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Five Things That Have Made My WFH Experience Immensely Better

Well, folks, we’re closing in on the end of May. It’s sort of wild to think about how long we’ve been in quarantine now. Before this quarantine started, I had recently entered a new role in a wholly different facility than where I’ve normally worked, and I genuinely cannot remember what it was like to regularly work there. There’s a chance I’ll even outpace my time at home than my time in that facility!

I’m extremely grateful for being able to work from home during these difficult times, but truth be told, it’s been sort of a long time coming in getting into the groove of working from home. To give a little more context on my personal situation, I’m quarantined in my house with two lovely but very rambunctious toddler girls. My “office” is the spare bedroom in our basement… which is directly below the girls’ hardwood floor play area. (I clearly didn’t think that through when we laid the hardwood floors. 🤦🏽‍♂️)

Up until very recently, I have been craving to go back to the office for the reasons above and more. The first month in particular was very difficult for me. Now that I’ve finally gotten into a WFH groove, I’d still like to go back to the office, but my stance on WFH is much more neutral now. In this post, I’ll cover the five main things that have helped me the most. Let’s jump into what those include!

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Of all the things on this list, this is the only one that came to me right away. Being a runner, I’ve had some knee issues that are best alleviated by alternating between sitting and standing, so the sit-stand desk I have in the office has been amazing. Unfortunately, it’s super massive, so I had no way to bring it home with me. Fortunately, I was able to find a sit-stand desk converter that can be placed on top of pretty much any table or desk. I have a cheap desk I bought from IKEA a few years back, and my sit-stand desk converter sits on it just fine. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s an investment I’d make again in a heartbeat.

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One of the most difficult things for me during this odd time is striking an appropriate work-life balance. Given that my workplace and living space are now the same physical location, I found myself in the first few weeks doing a lot more work beyond the 40 hour work week. I wasn’t asked to do that by my employer at all; it’s just that I’m a bit neurotic when it comes to things like this. That said, I’ve had to enable a rule for myself that what happens in my office stays in my office. When I’m “off the clock,” I don’t come down to this office at all now. It’s helped me to stay attentive to my wife and daughters after I’m done with work each day.

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The nice thing about my office is that I do get a little sunshine via the window well pictured here. The bad news is that my window well is pretty ugly. (I think I’m going to power wash it this weekend.) It doesn’t help that we in Illinois have also had pretty dreary weather these past two months, so I’ve made it a habit to eat a small, quick lunch and then walk when I can outside around my neighborhood. It’s a nice way to step out of my dungeon of a basement to get some fresh air and a little exercise each day.

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Like I mentioned, I have two little girls in my house, and as much as I love them, they frequently have two little girl antics all the time. The little one turned two years old in March, and she has definitely entered her Terrible Two’s time. There’s nothing quite like trying to solve a difficult machine learning problem while a two year old is screaming in a high pitched tone right above your head!

That said, investing in over-the-ear, noise cancelling headphones has been a total game changer for my work. I do have the AirPods Pro, but my issue with them is a) the battery life won’t get me through a full day of work and b) I just don’t like having something shoved in my ear like that for a long time. Pictured above are the Beats Solo Pros, and they have worked great both as a nice set of headphones and as a headset for online conference calls. You don’t have to go the Beats route as there are lots of great alternatives out there, but if you have little kids like me, these are an absolute must.

No pic for this last one, but I would say that this one alongside with the second thing on this list have helped me most when striking an appropriate work-life balance. Even when not working behind my laptop, I found myself constantly thinking about what I needed to do the next few days for a certain project. Now, I’ve been sure to make it a habit by ending my day by making a list of what I need to do tomorrow or next few days. This way, I can comfortably logoff for the day knowing what I need to do tomorrow and not be thinking about that when I should be spending time with my family!

That’s it for this post! There were many other tiny things I could have added to this list, but these five in particular have made the most impact for my situation. What has worked particularly well for you? I’m always interested to hear how I might be able to make my own scenario even better!

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Machine learning engineer by day, spiritual explorer by night.

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