By Jacqueline Fiore Nov 20, 2020
Remote working is emerging as the new norm. Read along to know some hacks on nailing work from home.
Many of us are finding ourselves in a difficult position while remote working in the middle of a pandemic. We have had to readjust our workspaces to find where we will put ourselves at home during the day, sometimes dealing with uncomfortable chairs or workstations, being in the way of others (or others being in our way), or not having the equipment we need. Being at home all day and working in the same location that you eat, sleep, and try to find recreation can have a real psychological toll on our health and well being.
When you are at home, there may be the perception that you are available to those around you when you really are not. This could mean children with the expectation of play or other attention, or a spouse that wonders why you didn’t do the laundry and have dinner ready since you have been at home all day. On top of that, the stress of an uncertain economy is real. While some of us are scrambling to accomplish all of the work on time as the pandemic or other effects have increased our workload (in some instances without the benefit of increased profitability), others are seeing a downturn, and with this comes the worry of whether or not this benefit of job stress (aka - the job) will still be there tomorrow.
This is not an article to showcase the gloom and doom of remote working during the pandemic, but instead some guidance on practical things you can do to improve the situation.
We will start with the workspace. I know you already know the importance of it if you feel like you no longer have a good place where you can focus and get work done. Just one day of an uncomfortable chair, a poor computer setup, or a location where others are distracting you regularly can really add to the stress and frustration we are already feeling.
Spend some time thinking about how you can optimize your space for your needs - it might mean using things you already have in the house (like adding a pillow to your chair) or making some small investments to take care of your needs (like a webcam to avoid being hunched over your laptop when you are in meetings). If you think about your needs and choose carefully, these investments are often worth it and pay off in productivity.
If at all possible, choose a workspace that is both secluded from others in the home and away from where you do other daily activities - especially sleep. Try to pick a space that you only go to when you are working, even if it has to be just a corner of a room. Going to this place can help to get you mentally ready for the work you are going to do and moving away from this space can help you when it is time to unwind and relax. It is especially important that this is not the same place you sleep - working in the same location where you sleep can disrupt sleep patterns, causing even more stress as well as a lack of productivity.
Managing expectations and relationships with people you work with can be a challenge. In many aspects, they are dealing with the same situation as you and there is an element of empathy that you can have for each other as a result of the current situation.
In other aspects, however, the experiences can be very different. What if, for example - you have two children at home under the age of five, but your boss has two children in their teenage years? Your boss might think she understands the situation - she has after all had toddlers before, but this situation is very different than having children at home pre-pandemic. It is important to both communicate your situation to those around you while having grace for whatever their situation might be. We are all trying to figure out life in the pandemic for the first time together and this communication along with grace and empathy can go a long way in building work relationships as well as the productivity of the entire team.
When you communicate your situation be sure to also ask for what you need. If you do have others you are caring for and flexible work hours would allow you to get more done, ask for it. Be sure to explain the why behind the request as well as how it would help the team, the company, and the individual you are asking for the accommodation from. Don’t forget your own needs in this scenario. If what you are contemplating asking for is simply so that you can have alone time in the morning or if it keeps you from attempting to work throughout the day only to fail and feel the need to make up time at night, don’t hesitate. Not spending time on yourself and getting what you need to be healthy will not be helpful to your health and productivity in the long run (more on this topic below). Creating reasonable and helpful work arrangements with the people around you now will pay off in the long run - sometimes even if it seems like a set back in the present time.
Our next focus is on the people in your household. It can be difficult to effectively communicate the needs you have to be able to successfully work at home to your loved ones or those living in the same household. In some cases, we are actively trying to figure these needs out at the same time as trying to do it for the first time. Communication is key here so that your needs are understood - having regular check-ins on progress and changes will be key if this is very new to you or if your needs are changing. It is not likely that you will be able to share exactly what it is like for you if your spouse or those around you are not in a similar situation - it will be most beneficial to focus on your needs. For example, sharing your calendar and indicating the times that it is imperative that there are no interruptions. You could even do this with visual cues at your workstation (or on your door, if you are fortunate enough to have one separating where you work from the rest of the home). This can be as simple as a red piece of paper (meaning STOP), or a green piece of paper (meaning, “still working but brief interruptions are okay). Even toddlers will be able to understand these meanings and while the behaviours will take longer to build, this will be a starting point.
While it is important for others in the household to respect your work time, it is important for you to respect family time. Be sure that at the end of your communicated work time that you do end your work and dedicate some time to people you love. Don’t only respect family time for your family - next, we focus on you.
It is important for your own health and well-being to compartmentalize your work time and put it aside during relaxation time.
Spending time with loved ones is a fantastic way to set the stress and worry of work aside and focus on something to support your mental health. Spending time with family and/or loved ones is obviously easier said than done in cases where they are not in your immediate household. The media puts a huge emphasis on “social distancing” measures but I prefer to think of this as a need for “physical distancing.”
Technology has made seeing, hearing, and spending time with people from afar so much easier than it once was. Be sure to use your technology wisely, however. If you are feeling burned out from the number of video conferences you are required to attend at work, do phone calls instead. If you aren’t tech-savvy and these platforms are intimidating to you, call a tech-savvy friend for help or look for online tutorials. In addition to keeping your social connections healthy, keep your body healthy too.
Engaging in regular exercise and making healthy food choices can have an enormous impact on not only our physical health but also our mental health. This can translate to help with things like depression, anxiety, and productivity. Finally, doing something for yourself, something you enjoy that makes you feel relaxed is a great way to keep your mood uplifted during an uncertain time. An enjoyable activity can pass time if needed, help you to focus on something positive, and sometimes even inspire you to learn something new if it is a new hobby you are picking up.