(Not) Working from home advice
COVID-19 has impacted us all in more ways than we would care to admit. Setting aside the health risks and concerns of our friends and family, many of us who typically work in an office have been scrambling to adjust to a new way of life- working from home.
For some, water cooler talk with co-workers who have become your second family have been replaced with listening in on your partner’s calls or trying not to scream as you listen to them pound away at their keyboard like it took their lunch money. For me, it has been a never ending stream of "Mommy, I want a snack" from the moment my boys wake up until the moment they go to sleep, especially when I am on conference calls with clients or the Court.
I'm on a mission to find a way to stop "not working" from home. Here is some of the best advice I've seen on how to navigate being productive from home without evicting your new co-workers (read as family).
1. Plan your day, one day at a time Part of what has made this quarantine so stressful for so many is how little we know about when to expect the restrictions to be lifted. Frankly, we do not know what to expect. We have absolutely no control over whether the virus comes to your community. We also have no control over whether our jobs or schools will continue to remain closed. We have no control if our families are considered "essential employees" and continue to work. We certainly have no control over when this will end.
But worry not friends. If you are anything like me, and you long to be in control, you can take solace in the fact that you absolutely can control what happens within your home everyday. For me, this means taking a few minutes to look at a calendar and mark down any virtual meetings, important phone calls and any looming deadlines I have. If you’ve got kids at home, you will also want to try to set a general plan. For example, what time is breakfast? What time is lunch? When are you signing off for the day? When are you going to do the other things you normally do, like shower, workout, etc.? Is there homework that needs to be completed and does it require supervision?
I know what you are thinking. Yeah, right, its that easy. But our children are used to following a schedule at school just like we are accustomed to following a schedule at work. Having a routine, especially for our children, keeps us all productive and helps manage disruption and anxiety.
2. Establish “work zones” We all need a space to be productive that we know has WiFi and cell phone service. They do not need to be your favorite room or chair, but should be the quietest, most private and secluded parts of your home. Then, you should sit down with your new co-workers (partner and children) and identify who needs this space for calls, meetings, or school work. In my house, my husband has a computer area in our dining room. Yesterday I set myself up at the dining room table, and after ten hours with little to show for it, I realized that space was not conducive to productivity for me. Today, I attempted to sequester myself to my bedroom thinking that I could shut and lock the door to take my video conference call. Unfortunately, I forgot to check the WiFi strength before making this choice leaving me scrambling and starting my day on the wrong foot.
Perhaps for you, carving out areas within your home that are strictly yours may be the best option. For example, maybe you get the bedroom, while your partner works in the kitchen. Even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can give everyone their own little space.
3. Shiftwork If you’re home with kids who are demanding your time and energy, you’re probably not going to be able to work a typical 9 to 5 shift. FORGIVE YOURSELF because frankly, it is a universal truth that it is harder to get work done when you are also parenting. So to the extent that you can avoid it, don’t try.
We all have a time a day when we are the most productive. I happen to be an early bird while my business partner is absolutely a night owl. Talking with your spouse/significant other about when you each are most productive can allow you each to claim that time to focus while they watch the kids. If you both like to work at the same point in the day, take turns.
And to those of you single parents, worry not. Studies suggest that people are often more productive when they know they have a finite amount of time to complete something. Do your best and be kind to yourself.
4. Find your silver lining Yes, I completely acknowledge that this is a somewhat ludicrous thing to suggest when there is a serious pandemic spreading around the globe. However, for all the stress, exhaustion, and inconvenience these transitions have caused us, they have also given us the opportunity to spend time with our partners and kids in a way you do not normally get. It can be really special to watch your children complete school assignments or be impressed with how your significant other gets their job done which you may not get to see otherwise. My five year old was just tickled that we were working together like a team, each doing our own work but all together. I have really enjoyed planning small art projects, games, outdoor fun that I normally miss my children at school while I am at work.
5. Be kind to yourself There is a very real sense of stress about the possibility of someone we love getting sick. There is very real stress about how we are all going to make ends meet. There is very real stress about how we are going to complete our work and our children's school work. These are very real and valid concerns. But we all need to take a step back. Take some deep breaths and when we feel anxiety taking hold, acknowledge it and accept that it is normal to feel anxious about these things right now. But dwelling in nothing but the negative and the concern will not help. No the next news article does not have the answer to assuage these concerns. If you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of negativity, set some limits on the amount of COVID-19 news you will see. You likely would not spend all day in the office reading or watching the news, so pretend your boss is watching and fight the urge to do it at home. And even if you do, forgive yourself and move forward.
A very wise woman has told me recently that you can not move from where you are unless you move from where you are...
Stay safe and healthy everyone. And never hesitate to let us know if we can help.