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A Pandemic Graduate’s Tips for Working Remote

by | Jun 27, 2024

As a 2021 high school graduate, I quickly — and reluctantly — adapted to an all-virtual environment with little warning. No classroom, no teachers, no students, no nagging parent over my shoulder to keep me on track. For a little over a year, I altered everything I knew about public school into a laptop.

How do I get help on my assignments? What if my grades and work ethic drop? How do I stay focused in my own bedroom? What if, what if, what if?  

Despite all my fears, I ended up performing well. Even when I attended college, I never enrolled for a full in-person semester. At least one or two of my courses were online, and I preferred it that way. I never thought I would enjoy remote work since I never had the opportunity to try it, let alone so much time to figure out what routines fit best.

That said, here is a snapshot of what I learned in 425 days at my desk of solitude.

Dress for success — even when no one is looking

Sweatpants might have been the “cool” trend when most of us were comfortably working from home, but it wasn’t for me. Sure, pairing my PJ pants with a nice top for Google Meets was fun at first, but if I felt comfortable enough in my outfit to go back to sleep, I probably would. To change this, getting dressed became part of my routine, even on days when I didn’t see anyone through a screen. Though a good outfit may seem simple, it can be the difference between feeling ready for action or trudging back to bed.

Choose a workspace and stick to it

My greatest mistake was moving around my workspace. I liked to work on the couch, the kitchen table, my bed or somewhere else in the house. Slowly, I subconsciously labeled the couch “English Reading” and the kitchen table “Algebra Homework.” By the time I was done with my day, I felt as if there was nowhere to rest since I saw the house as my study ground. If there’s a desk, stay put. If there’s not, stay in one location, like a specific chair or seat at the table.

Strictly follow working hours 

I tried my best to stick to the hours of school as if I were in-person. My day would begin at 7 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. On the days I completed work outside of this time frame, I couldn’t let my brain wind down. Soon, my mind was always “on,” and there was a lingering pressure to constantly be productive. When I became strict with my hours, this angst dissolved. The more determined I was to complete work by 3 p.m., the more intent I was to close my laptop. I felt more motivated to accomplish tasks when I knew I had after-work plans — like relaxing.

Invite your productive pets to the virtual office

When my parents had moved back to in-person work, I was left at home with my little sister and our cats. We often didn’t work together and became too distracted with each other’s presence. However, our cats kept us company without a human in the room. They would occupy our space and roam around, but couldn’t interfere by starting a conversation. In fact, if they sat near my workspace or on my lap, I felt more obligated to stay in place so they wouldn’t move. For people without roommates, a pet gave me companionship without being an environment disruptor.

You cannot be afraid to ask for help

I thought about phrasing this section as “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” but the reality was a sink or swim situation. If I didn’t ask for help when I needed to, I was guaranteed to sink in my academics. At home, I couldn’t ask the classmate sitting next to me what was going on. I  scheduled Zoom meetings with teachers for what felt like dumb questions because I had to know if I was doing my job correctly. Of course, read and reread directions before asking for assistance, but remember: asking questions doesn’t waste anyone’s time. It shows the care and effort put forth in accuracy.

Today, I very much enjoy working remotely with my ambiance of instrumental music, candles and cats. With 425 days of training at a virtual desk, I am self-reliant, but can effectively communicate when I need assistance. Remote work may not sound exciting to everyone, especially my 2020 self, but it’s possible that learning how to be isolated yet sufficient allows anyone to be forever independent. And that is something not even a pandemic can take away from you.

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