Let’s face it. The traditional corporate workplace is evolving in the face of social distancing as many of us move away from the office to start working from home. Video meetings replace conference rooms, workplace chit-chat now happens via instant messaging, and gifs reign supreme as the ultimate way to convey emotion (choose wisely!). How should you navigate this new reality? A quick Internet search yields thousands of articles on the idyllic nature of working from home. What about the “real” work-from-home experience though? You know the one I’m talking about – balancing childcare, distance learning and remote working all at the same time. Blurred lines between your worklife and your home life. A pet or kid that randomly wanders into your video call demanding immediate attention. Massive mug of coffee that is constantly refilled. You get the gist. This profile series aims to bring some realness to the work-from-home conversation and hopefully, a bit of levity. At the end of the day, we are all in this together trying to do the best we can. 

 

Erich B. from Houston, TX

 

What type of work do you do and how long have you been working from home?

I am in finance.  Specifically, I work for a non-bank lender in the infrastructure space. I have been working remotely in a co-working space for the last five months but transitioned to working at home full-time in early March.

 

Describe your work-from-home set-up.

We have an apartment above our garage that is the primary office for both my wife and me. We switch off during the day between that and our kitchen/living room while doing double duty watching our son and working. Also, we have a premium “stand-up desk” outside that I use while watching our son play.  

 

What do you do to get into work mode?

I try to find a few concrete tasks to check off the list in the morning while watching my son. Getting through a few things in the morning helps me get in the proper mental state to hit the ground running on some of my more complex, involved tasks that take hours of uninterrupted effort. I need to make sure once I get that time to focus that I can hit the ground running, so I also like to have an espresso shot in the early afternoon.    

 

Are there any work-from-home challenges that you find surprising? 

I think what is most surprising is that most of my colleagues aren’t used to working remotely like I am, so most people don’t seem to be as proactive about picking up the phone to catch up with people regularly (both work and non-work related). This is absolutely critical in my point of view to maintain some social contact despite the distance. You can’t get together for a happy hour, but you can definitely catch up on how their families are doing and what they are doing to stay sane.  

 

What’s the one work-from-home item that you can’t live without (besides your computer and cell phone)? 

Nespresso machine. I stocked up on like 200 capsules in mid-March, so I guess I'm good for a few weeks. It’s my version of hoarding toilet paper.

 

Real talk: If you have kids at home, how do you balance being productive at work while also giving them the attention they need? 

Well, that is tough. My bosses are really understanding, and I keep my cell phone with me while watching my son in the mornings. If I get an urgent request, I inform whoever is asking that it will probably take longer than usual. That being said, I really have to lock it down in the afternoons to catch up on anything I missed in the morning. So far it is working fine, but if we start evaluating a ton of new investments, it will be very challenging. Our system is a work in progress, but I pick up any slack by working late into the evening/night as necessary.  

 

Based on this experience, would you elect to work from home permanently? 

No, my wife works from home and it could work well, but I need to get out of the house. Although I do have to say, getting to have dinner with my wife and son, even if it is only a 30-minute break, is a very nice change from being in the office until late in the evening every night. Despite not having a ton of social contact at the coworking space I was going to, it was nice to be downtown and out of the home environment. Getting some separation from my home helps me focus.  

 

And finally… real clothes, comfy clothes or a combination of both? 

Firstly, real clothes should be comfy clothes, so I’m a little skeptical of the question. But regarding what I do wear to the office, under no circumstances will I be wearing a suit or a button-down, especially with the beautiful weather right now in Houston in the high 70s and low 80s. Zoom meetings start today though, so maybe I’ll get some early performance feedback on this approach.