Some love it. Others, not so much. Whether you’re a fan of working remotely or not, it doesn’t appear that remote work is going away anytime soon. I started working from home over a decade ago and I love it. However, with the changes that Covid-19 brought to our lives, even those of us who are fans of the freedom it can offer, it has created challenges.
Those with families who worked from home often had partners who worked at an office and children who were in school. Those of us who lived on our own had on-site meetings, trainings, and events to attend to fill in the social connections that humans need to thrive. There were no winners when we were all forced to step inside our home, close the door, and power up our screens for months on end (with no end in sight).
So, to help make this a little more manageable, here are some tips:
Setting up a Space
If you’re still working curled up on your couch, balancing your computer on your lap and your coffee cup in hand, get creative with the space you have and find a way to have a dedicated area. We don’t all live in homes or apartments with a lot of square footage. Is there a closet that could be transformed into a desk area (bonus that you can shut the door at the end of the day)? If your climate allows what outdoors spaces are available that protect you from the elements? Is there someplace to install a wall desk or can you find a folding or standing desk that fits in a corner when not being used? Finally, invest in a good chair with proper support if you can. If you work for a company, look into having them cover some of the costs.
More important than ever before, take breaks. We are no longer getting up to go to conference rooms or to someone else’s office to check on something when we work from home. Set a reminder to get up and move each hour. Your body and your mind will thank you. Remember to hydrate and take lunch away from your computer whenever you can. Breaks refresh our mind, reduce stress, and give us a chance to work out the kinks in our body.
Keep Normal Hours
Just because you no longer spend two hours commuting doesn’t mean that should become part of your workday. Take lunch, start and stop close to the same time each day. Set regular hours as you did in the office. There will always be work to do. Unless you’re getting a pay raise, you reduce your hourly pay rate when you do work during your former commute time. Instead, invest that time in your wellbeing – take a walk, play with your children, study a new language, find a way to have some fun.
Embrace Video Conferencing
It can be strange to sit watching yourself for hours on back-to-back video calls. Do you see more gray hair? Lines you didn’t have a year ago? A smile that is uneven? Remember that it’s most likely that only you are focusing on those things. Unless you’re eating with your mouth open (tip: don’t eat during video calls) everyone else is more focused on what you’re saying or busy noticing their own quirks. If it is too distracting, most platforms offer a setting where you don’t have to look at your own video feed.
Pause When You’re Speaking
Video calls cut out a lot of the cues we normally use in person to create an easy back and forth flow between speakers. We need to create space more consciously after sharing an idea and invite someone else to chime in to encourage engagement and avoid having team members talking on top of each other. It can become quite frustrating if someone launches into a fifteen-minute soliloquy without taking a breath or a break.
How much longer will we be doing this? We don’t know. So be gentle with yourself and others. Living through a pandemic brings with it an incredible amount of uncertainty, fear, and stress. We have no guidebook for it and can only do our best and figure it out as we go. As always, if you find yourself struggling with feelings of depression or sadness you can’t shake, talk to your doctor. Getting support for mental wellbeing is important now more than ever.