An Actuary’s Guide to Working from Home

For many CAS members, social distancing requirements have changed work/life balance for at least the next few weeks. Many of you are learning how to deal with an extended work from home period for the first time.  For some folks that means they are alone; others may be dealing with spouses, roommates and kids of all ages sharing your workspace. In the last week I have heard many children and dogs in the background of my conference calls.

When I joined the CAS 16 months ago, I transitioned from working 26 years in a corporate office to primarily working from home, except for a few days a month I spend in the CAS Office in Arlington, Virginia.  One of the first things I did was call CAS Research Actuary Brian Fannin, who also works remotely, my sister, who has worked at home for many years, and a few other colleagues that have experienced working from home.  Their advice was great and though I adopted quickly, there were a few bumps on the road.

Below are a few tips I collected and lessons I learned on the way:

  1. Keep a routine – For those who work in an office, we get up at the same time each morning, take a shower, get ready for work, and proceed with our daily commute.  The best advice I was given was to keep this routine.  I get up at the same time, take a shower, put on work clothes, and “commute” to my office about the same time every day.  I try to eat lunch around the same time, and I try to LEAVE WORK when the day is over.  Leaving work at the end of the day can be surprisingly hard when working from home.
  2. Find an office space that works I am fortunate to have a room in our house that was set up as a TV room for my teenagers. After trying several places around the house, this became my new workspace during the day.  If you have space to close the door, this is beneficial.
  3. Communicate – Working from home can be very isolating. At the CAS, we have started using Microsoft Teams, which helps close the gap.  We use our webcams (another reason to shower) and have a virtual watercooler where we get social interaction.  As great as Teams and web chatting can be, it is also good to pick up the phone sometimes and have a conversation.
  4. Get up and move – In an office environment, we get up and talk to coworkers, go to meetings, meet with your boss, etc. You lose that when working at home.  I sometimes find that when I get busy working, I realize I have been sitting for three hours.  It is important to get up and move, preferably every hour.  Use your Fitbit, Apple watch or phone timer to remind you every hour to get up and move.  Take your dog for a quick walk (keeping your social distance), empty your dishwasher, any reason to get away from your desk for a few minutes.
  5. Be careful what you eat – Working from home, all the food in the house is just a few feet away, especially if you are at the kitchen table. It is easy to snack all day when working from home.  I try to keep healthy snacks (fruits, almonds) around, but like any diet the key is learning self-control.
  6. Invest in your workspace – For many of us this may be difficult, as we don’t know how long working from home may last. The great I.T. staff at the CAS provided me with a webcam, laptop, and dual monitors.  I purchased a relatively cheap adjustable table from office depot, and recently added some upgraded computer speakers and a desk lamp with built in phone charger and a USB port.

For the other actuaries who work from home, what works for you?  What are the challenges for those who are new to working from home?

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