This is the second of a two-part series on wellness in the era of COVID-19. Click here for part 1.
It took me a while to adjust to my first work-from-home position. It was about 10 years ago and I was living in Seattle, doing assorted learning projects for Microsoft. The workload was manageable and I usually put in 20-40 hours per week, depending on the status of my projects.
On its face, WFH can seem like a dream — no commute, no in-person meetings and pants are optional. However, as many will attest, it can also be a struggle. The lack of structure can be a real issue, which leads to fatigue and being unproductive.
Those feelings can also be exacerbated by our current situation with the coronavirus. Fear, uncertainty and anxiety can be physically taxing as well, which could lead to increased feelings of tiredness.
With that in mind, I wanted to pass along a few tips for making this quarantine situation a little more manageable for those of you working remotely.
1. Understand the situation
The first tip is probably the most important one. You’re not working from home. You’re at home, attempting to work through a global pandemic. It’s a scary situation and it’s only natural that your life is going to be disrupted in unexpected ways. Give yourself a little understanding and grant that same consideration to your colleagues. We’ll all get through this together!
2. Set a schedule / Follow a routine
This was my biggest unlock when I first worked remotely. It’s so easy to slip into a habit of rolling out of bed and opening your laptop right away. However, I would recommend against it.
Do whatever you usually do in the morning — take a walk, get the kids ready, make breakfast, or enjoy a cup of coffee on your patio. Personally, I walk the dog and stop by a socially-distanced coffee shop on the way back. When I return, I’m ready to start the day.
The good folks at Lifehacker have some good (pre-pandemic) tips on structuring your WFH.
3. Over-communicate with your colleagues
While business-as-usual is the goal, it’s unrealistic to expect things to proceed without the occasional hiccup. Especially for co-workers who are caring for children or other family members, the disruption to the routine can be severe.
The best way to mitigate that is through open communication. If you know that your kid is in virtual pre-school from 9-11:30 every morning, share that with your team and block that time off on your calendar.
4. Create a dedicated workspace
As Jen A. Miller notes in the New York Times, it can be helpful to demarcate boundaries and set up a WFH nook in your home. Like Miller, I have also fashioned a “standing desk” by stacking books onto the kitchen table.
But just as important as your workspace is understanding when to step away. For me, for example, the bedroom and guest bedroom are strictly off-limits. Allow yourself the opportunity to step away from work when it’s quitting time and resist the urge to jump back in during non-work hours.
5. Wear pants
Look — the haters are not going to want to hear this, but you have to wear pants. Put away the sweat pants, the yoga pants, the pajama pants — all of ‘em. If you want to be a professional and do a professional job, you have to wear jeans at a minimum. Pressed slacks are overkill, but khakis/chinos are right in the sweet spot. Trust me – putting on real clothes is going to make you feel like a real person!
(Ha – I’m just kidding. Wear what you want! But I choose to wear pants.)
Part of me was really excited about quarantine. Think of all the things I can learn! All the new hobbies I can pick up! I’ll finally learn how to play the piano and speak Spanish and maybe even film a few TikTok dances.
However, at least for me, that’s not how it’s worked out so far. I didn’t get that keyboard delivered, my Spanish has stayed at a fourth-grade level, but at least I can do the Renegade.
In the meantime, our team is finding interesting ways to engage with one another in the virtual environment. A group of us recently started this free Yale course “The Science of Well-Being” on Coursera and are planning to have some discussions about the course materials.
We’re also hosting virtual “happy hours” during the day and playing fun games like Kahoot. We are making space during our weekly team meetings to address any difficulties we’re having — inside or outside of work. There’s even a daily guided meditation session, delivered via web conference.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to find a rhythm to your new work-from-home life. My advice is to honestly understand the situation and make the best of it. Your perfect day might look different from someone else’s, but one thing is as true as ever — we’re all in this together.
About the author
Andrew Winner is a learning & development consultant with Synergis. He has 15 years of experience and attended the University of Washington, Boise State and Gonzaga. He lives in Brooklyn with his dog, Daisy.