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    克服居家辦公的孤獨,讀這本書就夠了

    克服居家辦公的孤獨,讀這本書就夠了

    Rachel King 2021年07月05日
    這本書從心理學、經濟學和社會科學的最新研究中精選了很多經驗,可以幫助人們保持適應力、獨處時的專注力,并且高效工作。

    令許多人沮喪(也有一些人高興)的是,居家辦公變成了新常態。雖然新冠疫情加速了這個進程,不過多年來這種情況一直呈上升趨勢。

    在由Gallery Books出版的《獨處:如何獨自工作(且避免發瘋)》(Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind))一書中,資深記者麗貝卡?席爾提供了新指導,幫助讀者在居家辦公環境里保持高效工作,并且避免發瘋。

    席爾已經獨自工作10多年,所以她比大多數人都更了解其中的優缺點。這本新書從心理學、經濟學和社會科學的最新研究中精選了很多經驗,可以幫助人們保持適應力、獨處時的專注力,并且高效工作。在全球疫情顛覆辦公環境之后,這本書的作用更是非同尋常。在“孤獨與獨處”、“計劃的力量”和“比較的詛咒(為何社交媒體如此糟糕)”等章節里,《獨處》一書彌補了其他自由職業者指南的不足,從伊索寓言到醫學期刊等各種來源中精選了實用、鼓舞人心,也令人信任的建議。

    最近,席爾跟《財富》雜志聊到疫情期間對居家辦公的觀察,也向連續數月獨自居家辦公的人們提供了保持效率和戰勝孤獨的建議和技巧。

    《獨處:如何獨自工作(且避免發瘋)》。圖片來源:Courtesy of Gallery Books

    為表述清晰和簡潔,以下對話略經編輯。

    《財富》:你在家工作多年,也寫了相關的書,所以能夠想象疫情爆發時家人和朋友首先就會找你咨詢經驗。剛開始你向適應居家辦公的人提供了什么建議或指導?過去一年中是否發生了變化?

    席爾:是的,在當今陌生的時代發現自己很有用,感覺還挺不錯。我給的建議是有些變化,主要因為根據生活中受限制程度的不同,某些建議有時很難遵循。對獨自工作的人來說,最重要的原則之一就是確保每周有充足的社交活動以保持理智和快樂。獨自工作時很容易錯過淺層社交聯系,而研究表明正是此類社交可以讓我們感覺自己是社會的一分子?,F在,技術手段能夠解決很多以前必須去郵局、文具店或找供應商才可以完成的小任務,人們發現見到的人比以往都少。各種應用程序似乎節省了很多時間,卻也剝奪了跟他人見面的機會。相關數據清晰地顯示,經常與其他人相處,哪怕只是買杯咖啡或出去散步,幸福感也會受到正面影響。此外,事實證明,工作日中加入社會關系實際上有助于完成更多的工作,并且效率更高,這可能是因為總體幸福感更高。

    雖然可能不太愿意離開辦公桌,但如果真的起身,回來時就會精神煥發。即使不能經常出去,還是可以加強現有的社會關系,我鼓勵人們通過電話而不是在Zoom上開視頻會議。我們的視頻會議開得夠多了,讓人筋疲力盡。另外,如果不用盯著部分腦袋,還有有點模糊的2D人臉,大腦理解和傾聽起來就更容易。跟朋友、家人或同事接觸,真誠地詢問大家最近過得怎么樣,還能夠幫助他們跟你一樣減少孤獨感。

    我給出的另一個建議則是關于邊界,這一點沒有什么改變。要盡可能地為工作創造空間和時間,這樣就不會滲透和侵蝕正常生活,可以說生活比工作重要得多,這一點至關重要。對有些人來說,不工作的時候要把工作藏起來,象征性地告訴大腦和身體工作已經完成??梢园压ぷ魅M盒子里或者柜子里,如果在臥室的話可以在桌子上蓋張床單,只要能夠模仿正常上下班狀態的行動就可以。雖然地方沒有變,但要堅持從居家調整到工作模式,下班再調整回來。我上班會穿好衣服,化上妝,就像過渡儀式,讓自己脫離當前狀態,只要工作起來我就不是在家教孩子的媽媽,花很多時間洗衣服做飯,擦干凈小孩子黏黏的手。有些人在工作時點燃蠟燭,工作結束時把蠟燭吹滅。其實可以非常簡單,平時吃飯時坐在餐桌一邊,工作時換一邊坐也可以。

    你的家庭辦公室是什么樣的?桌上有什么必需品?調整家庭辦公室的美感對你的工作有多重要?

