As someone who has been fortune to be able to work remote when needed, I will admit that I really “thought I had this”, when the original work-remote announcement came from our company. I enjoy working remote every now and then – not having a commute helps me get started on my day sooner, I am able to do a few things around the house between calls, and I can even sneak in a workout in the middle of the day. I usually find myself after a “work from home day” feeling accomplished, refreshed, and re-energized.
Until I tried to do it 5 days in a row. With my husband home. And a puppy. And a GLOBAL PANDEMIC happening around us.
Regardless of our personal situation, we need to give ourselves some credit. Our worlds were all flipped upside down last week. Plans we thought we had were cancelled. Trips we had were cancelled. Stores were emptied. Meetings intended to be held in person, as they required a great deal of collaboration, were moved virtual. We’re still learning to adjust.
On Friday, I took a moment to reflect on my week – what went well and where I knew I needed to make some big changes. I thought about what I needed to do to help myself and my team get through this. Here are a list of the 5 little steps I committed to taking this week to help adjust to this “temporary” new normal:
1. Acknowledge that the timing of breaks needed throughout the day may have shifted.
The breaks you need to take at home are going to be different than the ones you had established at the office. Even if you work at home often, the addition of children, pets, spouses, and other distractions are also impacting your usual routine.
Reflect on your week last week, or even you day yesterday. When did you find yourself starting to get restless and need a stretch break? When do you get hungry for lunch? When does the baby go down for a nap? Now, to the best of your ability, block those 10, 20, 30 minute increments on your calendar so people know when you’re most likely to be offline, and so they don’t schedule meetings over them.
2. Tell someone at work 1-3 projects you want to accomplish that day
Working remote can bring on new challenges of staying focused, especially on the important tasks. I’ve found myself, more than ever, getting caught up in the pings of messages, emails marked URGENT, and of course, the overflow of news alerts and social media.
I’ve found it a helpful exercise with my team to have us each share the most important 1-3 things that we want to accomplish that day (note I don’t say 20). We all do a LOT of small tasks, meetings, and projects throughout the day, but in order to effectively move projects along, there are items each day we HAVE to complete. By listing these out, we’ve found we’re admitting to holding ourselves accountable. It helps us stay focused on the important things to ourselves and our team.
3. Now, write down the 3 NON-work related tasks you need to do today.
I’m a big “to-do” list person, and during the weekdays, that list is of course all work related – the things I need to get done from the moment I sit at my “desk” to the moment I turn off for the night. It’s important, given the blend of work and personal life while working at home during this time, to also list of at least 3 NON-WORK related tasks you want to do today.
Walk the dog (chase him around the house), do laundry, try a new recipe… it’s important that you incorporate little tasks that you want to get done onto your list, so you remember to take care of yourself.
4. Dedicate different spots for different meetings at home.
When working from the office, I find I’m rarely actually at my desk. Floating between conference rooms, phone booths, and lounging in pods, I’m constantly on the go. At home, I found myself last week pretty glued to one spot in front of my monitors (I have upstairs, my husband works downstairs).
This week, I made a point to move around. Meetings that were more listening, I took standing up at the counter. While working on projects that required creative thinking, I took from our day bed. Longer calls to catch up, I took walking around the house, up and down the stairs.
If you have kids at home or are coordinating talking areas with a partner or roommate, make sure you try your best to figure out the best times to take meetings that may be more in communal space, and work around those.
5. End meetings 5 minutes early for 30 min meetings, 10 minutes early for hour meetings.
It only took a few days for all of us to realize that a day of “back-to-backs” isn’t the same when you’re sitting at a desk. With the usual shuffle of running between conference rooms removed, it’s important to give yourself time between meetings to get up, stretch your legs, grab a glass of water. I’ve communicated this to my team and the broader group I tend to set frequent meetings with, and it helps!
Don’t forget to also set slots on the calendar where you need those extended breaks (there’s never been a better time to finally start taking that lunch break!). More than ever, it’s important to set boundaries throughout the day and into the evening where you need to.
Each situation is different, each household is different, and each of you may hold a very different career with different needs. But I hope you take some time to reflect on what you need, find the strategies that work for you, and stick to them! Stay healthy!