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Living in small spaces: Using tech to survive sheltering in place

People are spending more time than ever working and living in small or shared spaces. This experience is new and temporary for many, but turning to technology can help.

Sheltering in place requires patience and creativity. To those of you who prefer a clear separation between office and home, working from the space shaped by your significant other's Pop Vinyl collection, with their plastic eyes staring down at you, can be as horrific as any zombie horde.

Technology can help

I say this from experience. I live in a small space in New York City. It's 425 square feet. With my husband. And my mother. And no kitchen. Thanks to the tiny house movement, I'm very trendy. And I know what works.

And what works is ...

(Note: This advice works for everyone, but I'm not talking to people with more than 1,000 square feet of living space. You have glorious freedom and a fridge with four shelves. I bet you even know what an acre is!)

Wear closed-back headphones

Forget earbuds, which can get uncomfortable after wearing them for hours on end. For extended wear with comfort—as well as to let your family members know that you're utterly ignoring them—use over-ear headphones.

These headphones come in two flavors. The open-backed ones provide a more expansive "stage," meaning the simulation of large concert spaces. What the closed-backed ones lack in staging they make up for by muffling any sound you haven't piped in yourself.

Your family members will come to recognize that when you put on your headphones, you're signaling that you're busy working—even if you're merely researching your next stress-baking recipe.

Audio-technica's ATH M40x and the DT 770 from BeyerDynamic are both popular closed-back models that will do a quality job.

 

Exercise with a TV streaming device

Your gym is out of commission. Lucky for you, YouTube is home to countless workout videos for all levels of activity (I highly recommend Fitness Blender).

Still, doing plyometric exercises while keeping an eye on a small computer screen or tablet is as easy as juggling fish—that is, it's not at all easy and can result in a difficult-to-explain injury. Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, and other streaming devices are fabulous tools for television owners who want to stay fit in a confined space. (Check your TV first. The ability to stream is built into many modern sets.)

As it happens, you don't need much arm- and legroom when exercising in a small space—but you do need mindfulness. With streaming, I'm able to keep the video out of the corner of my eye while keeping the rest of my eye on my furniture/clutter/husband, who also is my exercise partner.

Chromecasters: As a bonus, leave your television on so you can enjoy Google's rotating stream of lovely photos, which also acts as a bucket list of locations you plan to visit … as soon as you're out of lockdown.

Consider virtual reality as an actual space

Finding yourself getting antsy while temporarily working from home? It's just a matter of perspective.

Seriously. If you work in a traditional office, you sit at a table in an open floorplan with a computer; if you work virtually, you sit at a table in a coffee shop with a computer; if you work at home, you sit at whatever surface you have available with a computer. See? Perspective.

And you can change your perspective with virtual reality. Headsets like the Valve Index or Oculus Rift paired with software like Half-Life: Alyx, Elite Dangerous, No Man's Sky, Skyrim VR, or Subnautica can provide games and worlds much bigger than the few cubic feet you need as your play space.

Conference friends and family into your home

Hopefully, this one is old news to you by now. Conferencing software like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype have been co-opted. The virtual 5 o'clock cocktail hour has become a real-time social phenomenon that works with co-workers, family, and friends.

If you're sequestered alone, this will give you a chance to see a friendly face. If you're stuck in a small space with other people, this will give you a chance to see a face that isn't frowning at you for not doing the dishes.

Other technology to keep your mind busy

Twitch streaming

Twitch isn't the sole domain of online gamers. You can find artists, musicians, chefs, and even knitters displaying their craft. Because many of them are live, you can even ask questions of them as they work.

Online learning

Let Coursera, Lynda.com, Udemy, and others help you learn to speak a new language, code a new language, and write in your current language. If you're focusing on your tech skills, companies like HPE have made their online education services available for free for an extended period of time.

And just as important, technology to limit

Social media platforms are rife with fake news. Disinformation about coronavirus is being spread and can undermine efforts in controlling the spread of the disease.

Avoid reading links of dubious origin by sticking to known, familiar news sources. Limit your time on social media—or do what I've been doing and avoid it altogether, for a refreshing dose of sanity.

In conclusion, technology can help navigate the tiny steps of your home with ease. For most of you, this lockdown is only temporary. New York City's ridiculously tiny apartments, however, are eternal.

Related link:

5 things I learned in (home) school today, and how they can help your small or midsize business

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.