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Optimizing for Empathy, Not just Productivity while Working from Home

Many WFH articles often overlook the fact we didn't start working remotely for our own benefit, we were faced with an unexpected, global catastrophe overnight. Let's not just think of productivity, let's think about humanity.

How to Stay Sane While Working from Home

As of now, many companies are in the midst of going permanently remote, some are returning to their offices and many are in between. With this constantly evolving transitioning, it can be difficult for employees and workers to process not only the constant changes while also staying efficient and effective at their job

Those of us who still have jobs or businesses that are able to function online are feeling lucky to say the least. As a tech company, we live in this weird bubble where we too, are of course impacted, but not nearly as hard as some other businesses and most certainly not overnight. 

For us the change will be constant and slow as the crisis’ effects continue to ripple. Unfortunately, we are still yet to understand all the after effects of the economy’s slowing, as we’ve never seen anything like this before.

I’ve been reading countless blog articles and other publications about “how to be efficient when working from home“ or “how to be more productive while WFH,” etc. and while I agree with most of the tips given, a lot of these articles often overlook one important thing that’s missing. We simply didn’t choose to start working remotely for our own benefit, we were faced with an unexpected, global catastrophe of large calibur overnight. 

To that point; it is important to remember we are all humans, and while work is extremely important to many of us, our core needs and values often lie somewhere else. Many of us are facing potentially the biggest, global health cataclysm of our lifetime (granted humanity faces issues every day) and while we are navigating our lives through this scary time, let’s remember that we are very much in survival mode. While some are handling the change with grace, there’s still an enormous amount of looming stress and pressure that everyone of us are dealing with right now.

For some it’s the fear, or even the reality, of losing their job or income while for others it’s health concerns or a death of a family member or friend. For the rest of us, it’s caring and reaching out to the co-workers, employees, or community members experiencing layoff.

While we continue to operate in a stay-at-home society and work from home sans comfortable office chairs and face-to-face meetings, here are a few things that may help you navigate this period: 

1. It’s Ok to Feel Confused and Worried

Whatever you are feeling, there’s so many people around you who are feeling exactly the same. Don’t be afraid to share or talk to a professional via telehealth appointments.

2. Don’t be Too Hard on Yourself

You’re probably going to miss a workout or two. Your sleep schedule might not be what you are used to. Feeling more tired and burnt out throughout the day is rather common as well. That’s all ok

3. Everyone is Not in the Same Boat 

While it’s nice to think we are all in this together, the reality is that we are not escaping  on the same lifeboats. Everyone individually is in different places, with their financial, mental, and physiological well-being. The fact is that we don’t know how exactly this virus is impacting each person whose paths we cross, so just being mindful and compassionate can make the world of difference.

4. We All Respond Differently

On top of not sharing the exact same experiences, not everyone responds to stressful situations in the same ways. Remember that there is no need to beat yourself up about how you are responding. However you handle situations like these, give yourself the patience, time and empathy to respond and heal the way you will.

5. Check In Often

The cliche statement of “things change everyday” has now become frighteningly true. What the situation looked like last week, can completely differ this week. The needs of your coworkers, teammates, and friends can also change day-to-day. One week they may not want to talk about the situation. Another week they may need support and an ear to listen. We are all processing and learning and have new needs and concerns as news of the virus comes at us. If you are in the right place personally, be sure to use that energy to check in and pick up other’s spirits when you can.

6. Bolster and Reinforce Your Workplace Culture 

If your workplace culture is built around a community of people and based on valuable interactions between coworkers and so on, try to nourish those same core principles in this new environment. It’s a nice reminder as if to say, it’s still all about the same things that have worked for you since the beginning, now it’s just a different facilitation method for that. Don’t let yourself just wait around to see while life will return to normal. During these times especially is when workplace culture is the most important; it helps keep team members and yourself feeling supported, happy, and grounded knowing their peers are behind them.

7. Remember it’s Not All About Efficiency and Efficacy

Yes, we are at work and we need to make sure that we are doing the best job possible for our team and our clients, but we also should remember that we are human. There are emotions at play that are exacerbated and operating in a time that most, if not all, have never seen before. Though it’s popular to say “business is business,” we are operating in a unique situation. Now is the time for empathy, to stay united and to be about something bigger. Communicate with your team and make sure that it goes beyond just business, make it human

This whole period of the Coronavirus is uncharted territory for employees, businesses and people alike. Understand that this is not a normal day-to-day adjustment, therefore, run of the mill productivity and work from home hacks will not always work here. There is so much more emotion and implication at play here. 

Employees and businesses need to understand this in order to stay sane and effective, and support themselves and others. Of course, we should stay strong and carry on, but that does NOT mean to ignore the fact that this is a totally new and different situation above all. 

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