Like many, I moved to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parts of California enacted shelter-in-place order back in March, and it’s been over a month and a half since then. I briefly worked from home back in 2013 as a freelancer - and I really got the whole work/life balance thing wrong. So this time around I’ve decided to approach remote work with a plan.

My day begins around 7 or 8 am, without too much deviation from schedule. I used to bike to work before the pandemic, and I try to head out for a 30 minute ride in a morning a few days a week. There aren’t a lot of people out early, and I love starting my day with some light cardio.

I share breakfast and coffee with my partner, often while catching up on our favorite morning TV show. At the moment I’m being educated on Avatar: The Last Airbender. Ugh, Azula!

Breakfast is followed by a calendar sync. We check if either of us have overlapping or sensitive meetings. That way we know which calls either of us needs to take in another room - and which are okay to have in our workspace. Both of our desks are in the living room, and we use noise cancelling headphones throughout the day to help with focus. During the day we convert our bedroom to an ad hoc conference room.

By 9 am, I have my desk set up: I replace my personal laptop with its corporate-issued counterpart. An external webcam helps with the image quality, and a dedicated display, keyboard (Vortex Pok3r with Matt3o Nerd DSA key cap set), and a mouse (Glorious Model O-) alleviate the cramped feeling I get when using a laptop.

Most importantly, I’m showered, groomed, and dressed by this time. While working in whatever I slept in has worked well for occasional remote Fridays, it proved to be unsustainable for prolonged remote work. Whenever I wasn’t dressed for work, I found myself slowly drifting towards the couch, and trading a laptop for my phone. In fact, some days I dress up even more than I used to when going to the office!

This is where the clear separation between home and work is established. I’m fully dressed and have my workstation set up: it’s work time!

I spend the next few hours busy with heads down work, usually working on a design, writing some code, or doing anything which requires concentration. Playing something like a Rainy Cafe in the background helps me stay in the zone.

Back in the office, 11 am used to be my workout time: a gym buddy of mine would consistency exercise at 11 am, and I adopted the habit of joining him over the past few years. I decided not to move the time slot: at 11 am I change into my workout clothes and exercise: 30 to 45 minutes of bodyweight exercises or online classes use up the remainder of my morning willpower. I’m so glad there are thousands of YouTube videos to keep me company!

My partner and I alternate cooking, and the next hour or so is reserved for cooking, lunch together, and cleanup. Remember the noise cancelling headphones? We haven’t heard (and often seen) each other since morning! Getting to share lunch daily has definitely been the highlight of staying at home for me.

After that - back to work: design reviews, meetings, busywork.

I wrap up around 5 pm, and make a point not to work past that. I swap out my work laptop for my own (even if I’m not planning to use it), and stow it away for the night. Disassembling my setup paired with showering and changing into house clothes creates a solid dividing line between work and home.

Cooking dinner together and evening activities follow, but that’s a story for another time. Stay healthy and productive!