    經常檢查工作安排是否適合自己真的很重要,我指的不僅僅包括辦公桌。要考慮單獨辦公時哪些方法奏效以及哪些沒有用,這一點很有必要,也要記住幾乎所有事情都包括一定程度的選擇:坐在哪、時間如何分配,以及周圍環境如何。我的辦公桌緊挨著一扇窗戶,創造機會接觸陽光有助于晚上睡眠,白天也容易提起精神。黃昏來臨時,我把辦公室的燈光調暗,變得溫暖柔和而不是太明亮,也讓大腦明白很快就會過渡到晚上,這在大辦公室里其實做不到。我有很多植物,因為大腦在植物的陪伴下能夠表現得很好,我們觀察樹葉紋樣得到的體驗似乎跟聽音樂類似。當我面臨最后期限的驚慌失措,或者陷入自我否定情緒時,有東西可以關心則能夠幫助我理清楚什么重要什么不重要。

    我還有一張木制書桌,由書中采訪的一位室內設計師設計,風格偏向親近自然,書中還順便解釋了大腦如何渴望自然的紋理和顏色,然而大多數辦公室里的設計恰恰相反。于是,我坐在辦公椅里,背后搭著可愛、柔軟、舒適的羊毛皮,桌子上方是天空和大海的照片。類似我這種“充實的”工作環境已經被證明可以提高效率和創造力。即便沒有專門的工作空間,我就曾經在廚房餐桌上工作過兩年,所以很了解那種感覺,還是能夠找一兩棵植物放在旁邊,安排得舒適放松。(寫這本書的最后階段,我在家和幾條街外的一處地點頻繁轉場,每次都背著筆記本電腦包,胳膊下夾著一盆植物。我可以想象鄰居每天看到我會怎么想。)

    作者麗貝卡?席爾。圖片來源:Courtesy of Gallery Books

    你發現居家辦公最好的地方是什么?如何保持高效率?更重要的是,如何保持情緒穩定?

    我剛開始居家辦公時,很吃驚的是工作效率非常高,不會像在辦公室一樣浪費時間。不幸的是,我吸取了一些錯誤的教訓;我并沒有抓住機會減少工作,多投入生活,而是工作得越來越多,最后累到筋疲力盡。(這不完全是我的錯;我只是采取了社會慣用模式,按照工作時間越長越好的思路對待工作。)現在,我對生產力、大腦,以及身體需要什么理解得更加深刻,關鍵在于不要過量工作!對我來說,最美好的事情就是能夠真正過自己的生活,如果每次上班都要花一個小時,要做到就很困難。正常情況下的工作意味著中午去健身房,自己接孩子,或者有時在咖啡館工作?,F在的狀態下我可以跟孩子相處更多時間。有趣的是,這也意味著我和丈夫花很多時間、精力和心思把家變成美好的地方,因為大部分時間都是在家里度過的。

    幫助我保持清醒的是盡量把工作時間和家庭時間隔開。我丈夫也是自由職業者,我有一條規定,早餐前、晚上8:30后或周末,除非情況真正緊急否則不準談論工作。為一些跟工作完全不相關的事情騰出時間也很重要。對目前的我來說,主要包括跑步、做飯、看書、每周在線普拉提課、出去散步時和朋友通電話、做點針線活,天氣還沒有太冷之前做點園藝,這些事情能夠讓大腦離開屏幕放松一下,身體也可以擺脫桌椅得到休息。

    另一方面,你居家辦公有哪些掙扎?你如何克服障礙?

