Column

You Are More Than Welcome to Wear Sweatpants While Working From Home

Maybe not everything is about productivity as we work from home during the coronavirus pandemic

View through an empty room of a woman standing on a balcony.
View through an empty room of a woman standing on a balcony.
Photo: Russell Underwood/Getty Images

TThere’s a lot of advice going around right now about the best ways to work from home: Get dressed as if you were going into the office, stick to your usual routines, do standing lunges in your living room for a break. People are (understandably) looking for ways to stay mentally healthy while they self-isolate in the age of coronavirus. Now with the news that New York City could join the San Francisco area in “sheltering in place,” more people than ever are going to have to figure out how to be in their (most often small) apartments for an extended period of time.

Take it from someone who has worked from home for over a decade: Wear your sweatpants, it’s fine.

I can still get the same amount of work done (more even) when I wake up later, if I don’t shower until the afternoon, or if I take a call while cooking dinner. As for getting dressed, sure! But I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear anything but elastic waist pants in my own home.

That said, everyone has routines that make them feel their day has begun. For me, it’s browsing Twitter over coffee. Working from home can make it hard to delineate between your work and personal life. When your living room is your “office,” suddenly it feels reasonable to be answering emails at 9 p.m. So making a schedule isn’t a bad idea. But I don’t really care if I’m working at a desk or from a bed.

I understand the well-meaning advice from those who draw harder lines — they want to normalize the situation, making people feel as if every day at home is just like another workday. But this is a very abnormal time! And while there’s a particularly American obsession with proving how hard you are working, maybe not everything is about being or looking “productive” — especially right now.

We all need to talk and commiserate, and not just with the people who live in our homes.

During normal circumstances, I try to get lunch with a friend at least once or twice a week to make up for the lack of socializing that comes with being at home so often. That’s not possible right now for a lot of us, obviously. I’ve started planning FaceTime playdates for my daughter — who is suffering from serious loneliness with no siblings or friends to hang out with — and now I’m thinking of doing the same for myself.

We all need to talk and commiserate, and not just with the people who live in our homes.

But more than anything, the key to working from home — especially right now in the midst of a national crisis — is to give yourself a break. Do what feels good, and what’s going to make these next weeks or months bearable. Have a brownie for lunch, skip the living room pushups, wear the sweatpants. (But don’t stop taking your antidepressants.)

Maybe you’ll need a more stringent routine for the long haul, if indeed there is a long haul. But for now, don’t think about how you can be most productive; do whatever is going to make you happy. We’re going to need all the joy we can get.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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