COVID-19: Realistic Tips for Managing Remote Work
Keep a practical mindset to ensure WFH doesn’t turn into OMG.
By now you’ve probably been working from home for at least a week. The COVID-19 outbreak has certainly changed how work is done, but it’s not changing the simple fact that business must go on.
A quick search around the web offers plenty of tips for working from home. The obvious ones are there, such as having a comfortable chair, maintaining your morning routine as you would if you were heading to the office, creating a dedicated work space, etc.
These are all great in a perfect world, but as we know, this current situation is anything but perfect. Many folks who work from home do so by themselves. It’s quite a different circumstance with a significant other also trying to get work done. From physical space limitations to added noise to internet bandwidth issues, it can be a real challenge to get everything exactly how you want it.
Now here’s the real kicker. Toss in school-age children who are trying out remote learning for the first time or younger kids who need constant supervision, and you’re instantly facing a terrifying storm of distraction.
With all of these added nuances, it’s clear that these articles telling you how to have a perfect WFH experience are just not very realistic. Here are some practical tips to get through this very unique situation working from home:
- Morning reflection: It’s probably a good idea to maintain your normal wake-up time, but that doesn’t mean you have to fire up the computer right away. Remember, you’re getting commute time back. Get cleaned up, feed any of the little mouths that want a toaster waffle, and take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee before diving in. This period of relative calm can really set the tone for your day.
- Embrace the noise: For most people, it’s not going to be entirely silent in the home during working hours. This is going to make completing work tasks that much more difficult. That’s ok. It’s the same for everyone. The key will be to not beat yourself up over something taking longer than normal. Don’t get frustrated. Set realistic, achievable goals that reflect the new nature of your work environment.
- Reduced response rate: Distractions are aplenty when working in a full house, and that means a longer wait between message and response. Don’t panic. Your co-workers will get to it. With that understanding, it’s also important to know that it’s ok if you don’t respond to a message as quickly as you might have in the office. There is a lot more to balance right now; people get it.
- Take care of what you need to take care of: Finished with your morning meetings? Time to get up and check on the kids, make lunch, run an errand (while maintaining a safe distance from others, of course), get a quick workout in, whatever. Being able to take a brain break and also be productive outside of work activities will help reduce your stress. It might even make you better at your job when you do jump back in.
- Don’t work later than you normally would: If you can avoid it, try to be “off the clock” at a regular time, and don’t get pulled back in by a late-arriving email. This is for your own sanity. It’s a dangerous rabbit hole if you start looking at work after dinner. You’ll tell yourself you’re just going to take care of this one thing, but before you know it, two hours have passed. Then you have to wind down before you’re able to sleep. How’s that going to work out for your mental health in the long run? Those tasks you didn’t get to today can wait until tomorrow.
- Be the leader your team needs: Especially for business owners and those on executive teams, this is a time of great anxiety for you and your employees. It’s also a time where you are counted on to lead with a positive attitude, kindness, understanding of your employees’ individual circumstances, and adjusted expectations of how your business should be operating. This idea aligns with UpCity’s company values: be trustworthy, be accountable, be collaborative, and be transparent. There are also a number of fun things you can do to keep morale up during this time of uncertainty. Have various executives post a video each morning detailing what the leadership team is focused on, and throw in a pep talk as well. We’re doing this at UpCity in addition to daily stand-ups, regular online lunch & learns, and more. Another thing that’s gaining popularity is a Friday afternoon virtual happy hour. Set up a video conference with the whole gang, have everyone grab a drink, and connect with conversations that have nothing to do with work, and hopefully a lot of laughs. The key takeaway from all of this is to be the glue that keeps your team together. Don’t let anyone feel like they’re alone on an island. Your employees need you now more than ever.
Everyone’s situation is different, but if you can keep an easygoing, roll-with-the-punches mindset, you’ll find success in your new work environment. Things are different for everyone, and we’re all dealing with distractions and family and everything in between. It’s not going to be perfect, but if we work hard, stay positive, and be practical in what we can achieve, together we’ll get through this.