It's a Mann's world: Home alone

Olly Mann

Olly Mann muses on the small wins that make working from home more bearable...

Working from home? Me too. But, as it’s been over a decade since I turned my hobby (podcasting) into a full-time job, the nation’s coronavirus lockdown has not had an immense impact on my professional life. True, I can no longer go off to interview people face-to-face, script my links in a coffee shop, or attend a matinee and claim it back as "research" on my tax return. But for the most part, my working pattern hasn’t been much affected. Listeners don’t care whose house I’m in when I press record.

This, I realise, may well not be the case for you. If you’ve only been stationed in your sitting room since the spring, and are still adjusting to life without an almond latte, crowded commute and a photocopier, allow me to share some home-working lessons I’ve learned over the years…

 

Get great slippers

When one is sprung with a video-call, it’s always best to present a formal top-half (like Will Ferrell in Anchorman, you could actually dispense with trousers altogether, although that’s not for the novice). But why bother with brogues, or high heels? You’re at home! And who wants to traipse about in socks all day, like a newborn baby?!

Treat yourself to some comfortable slippers. I have a pair of Ted Baker moccasins, because they’re more discreet than my Rudolph The Reindeer boots when I have to answer the door. You’ll save money on washing powder, too.

"Oh the joys of an alfresco afternoon sorting through VAT receipts"

 

Write offline

The web is a fabulous resource, but it’s designed to bedazzle you with news alerts, social media "likes" and Wikipedia worm-holes—and, when you’re working from home, there’s no one peering at your screen, shaming you away from clicking on them. So, when you need to compose something that requires your full attention—a memo, an invoice, an important email—draft it first in a word processor, or even with pen and paper, rather than in a live internet window or on your smartphone. It’s amazing how much your brain can do when it’s not being nudged to do something else.

 

Choose your soundtrack carefully

Radio offers companionship, and music helps concentration. But resist the temptation to put on something you really enjoy. If you’re in stitches over a DJ’s anecdote, or singing along to lyrics, you can’t truly focus on the job at hand. Hence, I consume a lot of Scala Radio (light classical music and film soundtracks, linked together with bland pleasantries). It doesn’t interfere with my neural pathways, and I’m learning a lot about Hans Zimmer.

 

Observe the effects of caffeine

In a traditional office, regular trips to the kitchenette offer an opportunity to stretch your legs, chat to colleagues and catch up on gossip. The resulting beverage is incidental, and, in most cases, appalling. But at home, you can (and should) indulge in good-quality coffee.

Since the lockdown, I’ve been getting grounds delivered from my favourite London coffeeshop, for a little taste of freedom. But it’s stronger. Noticeably stronger. So, don’t do as I did and glug back a whole pot of it in an afternoon, as then you will start shaking, and won’t be able to work because your heart will be beating too fast, and you’ll be too busy being rude to people to get any work done.

 

When the sun is shining, go outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, use it. What a delight it is to break up a boring business call by upping sticks to the picnic table halfway through, unbeknownst to the other participant! Oh, the joys of an alfresco afternoon sorting through VAT receipts, conducted from my deck chair—maybe with a glass of rosé on the go, why not?

As it’s common for an hour of bright blue skies to precede a thundery downpour, schedule be damned, when you see the sun shining—get out there! (Obviously this rule should be relaxed if you happen to be reading this during Britain’s one week of annual "heatwave." In which case, don’t spend all your time in the garden, lest you morph into Bryan Brown in Cocktail.)

 

…But the rest of the time, stay in your "office"

There’s a louche appeal to the laptop, and a convenience factor to the kitchen table, but I’ve found I’m more productive working from a desktop in a designated home office. If you can’t spare an actual room, portion off a bit of your bedroom, or the shed, or some other annexe; but make it a permanent conversion, a place used for nothing else. Kids and partners are banned. Pets are actively encouraged, preferably sleeping around your feet for added warmth (apart from goldfish—they’re best kept on the shelf). And do your online shopping somewhere else, or else you’ll constantly have a tab open so you can monitor when talcum powder is back at Boots.

And that’s it! With these six tips, my friend, you’re ready to supercharge your home-working experience. You’ll never miss going to the office again. But, as soon as you can, please do go back to the office. You’re cramping my style.

Read more: 6 Tips for working from home without losing your sanity

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