A user’s guide to working at home, minus the pyjamas…

PROBLEMS with working from home, a user’s guide.

Wearing slippers all day probably isn’t good for your feet or your soul. I have just put some shoes on after wondering why my feet felt like a pair of exhausted flounders that had given up the ghost on the seabed.

So this advice is fresh off the press: wear proper shoes even you are still in your pyjamas. Not that I approve of pyjamas unless it is a minute to bedtime on a cold night. So no daytime pyjamas for me as I sit at the laptop. Just old Levi’s and one of those striped T-shirts I always seem to buy. And don’t wear a tie because that would be ridiculous. Ties and old T-shirts is not a good look.

Staying in all day and typing isn’t good for posture or soul. Stand up sometimes, stretch and step away from the laptop. Same again for not talking to anyone. Phone somebody up. Or at least have a deep and meaningful moment with the cat. Unless she is curled up asleep on the computer chair you are about to sit on. Then have a grumble instead; grumbling out loud to a cat that is pretending to be asleep is almost a conversation.

Go outside occasionally and take a breath. Yes, that’s called fresh air. Or it is unless the farmers are muck-spreading. The other day the sewage stink was dreadful and we don’t even live in the country, although if you leave the house and walk along the road you will spot those green things in the near distance. You know, fields.

Back indoors for those annoying automated interruptions. “This call is very important, please listen…” No it isn’t; it’s very annoying, nothing to do with me and whoever you are you phone six times a day. So please shut up and stop harassing me, right? Oh, sorry mother, didn’t realise it was you this time.

At least some calls have that split-second hanging delay, as if the line to India or wherever has a bouncing sag. If you are quick you can put the phone down before the pestering begins.

And, no, there is no one in the house called Daniel who once took out a loan with you. We have lived here for nearly six years and haven’t encountered a Daniel once in all that time. I’ve just had another look and cannot locate any indebted Daniels anywhere. It is unlikely that further phone calls will result in the sudden materialisation of the Daniel who owes you money. That’s if this Daniel ever existed in the first place.

The trouble with social media, part one. Facebook isn’t real life although it’s as close as you get some days. Some good friends hang around there and it does double up as the old kitchen at the office, that point of congregation for people avoiding work or simply desirous of a chat.

But Facebook isn’t real life, and neither is Twitter, especially Twitter. If you stick your head in the Twittersphere for too long, you’ll go dizzy and turn green, likely as not.

The trouble with social media, part two. You get very little work done. Facebook isn’t work, although occasionally it is, if you spot something that may lead to some work. This has happened at least once or maybe twice. But when you are trying to write, be strong and step away from Facebook. Don’t touch it again for a self-agreed period. An hour is good, two hours even better.

Have a routine for work. And have a routine for not work, too. I cycle to the university twice a week to lose a game of squash. This isn’t good for telling yourself you are a winner, but it is exercise for the slippered soul.

Cycling back from the university yesterday, I bumped into a Facebook friend in real life. Now that was a shock. I’d almost forgotten what he looked like, but there he was in flesh and blood and all that (hello, Steve).

According to today’s Daily Telegraph, office work is bad for your health – “Working in an office as bad as smoking”. Nothing here that I could see about working at home in your slippers (now removed), but some of the lessons must apply. The paper says a study published in The Lancet concludes that sedentary lifestyles are as bad as smoking and cause more deaths than obesity. And if you are an overweight smoker sitting in an office chair wondering whether you have the energy to go outside for a cigarette, please check your pulse. You may well be dead already.

Has my year of working from home been good or bad for my health? No idea, but I feel all right, especially now I have stepped away from the slippers. And I do leave home occasionally. This week has seen me sweep across the globe in pursuit of my freelance career. Oh, all right. Malton and Huddersfield. But getting out with an armful of questions is good. Better than staying at home without any answers.




  1. “And if you are an overweight smoker sitting in an office chair wondering whether you have the energy to go outside for a cigarette, please check your pulse. You may well be dead already.”

    Haha – very good. And nice to see you again in real life too, Julian 🙂 If you fancy a coffee (or something stronger) at mine while passing in future, just drop me… dare I say it… a facebook message and I’ll hopefully be around.

  2. I worked at home for 13 years, and still do, sort of (retired now, but with lots of unpaid work still to do). I discovered early on that I couldn’t work in slippers, so I’m pleased to find that I’m not the only one. I’d add to your advice – first, there aren’t many problems that can’t be solved by going for a walk, even if it’s only round the block; second, try to have a dedicated space for work which is different from where you live/laze/watch telly etc. And if twitter, facebook and blogs (I’m looking at you, JC) distract you try Freedom or Self-Control – apps that will turn the stuff off while you work and assist you in resisting temptation. That’s all.

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