Just one month ago being able to “work from home” was idolized. What a magnificent life – the ability to roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee, sign into work from your kitchen table, and casually work while being able to take your dog for a walk, check in with your daytime soaps (are those still a thing?), make your own meals, meet your kids at the bus stop, etc., etc.
Times have changed. Since mid-March, the landscape for lawyers has changed drastically. Most of us aren’t going into the office, and if we are, it’s on a rotating schedule with our office door closed to ensure “social distancing.” Courts, while largely still accepting filings and open typical hours, are only hearing cases of an emergent nature. “Non-essential” businesses are closed. Suddenly, “work from home” or “WFH” as your favorite millennials are calling it, isn’t something to be sought after – it was forced on us, and we’re struggling.
I’m struggling. For the first two weeks of WFH I found it difficult to get out of bed, let alone get off the couch once I got out of bed. What was the point? I can do all of my work on my laptop from the couch, and who does it harm if I have Netflix constantly streaming in the background? While at first this seemed like the vacation I’ve been needing, after one week I started to feel fatigued, lazy, and unaccomplished. I needed a change, but one I could implement without leaving the house. I needed a routine.
So, I made a routine. It’s not steadfast and it doesn’t happen every day in the same order, but it has helped, and over the past week I’ve been more productive than I have been over the entirety of WFH. Here are six simple guidelines that have helped me:
Have a designated WFH space. For me – it’s the end of my dining room table. It’s the only true purpose the dining room table serves right now (I wish we were the kind of family that ate at their dining room table, but alas, we are not), and that helps me be able to physically walk away from work when I have to. It’s a physically boundary to help establish a mental one, and it helps. It can be an office, a spare bedroom, maybe a designated chair in your living room, but whatever it is, for the next however long, it is your WFH space.
Start the morning off with a glass of water, your warm and perhaps caffeinated beverage of choice, and turn on your computer. No need to log on to work right away or do any deep diving, but the simple act of turning my computer on and being able to walk away from it helped. Ease into your WFH.
Work in time blocks. Make sure they are achievable. For me, that means I work for only 30 minutes at a time before I take a break. If I work longer than 30 minutes, great. If not, I only have to get to 30 minutes, and I’ve met my goal. If you have kids, smaller time blocks may be necessary. That’s okay! Give yourself a break and reward yourself for any task accomplished.
Move. This doesn’t have to be a 3-mile run outside or push-ups or a plank challenge or yoga. Just get up from your seat and move around. Even if it’s just a quick jog up and down your stairs or playing tag with your kids. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true – endorphins help. For me, it’s taking one online yoga class a day. Moving your body not only helps you physically, but it forces you to step away from your computer and your phone mentally. Speaking of stepping away from your phone…
Step away from your phone. Has anyone else noticed their “scroll” time has increased ten-fold? It’s so easy to get lost in our Instagram or Facebook news feeds lately. Get away from the phone. Work downstairs and put it upstairs. Turn it off. I will leave my phone plugged in next to my bed so I can do my morning routine without the scroll factor. Find some way to disconnect from your phone, even if just for a little while.
Get outside. Stay socially distant, of course, but get outside. I’m lucky enough to have a house with a front porch so I will either work outside or, at the very least, drink my morning coffee outside. My husband and I have promised each other at least one hike a week. Walk around the block. Throw the ball for the dog. Open a window and take a breath of fresh air. However you can – get outside. It helps remind us that the outside world is still there, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.
At the end of the day, try and remember that this is temporary, and give yourself a break. You don’t have to come out of WFH as a master chef, with a new skill, or rocking a summer body. You only have to survive, stay healthy, and hopefully maintain those billables.
About the Author
Allison Farley is a 2018 graduate of the University of Richmond School of Law. She is currently the Senior Law Clerk in the Chesterfield County Circuit Court. In addition to the Young Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar, Allison is a member of the Family Law Bar.