Guides Lifestyle Working from Home
The Art of Working from Home, Part Three
Jul 13, 2022
Concluding our series of indispensable WFH wisdom.
Illustration by Marie Assénat.
The transition from working in a bustling office to a quiet kitchen can be a strange one, so we reached out to our stable of contributing writers (all of whom have well-established home-working routines), asking for their advice on how to make the most of working from home. Here is Part Three.
Let’s be clear that working from home, in my case, means an apartment in Manhattan. It’s not a house in the country, where I see myself surveying the grounds each morning with a dog by my side, admiring the gardens before sitting down to write in a library of generous proportions. No, alas, it’s not that at all. But I do like a routine and a certain amount of order. First things first: make the bed and make coffee. That’s a good start, and an even better start is with a giant cardigan over your pajamas and some good slippers. The longer I can go without looking at my phone the better, but unfortunately that's usually not very long.
I like to write in the morning and I like to read too. So I’ll take a shower and dress properly, as if I'm going out. If you can write in a dressing gown I envy you. You probably dash off evocative love letters and the occasional piece of risqué fiction. Congratulations. I am more earthbound and need to be grounded. Since this is Drake’s I feel we can speak very specifically in a sartorial sense. Cords or twill trousers, brown or olive or some neutral color that looks like dead grass. An oxford shirt tucked in—for some reason the tucked in aspect of this makes me feel like I’m really getting down to work. I could never write with an untucked shirt or with bare feet for that matter. A knit tie is good but not mandatory. Then I slip on loafers or maybe desert boots. A cardigan if the weather is cool, like something a grandfather would wear.
I like a clean space, and one with flowers. Something that feels like you’re ennobling everyday rituals. I think it can be hard to work continuously, so I take deliberate breaks and read a book that feels like a true escape—historical fiction or an old biography—then I can focus afterward more easily. If I’m writing a book it usually involves some pacing—I have to move, man!—and that's not always ideal. But these days the world feels less than ideal. So we have to be a little kinder to ourselves, and everyone else, for that matter. If you’ve made it to the end of the day you deserve a scotch or a gin at 6pm, and nobody could blame you if you rounded the 6pm down to 5pm.
Working from home is something I have done, in some capacity, for most of my adult life. I still rise at a decent hour, get a workout in, shower, and dress almost as if I was going to leave the house. The morning hours are spent in an old blue oxford shirt and a pair of shorts (I run hot). During this current lockdown, it has been a pair of Stüssy basketball shorts or Patagonia 5” Baggies. For my afternoon stroll, I will throw on some navy cargo pants and a cashmere sweater, or a Baldessari bootleg long sleeve t-shirt and a pair of vintage Levis 501s. If I am feeling smart, I slip into my JM Weston loafers, and if I am feeling a bit sporty, it’s the Asics x Kiko Kostadinov Gel-Kiril sneakers in a highly obnoxious green and white checkerboard. I want to be comfortable, but not sloppy, presentable, but not buttoned up.
While working from home, many things are essential: speedy wifi, ice-cold San Pellegrino, incense, snooty fourth wave coffee, ambient music on the hifi. You get the picture. But this forced self-isolation in a home full of organic snacks that I must avoid has led me to a new love. Wedderspoon, a New Zealand based brand, makes an organic manuka honey drop with ginger and echinacea that has become a staple on my desk. They soothe the throat, and the ginger gives them a surprising and satisfying bite. They keep my throat lubricated for podcasting and conference calls, but most importantly, they keep me from devouring a bag of lentil chips or sprouted almonds between meals.
The daily ritual is still important for me, so I pick out a shirt the night before, usually an oxford, and choose some comfortable trousers. I add knitwear or a sleeveless vest in the cooler months. And it's nice to have a little daily variety, be it socks or scent, even if you have nowhere to go.
I put on some familiar music, turned down to a low drone, and clear my desk of anything extraneous to the next project, though I always seem to end the day with a heap of books and papers. A pot of coffee always helps. It's best served on a metal tray: you'll feel like you're getting table service, and if you're anything like me, you'll thank yourself when you upend a cup that you've not destroyed a whole day's paperwork.
Ironically, the WFH days in which I have the least contact with others is when I'm the most dressed-up. Let's face it: over-dressing tends to draw more public scrutiny than under-dressing. In the confines of my own realm, I feel freer to try out that risky pocket square/tie combo or experiment with a collar pin. And in cases when work is a real drudge—for instance, hours of transcribing audio—I'll put on a suit, which I've found keeps me more focused.
A mid-morning run clears out whatever anxieties may have arrived with the start of the work day, keeps me from feeling restless and distracted, and most importantly, accelerates the arrival of my lunch break.
I think 'dressing for work' is fundamentally important to get you in the right headspace, but for me that doesn't mean putting on a full suit - I'm absolutely a man who will wear something I find more comfortable given the opportunity, like jeans or smart joggers. However, the bottom line is that I have to wear shoes of some form while I'm working. For me, that's either my Birkenstock Bostons with a thick pair of socks or my backless Artemis loafers. Something about wearing shoes just makes me feel more professional at home than shuffling around in socks.
When I commuted to an office, I used to enjoy my commute time - something that obviously got left by the wayside when my commute got reduced to the two-or-three metres from my bedroom to my kitchen table. However, I've tried to transpose the bits I liked about the commute to my freelance routine. I will get up, get showered and answer a few essential emails before going for a walk around my neighbourhood while listening to a podcast. Then I will settle down to my laptop and it's business as usual.