2020 is a year of disarray, with the world going on something of a “leave of absence” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Corporations and small businesses alike were forced to make changes to their work models to stay afloat, and a big shift was made toward working from home. While working moms and dads have experienced a similar leave and transitory phase from paternity or maternity leave, many are experiencing the “flexibility” and “freedom” for the first time.
What are you doing with the time you’ve saved on the commute? Are you working as hard, or less so with the whole day open to being office time? How do you keep yourself on task and meeting deadlines without the same checks and balances found in an office setting? What about those of us with kids, how do you stay focused?
Today, we’ll be walking you through some tips & tricks to transitioning from an in-office setting to working from home full-time, and even a bit of how to transition back for when the world reopens anew.
Effects of Working from Home
Many who are trying remote work for the first time respond differently to the newfound flexibility. For instance, some require a strict, similar schedule to stay on task and stay sane. Others find their newfound freedom overwhelming, working at odd hours and potentially more than they were before, just to try to feel like they’re accomplishing the same goals. Others are facing additional challenges, like adding homeschooling to their work duties, and so forth.
No matter what your specific day-to-day looks like working remotely, there are going to be different effects and behaviors adopted during this time.
For instance, a lack of office culture could decrease morale and make employees feel alone, while an excess of office “connectivity” could feel overbearing and Big Brother-y. According to sciencemag.org, while the practice of social distancing prevents diseases and flattens curves, it can have different, unintended consequences, which directly relate to strictly working from home. According to Dr. Nicholas Christakis of Yale University:
“The coronavirus spreading around the world is calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other.”
The current coronavirus conditions are something of a societal test to see how people cope and opt to protect themselves and others. There isn’t much research on the topic as this situation hasn’t occurred to this extent in the last few decades, but there are theories as to what the outcomes may be concerning mental health.
Research Psychologist, Julianne Holt-Lunstad believes that there is a notable connection between “perceived social connectedness and stress responses”, stated in the same article.
Holt-Lunstad said that “Just knowing that you have someone you can count on if needed is enough to dampen some of those responses even if [that person is] not physically present.”
What does that mean exactly? Simply put, you should keep up the bonds formed at work beyond what’s work-related. Maybe chatting with your coworkers will be a bit more infrequent than if you are in the same room, but it shouldn’t be neglected or ignored just because it’s over video chat or Slack.
Tips & Tricks to Stay on Task When Working Remotely
There are a number of “How-Tos” and “Top Tips” lists circulating because of the current state of affairs, but many of them are repetitive and lacking facts or real-life experiences.
The transition from in-office to remote work will be a difficult one, yes. Everyone’s living arrangements and personal circumstances will differ. The most important thing is to get into a routine that works for you and your environment.
Create a Designated Work Space and Work Hours
Two important things to get arranged first are designated work hours and a designated workspace. Treat it like your desk or cubicle that you’d have at work. When you’re in that space during your designated work hours, you’re there to work as you would in-office. Perhaps you don’t have the same setup as you do in-office; you might have to gather some technology to make it more similar, especially if the amount of time you may be working remotely is indefinite, or at least for a large chunk of time.
Communicate the times and space with those who may be involved. Give your superiors times that you’ll be working, and keep them updated with any changes. Tell those you live with when you need to be allowed to work without interruption.
Be Sure to Have Healthy Break Time
Next, it’s important to take appropriate breaks. Get some fresh air, stretch regularly, have some social interaction to break up the day, eat an extended lunch. This isn’t “slacking off” so much as it is ensuring optimal mental health, circumstances permitting.
Some people opt to invest in standing desks so that they aren’t sitting around all day, which can improve posture and keep the blood flowing. We particularly think picking a room with a lot of natural light is beneficial because you can crack a window whenever you’d please.
Make Your Workspace Conducive to Efficiency
Make sure your workspace is comfortable, but not too comfortable. If the only chair you have around is a wooden barstool, you might want to consider looking for a chair that’s more ergonomic, so that you don’t acquire back or any other type of pain due to your furniture.
If your role is reliant on phone calls, perhaps you should consider headphones or a hands-free headset to make things easier. If you live in a noisy area, instead of playing music with lyrics (which studies show can be distracting, but it really depends on the person) consider white noise apps or machines to drown out honks and chatter.
Pros & Cons to Working from Home
|Increased flexibility to deal with appointments and errands||No physical separation between work and home|
|Fewer interruptions from meetings, office chit-chat, etc.||Lack of visual and vocal cues via electronic communication|
|No loss of time or $ during the commute||You may feel out of the loop or like you aren’t doing enough|
|The way you work will grow and change||You might forget to clock your hours|
Many of those pros and cons don’t need any explanation, but we wanted to highlight and touch on a few of them.
For instance, on the pro side, “The way you work will grow and change.” You’ll likely become far better at communication than you were before because you’ll have to be on top of reporting task progress, and you’ll have to be direct in questioning and requesting, or else things won’t get talked about. Someone won’t know that you’re feeling overwhelmed if you never say you’re feeling overwhelmed. We aren’t mind readers, and we’re especially not remote mind readers.
And second, on the con side, “You might forget to clock your hours.” This could flip either way, you could be over-reporting due to forgetting to clock out, or you could be under-reporting due to forgetting to clock in. It’s important to appropriately report your hours for integrity purposes, but also so you’re getting paid as you should be. And if you’re on salary, be sure that you’re putting in an honest amount of work and effort consistent with what would be expected of you in the office.
Transitioning Back to Being in the Office
When things open back up again, many offices may implement new work-from-home policies and flexibilities that they didn’t have before. It may become easier to argue for a remote job, especially if you have a good record of accomplishments during the time you were forced to work from home. However, many are itching for the day that they get back in the groove in person, and that will come with a whole different list of adjustments and tips to bouncing back quickly.
Those that have experienced maternity or paternity leave have experienced this transitory phase both ways, so many resources you’d be able to find online are targeted toward that demographic. That being said, it now applies to many, many more people.
Maintain Hygiene and Dress Practices Now
One of the important things to maintain during your time working remotely includes general hygiene and physical upkeep. Once you go back to onsite work, sweatpants and PJs aren’t appropriate attire, unfortunately. That’s why it’s best to not get too comfortable in athleisure, but still get up, shower, and get ready for the day as you would if you were going to work in person.
Be Mindful of How Much You’re Socializing
Another jarring adjustment will be the potential room for decreased productivity due to office chatter when you’re no longer accustomed to ignoring it. While it’s important to socialize, it’s also important to not let it greatly detract from your daily tasks, so it’s a balancing act through and through.
Other things we’ve mentioned before like transparency, communication, and routine will help the readjustment come easier, when that day comes. Everyone handles things differently, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Stay safe, stay sane, and stay afloat during this tumultuous time.