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Emergency Lifehacks: Plan Ahead

Emergency Lifehacks: Plan Ahead

    What would you do if you lost power for a day? What about a nasty storm knocking out transport to your area for a week? What if you had to evacuate your home because of a wild fire?

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    A little emergency preparedness can go a long way. Spending an hour or two today, along with a few dollars, can make sure that you have less to worry about in the event of an emergency. And if you’re worrying about a bad storm or a wild fire, I think that any peace of mind that being prepared can bring you is worth the effort. You don’t need to spend a lot of time worry about emergency preparedness, but making it a part of your plans makes sense. Heck, you back up your hard drive on a regular basis, right? That’s basic emergency preparedness right there!

    Planning An Evacuation Bag

    I’ve read about people keeping a go bag for every occasion — from wilderness rescue to a bird flu pandemic It’s up to you how far you want to go, but I’ve focused on stocking a bag that will get me through some basic emergencies. I’m working on the assumption that, after a point, I’ll have access to my (or someone else’s), tool shed, pantry and other stuff and can work with those items when I run out. No sense hauling around more than a first aid kit when you can stock a good number of emergency medical supplies at home.

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    So what do I think is important in an evacuation bag?

    • A basic first aid kit
    • A map
    • A flashlight with spare batteries
    • A blanket
    • At least one change of clothing, with extra underwear and socks
    • Soap and a few other basic hygiene supplies.
    • A coat
    • Medication — a supply of both prescription and over the counter drugs
    • A recent back up of important computer files
    • Copies of important documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards
    • An inventory (for insurance purposes)
    • A list of important phone numbers
    • Snacks
    • A deck of cards or other entertainment

    Since I’m self-employed, that recent back up of my computer files is especially important. If I had to leave my files behind me, it could be very difficult for me to rebuild my business later on. I know that I can’t lug my filing cabinet along on an evacuation, but I can take a USB drive or a DVD. I’ve also added family photos and other important files to my backup. If you have something that you can’t bear to leave behind, add it to your evacuation list — you may need to make a list of things to pick up on your way out the door, and keep it with your bag.

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    Home Preparations

    There are any number of emergencies that could keep you stuck in your home or in your immediate area. The most important step you can take towards preparedness is stocking your pantry — even keeping a little extra food in the house can make the difference between having to go out in a blizzard or being able to wait it out.

    The expert opinions on what to stock at home vary widely. Recommendations to have 1 gallon of water on hand per person are pretty consistent. But beyond that, there are a variety of options. Depending on where you live and your circumstances, some recommendations include stocking up a year’s worth of food. If that’s your inclination, this calculator is a good start. It does assume, however, that you have a good working knowledge of your own kitchen.

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    Storing a year’s worth of food is outside of the realm of the possible for some of us — I don’t know where I could put 750 pounds of flour in my apartment, let alone other foods. I generally try to have about two weeks worth of extra food on hand at any given time. I try to add a few more canned items to my pantry, along with other non-perishables each time I go grocery shopping. As to what to store, I recommend sticking as close to your usual diet as possible. Stocking up on canned beets doesn’t make sense for those of us who hate beats.

    Beyond food, having a more extensive first aid kit on hand is worthwhile. I recommend thinking big: go beyond the roll of medical tape and the gauze pads. I’m slowly adding items as my budget allows, but my goal is to be able to keep going through at least minor medical emergencies. That means that I want a couple of cans of chicken broth, rubber gloves and a splint all on hand. Deciding what should be in your home’s kit can depend on who you life with, where you live and what Nature is likely to throw at your state. Good starting points include Jim McDonald’s jump kit guide, MSNBC’s home flu kit and Ready America’s first aid kit. If you can get even some basic medical training (many employers will pay for employees to get CPR training, and there are a number of free classes available at community centers), it’s worthwhile. There are also a couple of good books worth picking up: the Merck Manual and Where There is No Doctor are both good options.

    Emergency Preparedness in Everyday Life

    Once you’ve started making some plans for emergencies, it’s worth making them a part of your regular routine. If you’ve laid in some canned food or bottled water, make a point to make it a part of your meal plans so that you keep replacing it with new. Putting a reminder to go over your plans or check your supplies on your calendar is a great idea. For some people, once a year is plenty. For others, a go bag might need to be updated a bit more often. I’ve read about families who put together evacuation bags just in case, and then just put them in a closet for a few years. When they next checked on them, their children had outgrown the packed clothing by several sizes.

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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