Adapting to an Office at Home

By Thad Plumley

When my cat, Milly, walked across my keyboard, it brought up a question I had never had in my professional career: If a black cat crosses in front of your video meeting, is it bad luck for everyone in the meeting or just you?

Such are the issues pondered when working in this COVID-19 world that is still changing daily.

Obviously, I kid, but Milly really did make a guest appearance in a recent meeting and the pandemic that arrived this spring has really turned our working world upside down.

For those whose jobsites change regularly, or those who work in manufacturing and supply facilities, you deal with issues of sanitizing tools, social distancing from customers, and much more.

For others like me, we’ve had to learn how to work at home—and it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I admit I struggled my first few weeks. I felt isolated and a million miles from colleagues I enjoyed seeing every day. I didn’t feel a part of a team working toward a common goal.

I’ve adapted since then and have grown used to it much more. Here is some of what I learned in those early days.

Have a routine. Pre-pandemic, I woke up in the morning, read a newspaper while eating breakfast, showered, got dressed, and drove to work. The only thing I changed was my drive became a walk to a table.

It helped tremendously. This also leads to my next bit of advice: Have a dedicated workspace. If you have children, take steps to not be interrupted. Put a sign on a door that says “Working” or have multiple signs that let the kids know when you’re busy or it’s OK for them to check on you.

Also consider adding technology. If you make a lot of calls, consider a phone stand for your cellphone so you can talk hands free, giving you access to your computer at the same time.

And I can’t urge you enough to turn some calls into video meetings. This was a game-changer for me. Having work meetings take place on platforms such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Microsoft Teams squelched my feelings of isolation—and made video stars out of Milly and my other cats!

And be smart. Hackers are well aware more people work at home now, so fight the urge to mix in personal web browsing during the day. Cyber security is still important even if your IT director is no longer down the hall.

Finally, get outside. When I’m at my normal away office, I take walks during my lunch break at a nearby park. Now at home, I walk my neighborhood. The sun does wonders for your emotions and psyche.

COVID-19 has changed our world forever, but you can take steps to prevent serving your customers feel like a chore. Just always know—and trust me on this— where your pets are when you start your video meetings!


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.