Working from home isn't for everyone. But in the past year, a lot more of us have gotten a taste of what it's like when your commute is walking from the kitchen to a laptop.
A year ago, Bill Bregar wrote a column with advice for those of us who were new to being confined to a home office. He'd been doing it for more than six years, and he made it sound great.
My favorite part was his response to a colleague who suggested he shower and dress for work each morning. Bill said no, and instead he went to Sears and bought five pairs of pajama pants — one for each day of the week.
I didn't take Bill's PJ advice, but I did buy a couple of nice pairs of shorts. I don't miss dress pants, shoes, or driving to the office, especially on bad-weather days.
But everyone's experience isn't like mine. I asked colleagues what they thought, and Erin Sloan's column, describing her work-from-home days with a toddler and a new baby, drove that point home.
Here are some tips from a few of my Plastics News colleagues:
Conference Director Joe Pryweller: "Working from home can lead to many bad habits. Instead of mingling with others in the office, we talk to the walls and crack jokes on Facebook. We take breaks by going to the kitchen for a snack or watching the latest YouTube video. We fight boredom with chore-dom around the house.
"So, a few tips: Put duct tape around the refrigerator door, or maybe use a chastity belt. Hide the tools and the power drill. Act like it's 1999 and Facebook and YouTube don't exist. But as a baseball fan, there's one temptation that is the hardest to resist — streaming a ballgame while working. The crack of the bat, the clack of keys on keyboard. Ah, spring is here."
Assistant Managing Editor Rhoda Miel: "Invest in a decent desk chair. I spent three months with a folding chair before I bought a real chair because I wasn't sure how long it would last. I would not recommend folding chairs for multiple hours.
"Remember to walk away. At the office you probably had to walk down to the bathroom or a break room. Along the way you'd see people and chat. When you're home, especially if you're living alone, it's tempting to get 'just one more thing done' before you get up and move.
"This one is kind of niche, but having a cuckoo clock both provides background noise (tick, tick, tick) and when it chimes, it's a good reminder to move."
Assistant Managing Editor Steve Toloken: "Take breaks to go for walks. Try to keep the home office clean, although that's hard. Keep some pictures on the wall that inspire. Try to find a space in the home with good natural light.
"When it's warm, get a pandemic lunch outside with friends. If you live in an urban area like I do, be thankful for quiet neighbors. Invest in a good chair, like an ergonomic, backless, kneeling model. And if you need a pick-me-up, read Bill Bregar's classic column on working at home."
Editorial Research Coordinator Hollee Keller: "Make a happy blend between 'traditional office time' and 'get the job done' time.
"Being at home all day means taking care of dogs, deliveries and office management like trash, mail and supplies. Being at home all day means responding to customers and coworkers during evening hours.
"But watch out for the easy traps. In the office, I would be presentable for a quick five-minute stand-up meeting. Now if someone asks to video, I panic and try to remember if I brushed my hair that morning. (I probably didn't).
"I've been working offsite since late 2013 and I'm a huge fan of the home office. Since I'm not in plain sight anymore — sometimes people forget to hijack my time for their own needs … sometimes.
I'll take the last word. For many in the plastics industry deemed "essential workers," it's been business-as-usual for the past year … if you don't count social distancing and wearing PPE.
Those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home realize how lucky we are, and we appreciate everything that you've done during this pandemic.
is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.