By Tariq Ali
In this horrible timeline of a global pandemic, emergency movement control orders, and toilet paper hoarding (seriously, why are we, Malaysians, even doing that, since when do we need so much toilet paper, don’t you use water to wash??), some of you might have ended up being participants in this grand experiment of social distancing.
And you know what? If you’re not used to it? It’s tough. It’s even tougher when you know a person who, you know, takes to remote work with that sort of effortless, practiced ease that impresses their bosses and gets them promoted while you’re struggling with even trying to put on your pants to work. I get you. And no,I’m not bitter at all. Ha ha ha, of course not! (nervous sweats)
In any case, while there are things that your company is hopefully doing, such as setting up infrastructure to handle day-to-day reports and meetings for you, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything you can do for yourself in this difficult time. Here are some of the things I’ve done personally that works, and hopefully it’ll work for you too!
Expect a Productivity Hit
Listen. I’ve got some bad news for you.
It turns out that there is a reason why management made sure you needed to be in the office at a certain time of the day, at a certain location, and doing certain things! Turns out that a sense of structure does lend itself great to productivity. Who knew management could be right about something?!?!
Anyway. Those days of being able to go out without worrying about horribly dying are long past. Why, it only feels like last month (mostly because it was, you loon – Editor), but until things return to normal, this is your new normal. Get used to it, but also understand: these are emergency circumstances, it’s okay for you to cut some emergency slack for yourself.
And I’m not being some damn hippie commie socialist by suggesting this, I’m thinking about the long run. Listen to, for example, folks in academia, especially this brilliant tweet thread by Dr Aisha Ahmed. Her advice may be geared towards folks working in academia, but they apply to everyone, too:
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Treat it like that.
Prepare Space for Work
For the more observant of you, notice how this is the beginning of a spiral for you to end up looking like Smeagol, living in a lake while eating cave sushi. This is a bad place to be.
On a more serious note, again, this is more mental preparation for surviving that transition into remote work and/or learning. In this case, listening to tips for folks who have to deal with it might actually be useful, as demonstrated by Jessica from How to ADHD, here:
“But,” I might hear you say, “Are you saying that I have ADHD? Why would this advice apply to folks like me?”
To which I might reply: 1) wow, don’t be so sensitive, I didn’t say anything about you, and 2) haven’t you heard of the curb-cut effect? It’s that thing where resources and accommodations for disabled folks turn out to be useful to everyone, not just the disabled people it’s supposed to help. And that’s the case, here! I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t have ADHD who’d find this advice useful! Now go watch that video.
Take a Load Off — Get Food Delivered
You’ve heard all the terrible advice that’s been given to keep your sanity during this current outbreak. Honestly they’re terrible to say to people who are already stressed and trapped at home, but they do point to a single, inescapable fact of this current lockdown: families are kind of stressed out and going through an unusual amount of pressure and work during this time. Just because you’re not going out doesn’t mean that work stops, especially at home, after all.
I mean, think about it: for partners who have been saddled with the thankless and yet deeply vital work of housework and childcare, having people be around the house 24/7, including children, is already a daunting prospect. And then, you want them to cook? Come on.
I mean, yes of course you should help out with the housework and child-care (I’m looking at you, Malaysian dudes), but if there’s a task that can be, you know, literally out-sourced? It’s food delivery. Not only are you supporting the local economy, but hey! You’re letting the poor, stressed-out folk who care for your home and your kids have a nice, fancy meal.
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Bonus Content: Soundtracks for Working!
So, while you’re adjusting to life working at home, one of the neatest tricks you might have discovered might be that you can blast music into your ears without having to face 1) the approbation of your office-mates and 2) interruptions by management. And honestly, it’s great! If you’ve never had a work playlist before, this is a great time to start. Here are my recommended genres:
I mean, it makes a lot of sense: studying relies on you needing to be able to put yourself in an alert yet relaxed state, while retaining and managing large amounts of information. I’ve personally found these channels to be great for what appear to be two opposite roles: for when you need to wind down to go to sleep, or for when you need to focus on something that requires you to concentrate for hours at a time.
Ambient / Nature Sounds / White Noise
Maybe you’re just the kind of person who finds music distracting, what with all the melodies and the occasional lyrics that you might end up focusing on, rather than your work. Maybe what you’re looking for is a more naturalistic sound, pun intended. Then a good source of these include ambient sounds like the above, nature sounds, or just, as Thom Yorke from Radiohead once sang, a detuned radio.
It’s a weird suggestion, isn’t it? You’d think that the last thing you want to have playing while you’re trying to work is the one thing that could eat hours of what could be productive time.
But that’s exactly it, though! Videogame music soundtracks are great for putting you in a state of focus, because it’s their job. But instead of trying to collect materia with chocobos, you’re doing it to get paid. Talk about subverting the messaging, honestly.
And don’t knock videogame music soundtracks. While some are really the stereotypical 8-bit chiptune beats like this one:
Others share such diverse sounds such as classical music, like the soundtrack for Black Isle Games’ Arcanum:
To the funky instrumental stylings of Paper Mario: Color Splash:
Did we miss anything? What do you think of our suggestions? Let us know in the comments.