Seattle is the epicenter of the U.S. novel coronavirus pandemic, and we are about two weeks ahead of the country in response and reaction to the contagion. Seattle is known for being a city of introverts, and the term Seattle Freeze represents our social interactions, not the weather. So, when the word spread that those lucky enough to be in the technology sector, or have roles that permit, began working from home last week. In many cases, we are expecting this situation to continue through the end of April. Working from home seems like a blessing until you realize you must be as productive (if not more) than if you are working on site. In adjusting to this new normal, we must take the time to set ourselves up for success.
Maintain Your Routine
The first thing we all need to do is maintain our routines. Wake up at the same time you would if you were to commute into your office. However, do not fall into the trap of opening your work laptop right away; instead, take your usual commute time to read, watch the news, or prepare and consume a healthy breakfast. The maintenance of your routine extends to ensuring you are taking breaks, eating lunch, and ending your day at a reasonable time. Create a meeting on your calendar for lunch and your end of the day, but give yourself the freedom to continue to work if you are in the moment-just don’t overdo it.
Dedicate a Space to Work
Not all of us have dedicated office spaces in our homes, and working from your bed is not conducive to productivity over any period of significant time. Compounding this fact with our significant others, roommates, and children now make having a designated workspace paramount to our success. Find a place that works for you in your home. For me, I have conquered our dining room table with an external monitor, a decent office chair, and gadgets. I discussed with my husband that when I’m at the table, I’m at work. He respects this and does not interrupt or try to have long conversations, my cats, on the other hand.
Maintain Contact with Your Peers
In a time where we are dispursed into our homes, the fear of missing out is a real concern. You are responsible for maintaining your relationships with your peers, your managers, and teams. Use your collaboration tools (i.e., Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Slack) to have conversations, say good morning, and share stories. Also, pick up the phone and talk to someone instead of just sending an e-mail. Use video conference capabilities to have better meetings, and as a forcing function to hold attention spans. At the same time, accept that background noise will be present; from kids to animals, it will occur.
Maintain Your Security & Privacy Awareness
As a security and privacy professional, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention maintaining your awareness during this change. First, threat actors prey upon our most basic human emotions, and we already see social engineering and phishing attacks leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep a skeptical eye on e-mails referencing the pandemic, and report spam through your organization’s process. When you are working from home, protect your company assets, data, and intellectual property. Don’t have conference calls with the window open (assuming your neighbors are in earshot), or with your significant other or roommates in the room. Be vigilant, and don’t be the first to cause a reportable data breach because of something you did at home!
Take Care of Yourself
Now is the time to take care of yourself. Watch what you are eating, and how often you are snacking! If you had a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, you now have the perfect opportunity to manage your diet! For me, I have to watch my coffee and caffeine intake; otherwise, I am jittery at the end of the day. Also, take a moment to walk around the block with your significant other or roommates; however, make sure you maintain social distancing with those outside of your home unit. You are responsible for your physical and mental health and wellbeing! Finally, take the time to call your family, friends, and loved ones.
As the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy says, “Don’t Panic!” Follow the government and the medical profession’s recommendations. Make sure you have food, drinks, and necessities to be comfortable at home for a few weeks, not a few years. Our communities need us during this time, especially those of us who are privileged to be able to work from home. Support your local businesses, order delivery from your local restaurants, and do not hoard goods. Having been in the epicenter of this pandemic for a few weeks, I can assure you this is not the end of the world, and this too shall pass.