    我寫這本書就是因為每件事情都讓我掙扎。我跟邊界斗爭,很孤獨,工作日吃不好,也沒有休息,我沒有優先考慮照顧自己,不見朋友,喝太多咖啡,睡眠不足。由于使用智能手機,工作滲透到生活每個領域,例如床上、早餐時間、健身房鍛煉的時間,還有周末,都是工作不應該侵占的地方。我相信只要再努力點,一切都會好起來。我也相信長時間工作意味著進展順利,總有一天會達到神奇的“成功”。賺錢是我判斷工作和生活中是否獲得成就的唯一標準。我從事的工作從某些方面來看地位很高,但我不喜歡也不覺得有意義。我簡直大錯特錯!我沒有停下來思考,也沒有考慮這是不是我想要的生活。我只是埋頭工作。

    我用了兩個辦法來克服這種狀況,一是寫這本書,發現了工作方面人們的各種困惑,而且如果獨自工作沒有在正規的辦公室里的話,情況只會更糟。傳統辦公室雖然有時讓人憋悶,但偶爾也有用。第二是轉向提問的心態。這項工作適合我嗎?與我的能力相符嗎?當前的安排對我好嗎?我的身體對獨自辦公感覺還好嗎?工作時間太長了嗎?我花在朋友或家人身上的時間夠多嗎?工作讓我精疲力竭還是精力充沛?是不是朝著我喜歡的方向發展?我到底希望哪個方向?不過我要指出,這項工作方面我也在進展中,我也不是時時都能夠理清所有頭緒!

    考慮到當前的疫情,看起來很多美國人至少在夏天之前都得居家辦公,這意味著很多人已經困在家里(通常是獨自一人)一年多了。對居家辦公的人,要完成沖刺階段你有什么提議,或是建議做哪些調整?

    我知道聽起來很瘋狂,但每次感覺艱難的時候可以去看看樹??茨切┕舛d禿的樹枝在灰白天空下形成的圖案??礃淙~,看石頭,看云朵。2019年,英國??巳卮髮W(University of Exeter)的一項優秀研究顯示,身處自然界里身心能夠獲得極大恢復,而且我們需要接觸自然的時間比想象中要多,每周如果可以保持120分鐘幸福感最強。居家辦公有時讓人感覺,想度過艱難時期只能夠更努力工作,事實并非如此。如果感覺卡頓,只是大腦宣布需要休息一下,即便轉而做其他事情,大腦也還在處理問題。

    其他可以嘗試的事情包括:在工作日和工作間隙保持規律休息,可以鍛煉身體,也能夠嘗試一些愛好,以完全不同的方式讓大腦活躍。注意飲食均衡,即便只有一個人也要做豐盛的午餐。應該吃好一點,這樣一來后面才可以完成更多的工作,也更高效。盡可能地營造最好的工作環境。

    不過,最重要的是降低預期,好好對待自己。我們面對著最不尋常的壓力,大部分人都焦頭爛額?,F在不要指望自己達到最高水平。多花點時間照顧自己。首先要明白,當前并不能夠算真正的居家辦公。疫情期間居家并不是正常狀態。這種狀態很奇怪,很孤立,有點幽閉恐懼癥的感覺,挑戰巨大。如果你感覺討厭居家辦公,要記住這不是常態,如果擔心再也無法去辦公室工作,也沒有必要。正常狀態下的居家辦公比現在好得多。你還真有可能喜歡上。(財富中文網)

    譯者:夏林

    令許多人沮喪(也有一些人高興)的是,居家辦公變成了新常態。雖然新冠疫情加速了這個進程,不過多年來這種情況一直呈上升趨勢。

    在由Gallery Books出版的《獨處:如何獨自工作(且避免發瘋)》(Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind))一書中,資深記者麗貝卡?席爾提供了新指導,幫助讀者在居家辦公環境里保持高效工作,并且避免發瘋。

