honestly tell you I have the best PJs IN THE WORLD. Harry Potter PJs, with spangly patronus’ on them. I am protected from all things, including sex appeal. But if I want to succeed somehow in this working from home situation, I need to make it feel like work. So that means getting dressed (ladies, bras are optional. I don’t judge).

Eat at meal times. It’s so easy to snack all the time while at home. I mean the kitchen is RIGHT THERE. Plus, I’m the Queen of eating for the sake of eating, for no other reason than the fact that I have the food in the cupboard. In fact, I was munching on some Salt and Vinegar chips as I was typing this. Luckily, I don’t have many bags of chips, so the happiness must be rationed. To make sure you don’t completely go off the rails in terms of nutrition or general health, eat at your usual meal times, and make sure the meals are healthy and balanced. This is even more important when you’re stuck at home and not moving around much. That being said…

Be mindful of the food you buy. If you are going into self-imposed quarantine, the instinct is to buy lots of junk food (and for some reason, toilet paper), because it’s a way to get some pleasure from a potentially difficult situation. Buy some yummy snacks, sure, but not only that. Because if you buy them, that’s all you’ll eat. Get some fruit and veg in there too, meat and fish (if you’re not a vegetarian) and healthy canned options that can last longer, like chickpeas or lentils. Those who know me will find the fact that I, Miss French Fries count as vegetables, am giving healthy eating advice. But perhaps in middle age I may have found some kind of wisdom? Maybe.

Move your ass. No, seriously, MOVE YOUR ASS. If you don’t, in that 14 day period, you will put on an unhealthy amount of weight. Especially for those of us that live in small apartments. Until this whole quarantine issue, I’d been so good about diet and exercise, and was on my way to getting into great shape. My first few days, I just ate and sat in front of the computer. I lost track of all of that good work almost immediately. I’d work for over 12 hours, and then just fall into bed. YouTube has some great exercise videos that don’t take a lot of time, or need fancy equipment. I’ve started using the Yoga by Adrienne videos, like this one, as well as a short TABATA workout. I’ve also ordered a stationery bike, so I can read and workout at the same time. Whatever you do, just make sure you move.

Tear yourself away from the screen. It’s hard enough in our every day lives, but even harder when we can’t leave the house. Schedule time away from your screen – read a book, meditate, whatever. Just care for your eyes. And your mind.

I know I already said this in point 2, but it’s worth saying again. Don’t be an asshole. Interpret that as you will.

Header Image Credit: Carlos Amato @CarlosCartoons. This image was first published by New Frame.