Working from home was never so good. Five tips from a pro for social distancers and the social distanced on not just how to survive self-quarantine but thrive in it
I’ve been described – well, accused of– being a professional homebody, preferring to work from home, rather than working from a place where there are urinals instead of just a commode, and more elbows in the vicinity than I would care for.
It turns out that because of my experience, I have become somewhat of an expert, dare I say a guru, on working from home. My penchant for not stepping out of my comfort rekha even after work is done and dusted has also, perhaps inadvertently, put me in a position to impart good gyan on ‘social distancing’ and its so-called deleterious side-effects.
For starters, it isn’t deleterious if you can make hay regardless of whether the sun is shining or not. And two, ‘deleterious’ means ‘anything that causes harm or damage’ — something that, in these times of coronavirus, you should jolly well have looked up in the dictionary (if you didn’t know its meaning) since you now have oodles of spare time.
Well, of course, you’ll have a distinct advantage if, like Count Dracula, you don’t like stepping outdoors – except, unlike misunderstood lad Vlad, both daylight and nightshine will need to be injurious to your mental health. But far too many people have already started howling at the moon as they settle into self-quarantine more than a month after St Valentine’s. ‘What will I do?’ ‘How will I spend my time at home (that I would otherwise spend in joyful commuting)?’ ‘Will I go bonkers seeing the same people cooped up at home every single day? (As opposed to not getting bonkers seeing the same people at the workplace every single day.)
As someone way ahead of the Covid-19-induced ‘social distancing’ curve – I am waiting for some underemployed economist-turned-historian to write a book about how the caste system was a result of a Vedic-era virus triggering ‘social distancing’ of folks who didn’t wash their hands quite as frequently enough as the OCD-ridden savarnas – let me provide some tips on how to ride out these apocalyptic times.
Five of these tips will be for the supply side — that is, to help you, oh sudden Man or Woman of the Great Indoors, to measure out your lives with more than coffee spoons; and five tips will be for the demand side, where HR, dominatrix and majordomo types won’t feel empty, listless and powerless (not necessarily in that order) for not finding folks clocking in and out of work, or making voluntarily compulsory (read: healthy) social engagements involving ‘other people’ – who are defined by that smart socialite Jean-Paul Sartre, as ‘hell’.
5 TIPS FOR THOSE SOCIAL DISTANCING:
Remember, you spoilt twits, you live in the golden age for pandemics. You have entertainment being streamed into your homes without having to step out to cinemas, which you hardly stepped out to anyway. Music, reading material, food… ditto, via an app over the Internet. So, you can watch Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 ‘Contagion’ on Amazon Prime, David M Rosenthal’s 2018 ‘How It Ends’ on Netflix, and Rajkumar Kohli’s 1979 ‘Jaani Dushman’ on YouTube, all in between or after work on a Wednesday.
Reading self-help and motivational books, I know, were very trendy… until this point. Once you drastically cut down on real human contact, you’ll realise that books like Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Make Friends and Influence People’ are as useful as a pile of bitcoins for Bilbo Baggins. In fact, ‘usefulness’ — and not just for books or YouTube videos — will give way to ‘pleasurable’. And after two weeks of solid ‘social distancing,’ you’ll stop feeling guilty about valuing pleasurable options over useful ones.
This is, the last time I looked at this newspaper, still a family daily. So, let me just lead off from the earlier point by saying that working from home provides ample time — otherwise used up in office banter, ‘water cooler’ moments, pointless meetings that you will discover soon enough are emailable or phoneable, and transit to and fro one’s workplace – for *******, and other ********** activities. Inventive, smart readers of this paper can stare into those asterisks and catch words that have been pixelated.
Even if travel broadens your mind – and you’ll be surprised how little it does – the joys of staring out of one of your home windows, or even at the walls of your home, have been underrated. Let mass media (present company excluded) not fool you. Man is a sucker for routine, and travelling has its own travails that people are too embarrassed to talk about. If coronavirus has brought tourism (fancy word for travelism) to a standstill, then this, honestly, is the perfect time for you to learn to enjoy the pleasures of the sofa, the Preston wing armchair, the cane mora/mudda, and, of course, the horizontal heights of the bed.
Human contact, which many of you may be so fond of, is far more valuable when you have what GoI sources call a ‘Fortress Mentality’ – letting the right ones in (at the times it suits you). God has invented social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook for a reason. Your over-romanticisation of ‘socialising’ — one of the silliest verbs invented by man — is nothing but a grand design by the military-industrial-mass media (present company excluded) to keep up value-added appearances.
5 TIPS FOR THE SOCIAL DISTANCED:
If you’re company HR, pinch yourself and remind yourself that this is 2020 and there is email, video messaging, conference calling/videoing, mobile apps, online servicing… Essentially, things have moved on since the insect-roar of the fax machine and the short grassy sound to paper of short-hand. Sure, as I explained to my uncle still sitting in the 20th century awaiting a peaceful resolution to the Cuban missile crisis, the window-cleaner does need to be close to windows, the taxi driver will, perforce, have to drive that taxi. Working from home, however, isn’t what it was in 1995. But then, barring space travel, nothing is.
For all the lip-service paid to things like ‘disruption’ and ‘new economy,’ managementals are still terrified of folks working from home lest they became meth-addicts or Arijit Singh songsloving alcoholics. The same logic holds for family members finding the ‘social distancer’ opening the door in his or her boxers and with a whiff of gin-smelling aftershave/perfume. Fun fact: most people prefer working regardless of where they work from, rather than being found to be unproductive – a side-effect of meth-addiction as well as Arijit Singh songs-fuelled alcoholism. Clue: the unemployed are usually unhappy.
Great innovations, inventions, creations happen not in places earmarked for great innovations, inventions and creations, but in familiar, comfortable places that fertile minds are fond of. Ensure that your golden (or otherwise) goose is in a nice, comfy place rather in a box with a suction hose attached, and you’re liable to get more and/or better golden (or otherwise) eggs from it.
It’s cheaper to have a work-at-homer, even after one compensates her or him monetarily for working from home for air-conditioning, water, a chair etc. Being a slave to biometrics makes you on the demand side just a neurotic nanny.
Count by output, not by input. In other words, if it takes 19 hours of studying for someone to top an exam, and it takes three hours of studying for someone to come a close second, value the second student. Similarly, if someone produces quality work sitting under a tree – away from potential Covid-19-affected morning walkers – in half the time someone doing the same in a cubicle, do the maths.
Quite honestly, for people wondering how to spend their days and nights – and those ‘dreaded long afternoons’ (siesta time, automorons!) — as they keep to themselves until ‘the aliens leave,’ get a life. With or without the coronavirus scare, the world outside is largely and overwhelmingly a crummy, boring, hostile place filled with people you’d rather show your palm than your face. Especially when you have WiFi whirring at home, something you can put your legs up on while working, and select company you can choose to be close to — till that asteroid crashes through your roof only a few days after you’ve turned into a zombie for washing your hands with mutated coronavirus-infected soap.