    席爾已經獨自工作10多年,所以她比大多數人都更了解其中的優缺點。這本新書從心理學、經濟學和社會科學的最新研究中精選了很多經驗,可以幫助人們保持適應力、獨處時的專注力,并且高效工作。在全球疫情顛覆辦公環境之后,這本書的作用更是非同尋常。在“孤獨與獨處”、“計劃的力量”和“比較的詛咒(為何社交媒體如此糟糕)”等章節里,《獨處》一書彌補了其他自由職業者指南的不足,從伊索寓言到醫學期刊等各種來源中精選了實用、鼓舞人心,也令人信任的建議。

    最近,席爾跟《財富》雜志聊到疫情期間對居家辦公的觀察,也向連續數月獨自居家辦公的人們提供了保持效率和戰勝孤獨的建議和技巧。

    為表述清晰和簡潔,以下對話略經編輯。

    《財富》:你在家工作多年,也寫了相關的書,所以能夠想象疫情爆發時家人和朋友首先就會找你咨詢經驗。剛開始你向適應居家辦公的人提供了什么建議或指導?過去一年中是否發生了變化?

    席爾:是的,在當今陌生的時代發現自己很有用,感覺還挺不錯。我給的建議是有些變化,主要因為根據生活中受限制程度的不同,某些建議有時很難遵循。對獨自工作的人來說,最重要的原則之一就是確保每周有充足的社交活動以保持理智和快樂。獨自工作時很容易錯過淺層社交聯系,而研究表明正是此類社交可以讓我們感覺自己是社會的一分子?,F在,技術手段能夠解決很多以前必須去郵局、文具店或找供應商才可以完成的小任務,人們發現見到的人比以往都少。各種應用程序似乎節省了很多時間,卻也剝奪了跟他人見面的機會。相關數據清晰地顯示,經常與其他人相處,哪怕只是買杯咖啡或出去散步,幸福感也會受到正面影響。此外,事實證明,工作日中加入社會關系實際上有助于完成更多的工作,并且效率更高,這可能是因為總體幸福感更高。

    雖然可能不太愿意離開辦公桌,但如果真的起身,回來時就會精神煥發。即使不能經常出去,還是可以加強現有的社會關系,我鼓勵人們通過電話而不是在Zoom上開視頻會議。我們的視頻會議開得夠多了,讓人筋疲力盡。另外,如果不用盯著部分腦袋,還有有點模糊的2D人臉,大腦理解和傾聽起來就更容易。跟朋友、家人或同事接觸,真誠地詢問大家最近過得怎么樣,還能夠幫助他們跟你一樣減少孤獨感。

    我給出的另一個建議則是關于邊界,這一點沒有什么改變。要盡可能地為工作創造空間和時間,這樣就不會滲透和侵蝕正常生活,可以說生活比工作重要得多,這一點至關重要。對有些人來說,不工作的時候要把工作藏起來,象征性地告訴大腦和身體工作已經完成??梢园压ぷ魅M盒子里或者柜子里,如果在臥室的話可以在桌子上蓋張床單,只要能夠模仿正常上下班狀態的行動就可以。雖然地方沒有變,但要堅持從居家調整到工作模式,下班再調整回來。我上班會穿好衣服,化上妝,就像過渡儀式,讓自己脫離當前狀態,只要工作起來我就不是在家教孩子的媽媽,花很多時間洗衣服做飯,擦干凈小孩子黏黏的手。有些人在工作時點燃蠟燭,工作結束時把蠟燭吹滅。其實可以非常簡單,平時吃飯時坐在餐桌一邊,工作時換一邊坐也可以。

    你的家庭辦公室是什么樣的?桌上有什么必需品?調整家庭辦公室的美感對你的工作有多重要?

