If you are new to working from home or newly managing a remote team, it may feel like a big transition. In an already stressful and uncertain time with coronavirus and social distancing, adjusting to a new mode of work can feel like the sour cherry on top. Some types of work are easier than others to move to a remote environment, you may be juggling kids at home, may feel distracted by the plans you have to cancel like travel or a wedding, not to mention dealing with fear for safety and health – there’s a lot weighing on us all right now.
You can do it. We will get through it. There are ways you can make the most of your time working from home. Here are some tips from my own experience of working remote for the past several years.
Make a Schedule For Yourself
Routine builds habits, and if you are new to working from home, you may need to play with what your day looks like. Without any kind of schedule, you may find that the day completely gets away from you. First, get out of your pajamas! Self-care can go a long way in helping you feel “normal” and getting ready draws a line between being at home and being at work. Pay attention to whether you feel most productive during certain times of the day and try to stick to your regular hours. Think about your workspace and what will help you feel productive, focused, and calm (stress management is important right now!). You don’t need a home office, but should designate a physical workspace so you can “clock in” and “clock out.” Consider what else you are juggling like kids, house chores, or working out.
With all this in mind, create a schedule. Imposing some boundaries around when you wake up, when you have dedicated work time, when you eat, when you take breaks, and when you plan to wrap up your workday will help you move through time in a productive way. You can always alter and flex the schedule as you learn what works best for you.
Managers, if your employees aren’t used to working from home, it could be a bumpy ride as everyone tries to find a new normal. Communication is key. To support employees, have you asked recently: What do you need from me?
Work from home notoriously tempts us with distractions – it could be laundry, Netflix, or the ever-inviting refrigerator full of snacks. It can be a challenge to stay focused if you are new to working from home, especially at a time when a lot is on your mind other than what’s going on at work.
If you find yourself getting distracted by kitten videos, news about the stock markets, or anything else that is taking you away from what’s supposed to get accomplished, remember this: Work can provide purpose, purpose gives meaning, and meaning motivates us. Without a purpose or responsibility to others, you may find yourself feeling sluggish, depressed, or anxious. Even if work is not perfectly aligned with your passions (or not even remotely so), having to show up, having others count on you, and having something you need to accomplish today helps create motivation to get through the day. Do your best to create a purpose each day and refocus if you find yourself giving in to distractions.
Managers, are you checking in with employees regularly: What do you feel like you can move forward right now? Can I help prioritize what’s most critical and what can be put on the backburner?
Limit Social Media Consumption
Right now some of our biggest distractions are the news and social media. Although it’s important to stay informed, try to limit your viewing and scrolling. There are other reasons to limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, and the like. Lots of research has shown that social media impacts mood and how we view ourselves, so be aware of how it impacts your state of mind. When you are tempted to scroll on your favorite social media sites, consider if there is something else you can do to take a short break like calling a friend to check in or taking a walk. There are also ways to track your app usage and set time limits if you need an extra nudge to put down your phone.
Managers, are there resources you can share with your team for when they need a break? Resources related to time or stress management? Resources related to the areas your employees want to grow and develop? Inspiring podcasts or videos?
Find Ways to Be Active
Speaking of walks, it is especially important to stay active, be intentional about incorporating movement in your day, and getting outside if at all possible. Working from home means sitting a lot. If you are usually up and about most of your day in the office, this may be one of the biggest and toughest parts about working from home – sitting. Be intentional about when you plan to take breaks. Some people set a timer to remind themselves it is time to stand up, stretch, or take a walk. Is there a place you can stand for a bit while working? As much as possible, choose a form of activity you enjoy because then it is something you look forward to and remember to do.
Managers, are you encouraging people to be active and make time for exercise? Are you sharing ways you build activity in your day?
Call Someone You Care About
Even when faced with stress, high workload, situations that don’t go our way, decisions we don’t agree with, disappointing news, and even the coronavirus, people are resilient when we have social support. Social distancing requires us to be creative in how we socialize, connect, and spend time with others, but there are lots of ways to give and receive support. Make a point to check in regularly with your teammates and clients; it may be a good idea to schedule a standing time to meet each week. Pick up the phone to ask how someone is doing (video conference is even better). Send someone a quick chat to let them know you’re thinking about them. There may be fun ways to connect with your team you have never thought of before – perhaps you can take a break to play virtual Pictionary together or have someone lead virtual yoga. Feeling heard, cared about, and connected will get us through this. And, may strengthen your team even more than you would have guessed.
Managers, are you asking everyday: How are you?