Companies and schools around the nation are making strides to protect the health and well-being of their employees and the population at-large by shifting business to remote locations this week, forcing many workers to grapple with the challenge of completing their normal workload from the distracting comfort of their homes. The internet was quick to respond with a plethora of articles on how to work from home most responsibly, featuring tips like “shower and get dressed to start your day” and “eat lunch.” These are great suggestions but, as a chaos Muppet who has worked from home for years, they’re incomprehensible to me. What none of these articles seem to consider is that the pivot to being a responsible human being and productive employee may be too jarring in these uncertain times. Where is the advice for people who experience office life as a succession of shambles punctuated by low stakes gossip and high stakes free food and want to bring that energy into their living rooms? Where is the representation for people who stroll through open floor plans talking loudly, holding a Gladware container full of freshly microwaved salmon?
Fortunately, years of spiraling on my couch whilst haranguing my office Slack channel with non sequiturs and GIFs from The Birdcage has prepared me for this moment. Take my hand (Wait! Don’t do that; take my elbow) and let me guide you through the process of turning your remote work experience into utter mayhem that will surely bring about ruin.
“Experts” strongly suggest starting your day as you normally would by putting on “outside clothes” to trick your brain into thinking that you’re “a functional member of society.” That’s malarkey. They really want you sitting up in your living room, watching The Kelly Clarkson Show in a bra or a tie? Or both? Grow up! Literally do not even think about getting dressed until about 2 p.m. and then put on your prom outfit. Walk around your house in it like Miss Havisham. Stand by the window ominously so your neighbors think your place is haunted. Really lean into it. The only relationship you should have with professional attire is aimlessly ordering a bunch of it online so you can give yourself a little fashion show later in the week. It’s important to set a schedule for yourself.
The first thing you need to do is go to a local donut shop and buy a dozen donuts. Like, this is essential for working from home. And then you need to put that box of donuts in a different room, say a guest room or a utility closet. And then once an hour you should go to the box and cut a third of a donut while saying out loud “I’m just going to take a little bit!” And you should do this regularly, all day long, until the donuts are stale and the box is a hodgepodge of donut trash that no one wants. This is really plugging into company culture.
It’s important that the donuts are not the only thing you eat all day, of course. At about 10:45 a.m. you should order lunch. I’d suggest roughly three meals worth of delivery, enough that they give you at least six sets of plastic utensils. When it comes, pick over it ravenously, leaving just enough behind that it’s too much to throw away but the sight of it disgusts you. Leave it right on the table; don’t throw a thing a way. You’re going to want it at 2 a.m., of course!
Hmm. What else? Hydration? No thanks! If you must drink something, try an entire pot of coffee and zero ounces of water. Old family recipe.
The first rule of working from home is you don’t have to wear pants when on a Zoom video conference call. But this is common knowledge. Amateur stuff. How to truly manifest chaotic energy to make the most of your meetings? Well, what I like to do is, about an hour before a video meeting, watch the saddest movie I can think of so that when the conference call begins I am uncontrollably sobbing. And then you keep sobbing throughout the call while going through your agenda points deliberately. Don’t forget to share your screen so people can see the PowerPoint on one side and the paused scene from Dancer in the Dark on the other.
Other remote meeting tips? Never mute yourself on the call. Everyone wants to hear the buzzer on your dryer, the faucet running, you singing “Happy Birthday” as you wash your hands, and the satisfying crunch of an entire bag of Pirate Booty.
The home offers a plethora of distractions, from TV to chores to going back to bed. It’s best to embrace them all at once by pulling a basket full of laundry, setting yourself up to fold it while watching TV in bed, and then immediately falling asleep on the pile of clothes. But you know this. A true chaos Muppet will step their focus game up when working remotely.
The thing you don’t get to experience when working outside of an office is the performance of office culture. So, to make up for that Slack your co-workers constantly. Every thought that comes into your head put on the main channel with an @here announcement. Reply all to every email, or—better yet—whenever you receive an email, pick up your actual telephone and call the sender. When they answer say “I just got your email” and then don’t say anything else.
Getting work done
Look, just because you’re being chaotic does not mean you don’t have tasks to accomplish and goals to meet.
I am not telling you to shirk your responsibilities! When you work from home you have to be hyper-aware of your work product and output and other fancy words. This is why you should make progress reports for yourself at regular intervals. It’s been an hour—did you reply 92 times to Trump’s tweets? Good job; write it on a spreadsheet! We’re midway through the day—have you Googled “Kumail Nanjiani shirtless”? If not, why not? Almost 5 p.m.? Now is the time to consider bangs. Set goals for yourself! Descend into madness! Text your ex! Everything is productivity when you are a workforce of one in a cubicle made of accent pillows! I believe in you! See you at the grindstone!