    經常檢查工作安排是否適合自己真的很重要,我指的不僅僅包括辦公桌。要考慮單獨辦公時哪些方法奏效以及哪些沒有用,這一點很有必要,也要記住幾乎所有事情都包括一定程度的選擇:坐在哪、時間如何分配,以及周圍環境如何。我的辦公桌緊挨著一扇窗戶,創造機會接觸陽光有助于晚上睡眠,白天也容易提起精神。黃昏來臨時,我把辦公室的燈光調暗,變得溫暖柔和而不是太明亮,也讓大腦明白很快就會過渡到晚上,這在大辦公室里其實做不到。我有很多植物,因為大腦在植物的陪伴下能夠表現得很好,我們觀察樹葉紋樣得到的體驗似乎跟聽音樂類似。當我面臨最后期限的驚慌失措,或者陷入自我否定情緒時,有東西可以關心則能夠幫助我理清楚什么重要什么不重要。

    我還有一張木制書桌,由書中采訪的一位室內設計師設計,風格偏向親近自然,書中還順便解釋了大腦如何渴望自然的紋理和顏色,然而大多數辦公室里的設計恰恰相反。于是,我坐在辦公椅里,背后搭著可愛、柔軟、舒適的羊毛皮,桌子上方是天空和大海的照片。類似我這種“充實的”工作環境已經被證明可以提高效率和創造力。即便沒有專門的工作空間,我就曾經在廚房餐桌上工作過兩年,所以很了解那種感覺,還是能夠找一兩棵植物放在旁邊,安排得舒適放松。(寫這本書的最后階段,我在家和幾條街外的一處地點頻繁轉場,每次都背著筆記本電腦包,胳膊下夾著一盆植物。我可以想象鄰居每天看到我會怎么想。)

    你發現居家辦公最好的地方是什么?如何保持高效率?更重要的是,如何保持情緒穩定?

    我剛開始居家辦公時,很吃驚的是工作效率非常高,不會像在辦公室一樣浪費時間。不幸的是,我吸取了一些錯誤的教訓;我并沒有抓住機會減少工作,多投入生活,而是工作得越來越多,最后累到筋疲力盡。(這不完全是我的錯;我只是采取了社會慣用模式,按照工作時間越長越好的思路對待工作。)現在,我對生產力、大腦,以及身體需要什么理解得更加深刻,關鍵在于不要過量工作!對我來說,最美好的事情就是能夠真正過自己的生活,如果每次上班都要花一個小時,要做到就很困難。正常情況下的工作意味著中午去健身房,自己接孩子,或者有時在咖啡館工作?,F在的狀態下我可以跟孩子相處更多時間。有趣的是,這也意味著我和丈夫花很多時間、精力和心思把家變成美好的地方,因為大部分時間都是在家里度過的。

    幫助我保持清醒的是盡量把工作時間和家庭時間隔開。我丈夫也是自由職業者,我有一條規定,早餐前、晚上8:30后或周末,除非情況真正緊急否則不準談論工作。為一些跟工作完全不相關的事情騰出時間也很重要。對目前的我來說,主要包括跑步、做飯、看書、每周在線普拉提課、出去散步時和朋友通電話、做點針線活,天氣還沒有太冷之前做點園藝,這些事情能夠讓大腦離開屏幕放松一下,身體也可以擺脫桌椅得到休息。

    另一方面,你居家辦公有哪些掙扎?你如何克服障礙?

    我寫這本書就是因為每件事情都讓我掙扎。我跟邊界斗爭,很孤獨,工作日吃不好,也沒有休息,我沒有優先考慮照顧自己,不見朋友,喝太多咖啡,睡眠不足。由于使用智能手機,工作滲透到生活每個領域,例如床上、早餐時間、健身房鍛煉的時間,還有周末,都是工作不應該侵占的地方。我相信只要再努力點,一切都會好起來。我也相信長時間工作意味著進展順利,總有一天會達到神奇的“成功”。賺錢是我判斷工作和生活中是否獲得成就的唯一標準。我從事的工作從某些方面來看地位很高,但我不喜歡也不覺得有意義。我簡直大錯特錯!我沒有停下來思考,也沒有考慮這是不是我想要的生活。我只是埋頭工作。

    我用了兩個辦法來克服這種狀況,一是寫這本書,發現了工作方面人們的各種困惑,而且如果獨自工作沒有在正規的辦公室里的話,情況只會更糟。傳統辦公室雖然有時讓人憋悶,但偶爾也有用。第二是轉向提問的心態。這項工作適合我嗎?與我的能力相符嗎?當前的安排對我好嗎?我的身體對獨自辦公感覺還好嗎?工作時間太長了嗎?我花在朋友或家人身上的時間夠多嗎?工作讓我精疲力竭還是精力充沛?是不是朝著我喜歡的方向發展?我到底希望哪個方向?不過我要指出,這項工作方面我也在進展中,我也不是時時都能夠理清所有頭緒!

