How to live AND work at home without going stir crazy

Working at home without losing your mind
Working at home without losing your mind 07:08

Testing, 1, 2, 3. … OK!

Welcome to lockdown! Like anyone else who's got the luxury of working at home, I'd been working at home when I got a call from my producer David Rothman. As I recall, the conversation went something like this…

Pogue: "Do you have a good idea for a story?"
Rothman: "The idea is: what are the rules for working and living at home?"
Pogue: "And you know what I should do? I should shoot the entire thing by myself, without a crew!"
Rothman : "Worth a shot!"

So … here we go: How to live and work at home without losing your mind.

First of all: curse that virus, but bless high-speed internet! The internet is our lifeline through this thing. It's how we socialize, it's our entertainment, it's how business gets done. This is the Internet's big moment.

It's incredible what's going on over video chat these days. Meetings, of course, but also exercise classes, concerts, church services, game nights, even weddings! And of course, concerts.

So, here's Rule #1 of lockdown life: Learn to use Zoom.

There are a lot of great videochatting programs out there: Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts. But Zoom is sort of the hero of the coronavirus era, because it's free, the picture is very stable, it's easy to use, and it can handle a lot of people in the meeting at once.

To get a free account you visit the website zoom.us, and supply your email. Then, whenever you want to start a video chat, you click "Host a meeting" > click "With Video On" >  click "Invite" > click "Copy Invitation" > and then send that link to your co-conspirators.

All they have to do is click that link, and they show up on your screen like this:

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It's not "The Brady Bunch" ... it's the "CBS Sunday Morning Bunch." CBS News

You might recognize a few of these characters who have never before appeared on your screen simultaneously. Yes, I invited our full cast of "Sunday Morning" correspondents to join me for a little social distancing over Zoom.

"If we can do it, anyone can do it!" said Rita Braver. 

Here's a tip for all those video calls: You want a source of light in front of you. If you have a window to your side you'll look fine, but if it's behind you, you'll look like you're in the witness protection program. 

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Good and bad examples of video call lighting.  CBS News

Those video meetings are a good example of Rule #2: It's really important to seek social contact.

"As human beings, we've always sought people out to be with, for a good reason: It's the way we were designed," said Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist at Columbia University. "And now, you're asking us, in the day of constant social connectivity, to not have that."

Her recommendation, shared with Pogue during a Zoom call: "Block a time to have Facetime or a phone call with a couple of people in your life that you need to check in with. Just have a laugh. Maybe don't talk about the coronavirus all the time."

"Are you pushing your child out of the camera?" Pogue laughed.

"I am so, so sorry!" she said, leaning out of view to plaintive cries. 

Oh, and there's your Rule #3: Kids and pets are officially allowed at work.

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As you work from home, cats have right-of-way during video calls. CBS News

Pogue asked Sanam, "How are you managing to get through this?"

"I'm managing, like everyone else!" she laughed. "I get up, I make a list of things that I have to do."

And here's Rule #4: Keep a routine. It's a lot easier to get in the mood for being productive if you stick to a schedule. Some people find it useful to dress up for "work" even if they aren't going to see anybody all day. And when work is over, just because you can't go out to the movies, doesn't mean you can't watch movies together.

At NetflixParty.com, you can install a plug-in feature into the Chrome web browser that lets you watch movies simultaneously with your friends all over the country, making your snarky comments in the chat window on the side.

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At netflixparty.com you can have a communal viewing of movies and TV.   CBS News

Finally, Rule #5: It's called social distancing, not house arrest. You're allowed to go outside – and you should!

Take walks with people who live with you. Keep clear of other people, of course, but try to get out there every day!

You can even have small gatherings in person as long as you keep that distance! I know some local kids who all got sent home by their colleges, so they hang out in the parking lot of their old middle school.

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Getting together, at a distance.  CBS News

And my local librarian and her neighbors meet each evening in their apartment doorways for what they call "Cocktails in the Foyer." It's social distancing with an emphasis on social.

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"Cocktails in the Foyer."  CBS News

Eventually, life will get back to normal. But in the meantime, as Sanam Hafeez says, there's room for more than one emotion.

"Most of us should really count our blessings," she said. "I oscillate between the space of, you know, sort of panic, distress and sadness, to utter gratitude for having a roof over my head and having a pantry stocked with food. There are so many people who don't have that right now."

You know what? The rules for staying sane at home aren't so hard to follow: Rely on the Internet. Stay social. Stick to a routine. Take walks.

Life goes on; you just have to go at it a little ... differently.

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David Pogue, dressed for work. CBS News

      
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Story produced by David Rothman. Editor: Ed Givnish.