Lifestyle Working from Home
The Art of Working from Home, Part One
Jul 13, 2022
With those who are able to now working from home, we asked our contributing writers to offer the WFH wisdom they've accrued over years of fruitful freelancing.
Illustration by Marie Assénat.
The transition from working in a bustling office to a quiet kitchen can be a strange one, so we reached out to our stable of contributing writers (all of whom have well-established home-working routines), asking for their advice on how to make the most of working from home.
I found early on that I work best in a rut, in a mundane routine. I hate surprises and need order. I don't like anyone touching my desk even though it looks like the West Coast of Florida after a hurricane. I usually know where everything is, although I may have to shift a few books, a tea mug, half a dozen folders, and my stapler to get to what I want. So it seems to follow that my uniform would be an habitual casual habit [Editor's Note: read the same disheveled type of clothes]. I can do my emails wearing anything -- old terry bathrobe, boxers, a sheet from the bed and a watch cap -- but I have to get dressed somehow, even if it's just a pair of old jeans and sweatshirt, to think about getting down to an assignment or project. Gay Talese has said that he gets dressed in a clean shirt, suit and tie to work at his desk, and while I don't feel that's necessary for me, I understand his point.
All this preface gets me 'round the corner and up to what I wear to sit in front of the computer screen til small drops of blood form on my forehead and I can go make a nice cuppa: either khakis or jeans (the older the better), a casual button-front shirt (chambray, flannel, drill, or whatever suits the season), and camp mocs (again, the older the better). Comfort I suppose here takes priority over anything else because I'm only seen by my wife who's the world's most tolerant woman.
Tea is essential equipment. Not only because of the caffeine (I'm big on caffeine), but because it gives me an excuse for a break. I can get up from my desk, go down to the kitchen and have a nice cuppa. Not a dirty mug and faded teabag stirred with a pencil, I always use a nice cup and saucer and proper teaspoon -- those little civilized niceties are a great comfort I find, and it's the small pleasures which can be so helpful in easing the stress -- and often brew a small potful rather than use a teabag. It's those little individual gestures, those mannerisms that I think are the revelatory outward signs of our psyches, our personalities, our style. My style is found more in a teacup than a tempest.
I try to recreate the experience of a 5 star hotel within the home as much as possible. Effective WFH protocol starts from the bed. The scene in The Untouchables where Al Capone is conducting his criminal empire from the comfort of his hotel bed, cigar in mouth, is my WFH inspo.
In reality that means stealing hotel slippers from places that I've been sent to on press trips. Also, mega thread count sheets, feather pillows with silk pillow cases, and the plumpest, lushest, most extravagant dressing gown money can buy. Ploh, a Singaporean brand which supplies the Mandarin are amazing. Or my Valentino beachwear gown, which has a honking, great big bright red V on the back does the trick. I'm a delicate men's fashion writer and so need to be swathed in luxury at all times, especially within the boudoir where I do much of my best work.
As a seasoned home-worker I’ve gone through the initial joy of being able to spend half the day in a pair of Jermyn Street pyjamas and a silk dressing gown, and realised that it works better for me to get dressed (I’m in jeans and a Drake’s flannel shirt today). Getting dressed helps reinforce the fact that it’s a working day, even if I’m working from home. All of which means that, come the weekend, I can enjoy a pyjama-clad breakfast with the newspaper, and it feels like a treat.
I spend some of the time I would otherwise have spent commuting laboriously brewing coffee using an Aeropress, a Wilfa grinder, Square Mile’s Red Brick beans and a frothy 50:50 mix of whole milk and Oatly whizzed up in a Hotel Chocolat milk “velvetiser". My other tips are to get up from the computer and move at least once an hour and, finally, pick a time to finish the working day and stick to it. It’s easy for home work to merge with home life, which can leave you half-heartedly working 24/7.
I’m going to be all too honest with you. As I sit here writing this, I’m wearing a pair of turquoise Prince of Wales check brushed cotton pyjamas, and (because I resent paying to heat the flat) my Rocky Mountain crazy gilet, finished with a pair of navy velvet Albert slippers for good measure. This tends to be my uniform if I’m in all day writing. I don’t generally dress up to work from home, because I don’t like sitting around the house in nice clothes! Clothes need to be seen out and about in the world, not creased and crumpled and as I huddle – every bit the cliché of the struggling writer – beneath my antique angle-poise.
I need a good, frothy, millennial-friendly oat-milky coffee from a proper coffee shop in the morning before I start to write, and one just after lunch. The words don’t come without it. No idea why not, it’s just how I’m wired up. I’m dependent, I suppose, and I’m okay with it.