    考慮到當前的疫情,看起來很多美國人至少在夏天之前都得居家辦公,這意味著很多人已經困在家里(通常是獨自一人)一年多了。對居家辦公的人,要完成沖刺階段你有什么提議,或是建議做哪些調整?

    我知道聽起來很瘋狂,但每次感覺艱難的時候可以去看看樹??茨切┕舛d禿的樹枝在灰白天空下形成的圖案??礃淙~,看石頭,看云朵。2019年,英國??巳卮髮W(University of Exeter)的一項優秀研究顯示,身處自然界里身心能夠獲得極大恢復,而且我們需要接觸自然的時間比想象中要多,每周如果可以保持120分鐘幸福感最強。居家辦公有時讓人感覺,想度過艱難時期只能夠更努力工作,事實并非如此。如果感覺卡頓,只是大腦宣布需要休息一下,即便轉而做其他事情,大腦也還在處理問題。

    其他可以嘗試的事情包括:在工作日和工作間隙保持規律休息,可以鍛煉身體,也能夠嘗試一些愛好,以完全不同的方式讓大腦活躍。注意飲食均衡,即便只有一個人也要做豐盛的午餐。應該吃好一點,這樣一來后面才可以完成更多的工作,也更高效。盡可能地營造最好的工作環境。

    不過,最重要的是降低預期,好好對待自己。我們面對著最不尋常的壓力,大部分人都焦頭爛額?,F在不要指望自己達到最高水平。多花點時間照顧自己。首先要明白,當前并不能夠算真正的居家辦公。疫情期間居家并不是正常狀態。這種狀態很奇怪,很孤立,有點幽閉恐懼癥的感覺,挑戰巨大。如果你感覺討厭居家辦公,要記住這不是常態,如果擔心再也無法去辦公室工作,也沒有必要。正常狀態下的居家辦公比現在好得多。你還真有可能喜歡上。(財富中文網)

    譯者:夏林

    To the dismay of many (and the delight of others), working from home is the new normal. While the COVID-19 pandemic may have accelerated the process, the trend has been gaining traction for years.

    In Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) (Gallery Books), veteran journalist Rebecca Seal provides a new guide to managing a productive career from the confines of a home office—without losing your mind.

    Seal has been working solo for more than 10 years, so she knows the benefits and downfalls better than most. Her new book culls wisdom from the latest research in psychology, economics, and social science to help us stay resilient, productive, and focused in a company of one, especially on the heels of a worldwide pandemic that has upended the workplace. With chapters titled “loneliness and solitude,” “the power of planning,” and “the curse of comparison (and why social media sucks),” Solo picks up where the how-to guides for freelancers stop—offering practical, inspiring, and reassuring advice culled from a variety of sources, Aesop’s fables and medical journals among them.

    Seal recently chatted with Fortune about her observations on what working from home has been like during the pandemic as well as her best tips and tricks to staying productive and combating loneliness for those of us who have been working alone from home for months on end.

    The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

    Fortune: You’ve already been working from home for years—you literally wrote the book on it—so I can imagine you were the go-to resource for your family and friends when the pandemic started. What advice or guidance did you initially offer to anyone adjusting to working from home? Has that guidance changed in the past year?

    Seal: I was, and it’s been lovely to feel useful in these strange times. My guidance has only changed in as much as some of the advice I give has sometimes been harder to follow, depending on what level of restriction we’ve been living under. One of the most important things for people who work by themselves has always been to make sure you get enough social contact during your week to keep yourself sane and happy. It’s easy, when you work alone, to miss out on even the shallow social connections, which, research shows, make us feel rooted and part of a community. Now that tech can do many of the little tasks which would once have dragged us to the post office or the stationary shop or to visit a supplier, we can find ourselves seeing fewer people than ever. Apps seem to save us a lot of time, but they also rob us of the chance to see other humans, and the data on this is really clear: Our well-being is positively impacted by being around other people regularly, even when you’re just buying a coffee or going out for a walk. Moreover, it turns out that adding social connection into your working day actually helps you get more done, and quicker, probably because your general levels of well-being are higher.

