COVID-19 is changing the way the world works. According to The World Economic Forum, almost 3 billion people are now under some form of lockdown. Many are working completely from home. This is a dramatic change in the United States since, according to a Pew Research Center article, “Only 7% of civilian workers, or roughly 9.8 million of the nation’s approximately 140 million civilian workers, have access to a ‘flexible workplace’ benefit, or telework.”
So now that working from home is suddenly the new normal, many businesses are in the process of reinventing how they function. Platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live are being used to facilitate team meetings and host virtual coffee times and client dinners. Even trainers and experts who are used to conducting in-person events are shifting to webinars or hosting conferences online. Business interactions have been forced to become virtual in order to remain relevant.
With this struggle in mind, I thought I would share some tips for adjusting to life away from the office, and being effective during of this time. Last year, I started working with remote external teams on multiple projects, so my location varied between my home, hotel rooms, client locations, cafes, and co-working spaces. Of course, since the quarantine started, my mobile office has exclusively been setup in my bedroom.
Here are some tips that I picked up along the way from other independent, remote workers and that are also backed by the behavioral science.
- Just say no… to pjs: I completely understand the temptation to stay in pajamas all day (believe me), but dress like you are going to the office. This makes you psychologically ready to take work seriously.
- Keep it professional: Always arrange your worktable. At the beginning of the day figure out what you need to have on hand – this includes keeping a notepad and pen ready beside your laptop. If your phone isn’t necessary for your work, put it away to avoid distractions. Remember – casual swipes are time wasters.
- Snack smart: Yes, the cupboard at your new workplace is now stocked with your favorite treats. Remain strong. Food is still fuel and not just a tool to fight cabin fever. Keep water on hand. This can help cut down on snacking and keep the brain hydrated so it can function at its best.
- Give me a break: Divide the work into 90-min slots with a quick break to reset. Upbeat music can give you a quick dose of dopamine. Splash your eyes with cold water to break the monotony of staring at screens. Twenty squats can increase circulation and give you a nice shot of endorphins. That is the fuel of work-from-home. Staying focused and energized will not happen naturally, so we have to figure out tricks to make it work. Breaking the pattern often will help you reengage with your work. Great solutions come from new thinking and not from distractions or metaphorically hitting your head against a wall.
- Stimulate your space: What does your home workspace look like? Consider adding vibrant colors, plants or something that makes you smile. Visual cues help you feel fresh. Also feel free to change it regularly; novelty creates excitement.
As a final note, this is a good time for each of us to try to be a bit more flexible and insert some extra kindness and patience into our interactions at work. All of us are struggling to figure out this new normal. It’s not easy. So with that being the case, remember that you, your coworkers, your employees were all given a certain level of trust when hired. Anne Donovan’s insights in her Harvard Business Review article are worth considering during this time. She said, “If you trust an individual enough that you hired them to join your organization, you also should trust them to get the work done when and where they prefer, as long as they meet deadlines.” So remember, not only is this your chance to prove yourself worthy of that trust, but it is also good to convey that trust to your team as well. Now is the time to have each other’s backs.
Jacquelyn Adams, an IEEE Senior member, is a nationally-recognized leader in employee learning and development. Jacquelyn is the CEO and Founder of Ristole, a consulting business that transforms corporations through engaging employee training. Find more of her Lessons on Leadership columns here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Krishna Kumar is co-founder and CEO of GreenPepper Digital, a Bangalore-based digital services company working on web UI/UX and B2B content production and marketing. His book on critical thinking, Between Genes and Memes, is available on Kindle.