The COVID-19 Diaries - What I've Learned from Working from Home
We're currently living through the biggest work from home experiment in the world. Across the globe, people from all industries and lines of business are working remotely in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
My company has had us working remotely since March 13, so this will be my 4th week of working from home. As part of this "new normal" that we're all living in, I've had to adapt and adjust my work style and my mentality to accommodate remote life.
Here's what I've learned from working from home over the past 4 weeks:
I miss my co-workers, and, dare I say it, the office.
At past jobs, I've romanticized the idea of working from home and having the option has always seemed desirable. Now that I'm working from home with no clear end in sight, I find there are certain things about office life that I miss. I've always had good relationships with my co-workers, but I never realized how much I would miss seeing them every day. I also miss having the ability to pop by someone else's office for a quick chat or get a quick take on a new project. It's also a lot easier to ignore an email than someone standing in your door, so I miss the efficiency that being in an office provides.
Create a routine.
If you had told me a month ago that I would be advocating for setting a routine, I would have laughed in your face. Being a naturally restless person, I tend to get bored easily and am always looking for ways to change things up. These past four weeks of working from home have taught me the importance of having a semblance of a routine. I'm not recommending you have your life planned out to the minute (unless that works for you) but I do recommend having a general plan for the day.
Right now, my routine looks a little something like this:
Walk Pancake (my adorable, two-year-old mini Goldendoodle, for those who don't know)
Make coffee (aka the lifeblood)
Make a daily to-do list
Tackle 1-2 items on the to-do list
Focus on 1-2 more items on the to-do list
This isn’t a hard and fast schedule that I follow down to the tee, but it does help me organize my day and plan for what’s to come. I still balk at the idea of a routine, but in this period of uncertainty, knowing what to expect out of my daily schedule has been helpful for me.
Set a work schedule.
Setting a work schedule naturally follows creating a routine. In the first week or two of working from home, I noticed that I was working harder and longer than I was at the office. After speaking with several of my co-workers, I found that they were in the same boat. The conclusion I came to was since we didn’t have our normal commutes to segment our workdays, we weren’t maintaining a typical work schedule.
For myself, since I wasn’t having to battle 45-minutes + of traffic on I-4 (also known as my personal hell), I was incorporating that time into my workday. As a result, I was putting in 10+ hours into work each day and not taking time to establish work/life boundaries. Since recognizing this, I’ve designated strict working hours for myself - just like I would at the office - where I would put in 8 hours each day. If I needed to work a little longer on a particular day, I made sure I flexed that time out later in the week. Implementing this type of work schedule had helped prevent my work life from bleeding into my personal life during this period of working from home.
Designate a specific space as your work area.
Another way I’ve kept my work life from bleeding into my personal life is by creating a specific space that I work from. My boyfriend and I are both working from home right now, so we’ve each created our own designated workspace. I’ve taken over our dining room table and he’s occupying our spare bedroom. Creating our own workspaces has helped us step away from work at the end of the day, just like leaving an office.
Take mental breaks.
We all (hopefully) know that our mental health should be our priority, always. However, especially during times of crisis, it’s important to take time to check-in on yourself and gauge how your mental health is doing. Whether it’s going on a long walk, practicing meditation or yoga, journaling, painting, or some other form of creative outlet it’s important to take mental breaks. Working from home places us in a unique situation, in which we’re able to work for hours uninterrupted, but that also means hours of uninterrupted screen time and mental strain. Be kind to yourself during this time and if your brain is telling you that you need a break, take one.
There’s been a lot of focus on maintaining your productivity while working from home, which is all well and good, but if you find that your productivity has slipped during this time, don’t beat yourself over it. We are in a global health crisis. We are all being impacted, both professionally and personally, and that is going to take a toll. I’m not saying that you should just give up and not put effort towards your work, but if you’re not as productive as usual, remember what we’re going through is not “normal” and it’s not fair to expect “normal” results. Once again, and I cannot say this enough, BE KIND TO YOURSELF during this time.
A lot of meetings can be emails.
This is simultaneously a bit of a joke and a bit serious. Since we’ve moved remote, it seems like only the most necessary of meetings have been left on the calendar and the rest have either been canceled or turned into an email. Maybe a benefit of this craziness is that we’ll come back to fewer meetings on our calendars and more attempts to communicate effectively through email. Here’s to hoping! ;)
Thanks for sticking through my ramblings! What does your "new normal" look like and what have you learned during this period of remote work? Leave a note in the comments below - you never know who might benefit from what you've learned. We’re all in this together and we’ll get through these trying times with a little help from our (online) friends.