    Although leaving your desk might feel unappealing in the moment, if you do it, you come back refreshed. And even if we can’t go out much, we can still reinforce our existing social connections, which I encourage people to do via the phone and not Zoom. We’ve all had plenty of video-calling time, and it’s exhausting. Plus, our brains are better at decoding and listening when they’re not being confused by partial, fuzzy, 2D humans. Plus, by reaching out to people—friends, family, or colleagues—and genuinely asking them how they’re doing, you will help them to feel less alone, as well as you.

    The other big bit of advice I give is about boundaries, and this hasn’t changed. Doing whatever you can to create a space and time for your work so that it doesn’t bleed into and overtake the rest of your life—which is arguably far more important than your work life—is crucial. For some people, that’s about hiding work away when you’re not working, to symbolically tell your brain and body that work is finished. You can shove it all in a box, or stuff it in a cupboard, or throw a sheet over the desk if it’s your bedroom—anything that replicates the job a commute once did, of changing your mode from home, to work, and back again, even if it’s all in one place. I get dressed for work, and put on makeup, just as a transitional ritual, which moves me away from the other person I am right now: a homeschooling mum who spends an awful lot of time washing up and cooking and wiping small children’s sticky hands. Some people light a candle when they work and blow it out at the end of their work session; it can even be as simple as sitting on the other side of the kitchen table to where you normally sit at mealtimes.

    What does your home office setup look like? What are the essentials on your desk? How important is adjusting (and readjusting) your home office aesthetic to your work life?

    Constantly checking in on whether your work setup is working for you is really important—and I don’t just mean your desk. Considering what is and isn’t working about your solo working life as a whole is really valuable—as is remembering that almost everything about how we set ourselves up when we work alone contains a degree of choice: where we sit, our hours, and what we are surrounded by. My desk is right next to a window; giving ourselves access to daylight is a great way to help us sleep, as well as staying alert during the day. As dusk falls, I dim the lights in the office, making them warm and soft, rather than bright and white, to help my brain understand that soon it will be transitioning away from work and into the evening, something which wouldn’t be allowed in most big offices. I have quite a lot of plants, because our brains do well in their company—we seem to get the same sort of stimulation from looking at the fractal patterns found in foliage that we do from listening to music. And caring for something gives me useful perspective on what is and isn’t important when I’m panicking over a deadline or struggling with imposter syndrome—my plants couldn’t care less.

    I also have a wooden desk. One of the interior designers I interviewed from the book, who practices biophilic design, explained how our brains crave natural textures and colors—the opposite of what most office design gives us. So I sit on a lovely, soft, and cozy sheepskin fleece draped over my office chair, and above the desk I have photographs of the sky and the sea. “Enriched” working environments like mine have been shown to enhance both productivity and creativity. And even if you don’t have a dedicated space to work—and I worked at the kitchen table for two years, so I really do know how that feels—you can still surround yourself with a plant or two, and make your setup comfortable and soothing. (During the final stages of writing the book, I had to desk-hop between home and a space a few streets away: I carried my laptop bag on my shoulder and a potted plant under one arm. I can only imagine what my neighbors thought each day.)

    What have you found to be the best things about working from home? What keeps you productive? More important, what keeps you sane?

    One thing I was startled by when I first started to work from home was how productive I was without all the time sucks you get in an office. Unfortunately, I drew kind of the wrong lesson from that; rather than seeing it as a chance to work less and have a bit more life, I just decided to work more and more and more, until I reached somewhere very close to burnout. (That wasn’t entirely my fault; I just adopted societal patterns and thinking about work which prize long hours over almost any other achievement.) Now, I have a better understanding of productivity and what our brains and bodies need—and it’s almost never more work! The best things for me have been being able to be present in my own life in a way, which is hard if you are always traveling an hour each way to get to work. In normal times that meant going to the gym in the middle of the day, being able to pick up my kids myself, or working in a coffee shop sometimes. Now it means I am more available for my kids; it also, funnily, means that my husband and I have put a lot of time, effort, and thought into making our home a nice place to be, since that’s where we are so much of the time.

