Episode 33 of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with my friend Abby Covert, aka Abby the IA. Abby is a senior information architect at Etsy. She wrote How to Make Sense of Any Mess, an excellent primer on information architecture, and co-founded World IA Day. She’s also taught graduate students and curated global conferences. She’s done many of these things remotely over the last ten years, which makes her a great guide to our new reality.

Unsurprisingly, our conversation focused on what it takes to collaborate effectively at a distance. We delved into particular styles, processes, and tools for remote work, teaching, and event management. One common thread: when you’re spending lots of your time online, it behooves you to create a physical environment that keeps your body healthy:

Herman Miller chairs with the best chairs. Ergonomic chairs, man! There are two things. There’s the ergonomic nature of your chair, but there’s also the, “how are you positioning your tools on your table?” So, the laptop riser is a really good example If you are sitting at a table and you are typing on a laptop keyboard, you are not ergonomically sound. And if you are doing that all, day every day, for the rest of your career, you will be very hunchy and not very comfortable in life.

So yeah, the laptop riser is a big part of it, the external keyboard is a big part of it. I also have this really puffy-like foot riser thing. I don’t know; it’s kind of like a pillow but it’s meant to sit on the floor for your feet to be slightly elevated. I’m also a short person so I think that has something to do with it. But, yeah, ergonomics! It’s a thing. I’m not an expert, but it’s a thing.

I also loved the idea that Abby’s physical workspace is separate from the rest of her living environment. Alas, setting up a separate office space in our homes isn’t something many of us can do. However, we discussed an intriguing alternative: establishing little routines (i.e., changing your shoes) that signify the shift from one mode to another.

We’re all trying to cope with the weirdness of the current situation. As of Saturday, it’s been a month since I’ve been working 100% from home. I can’t say it’s become my new normal — but some things are getting a bit easier. I hope this conversation with Abby helps you as you ease into this “no new normal.”

The Informed Life Episode 33: Abby Covert on Remote Work