    Things that keep me sane are trying to ring-fence work time and home time; my husband, who is also freelance, and I have a rule where you are not allowed to talk about work before breakfast, after 8:30 p.m., or on weekends, unless it’s a real emergency. Carving out time for things that are very much not work is also really important. For me, at the moment, that’s running, cooking, reading, weekly online Pilates classes, talking to friends on the phone while out for a walk, a bit of sewing, a bit of gardening when it’s not all frozen solid—anything that gives my brain a break from screens and my body a break from my desk chair.

    On the flip side, where do you still struggle from working from home? How have you tried to overcome those hurdles?

    I mean, I wrote the book because I struggled with everything. I struggled with boundaries, I was lonely, I didn’t feed myself well during the workday, I didn’t take breaks, I didn’t prioritize anything to do with looking after myself, I didn’t see my friends, I drank too much coffee and didn’t sleep enough; through my smartphone I let work bleed into every area of my life—like my bed, my breakfast time, my time in the gym, my weekends—places where it has no right to be. I believed that if I just worked harder and harder, everything would be okay. That working long hours meant I was doing well and would reach some mythical point of “success” one day. That money earned was the only way to assess whether I was achieving in relation to my job, and my life. I took on work which was high status in some lights, but which I didn’t enjoy or find meaningful. I got so much wrong! And I didn’t pause to think about anything or consider whether this was what I wanted life to look like. I just worked.

    I overcame all that in two ways: one was writing the book, discovering all the different ways in which we are confused about work in general and how much more so if we are solitary workers without the formal structures of an office, which, while sometimes suffocating, can also occasionally be useful. And the second was just by adopting a mindset which asks questions. Is this bit of work right for me? Have I got capacity right now? Is this setup good for me? Does my body feel okay with how things are in my solo work? Am I working too many hours? Have I spent enough time with my friends or family? Do I feel depleted by my work or energized? Is this going in a direction I like? What direction do I want to be going in, anyway? Although I should point out that I am very much a work in progress, and I do not get all the things right all of the time!

    Given the state of the pandemic right now, it looks like many Americans could be working from home until at least the summer, which means many of us have been stuck inside (and oftentimes, alone) for more than a year. For those who might be struggling with working from home, what advice or changes would you suggest to get us through the homestretch?

    I know it sounds mad, but every time it feels hard, go and look—really look—at a tree. Look at the patterns bare twigs make against a white-gray sky. Look at leaves, look at stones, look at clouds. The restorative power of time in nature is really quite extraordinary, and we need more of it than we think: 120 minutes a week for optimum well-being, according to an excellent study from the University of Exeter in 2019. Although it may feel as though the way through a difficult time with working from home is just more work, it really isn’t. When we feel stuck, it’s just our brain’s way of saying it needs a break, and it will carry on working on problems while we are doing other things anyway.

    Other things to try to include: taking regular breaks from work which really help you unplug, both during the working day and between them, either through something like exercise or through a hobby which engages your brain in a completely different way. Feed yourself with care, make yourself a nice lunch, even if you’re alone. You deserve to eat well, and it will help you get more done, quicker, later on. Provide yourself with the best working environment that you can.

    More than anything, though, lower your expectations and be very, very kind to yourself. We are dealing with the most extraordinary levels of stress, and very few of us aren’t feeling ragged. Don’t expect yourself to perform to your highest level right now. Take time to look after yourself. And understand this above all else: This is not what working from home is. Working from home in a pandemic is not working from home. It’s weird, isolating, claustrophobic, and deeply challenging. If you think you hate working from home, just know that this isn’t what it’s normally like—and if you fear that you will never get to work in an office again, don’t. Working from home has the capacity to be much, much better than it is right now. You might even like it.

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