The Internet is a fun place full of jokes about how so many people who were told by employers that they couldn’t work from home……. can suddenly work from home.
And laughing over that idea is great. Heck knows we all need a laugh from something other than Tiger King right about now.
But working from home isn’t the utopia some people imagine it to be. It always involves a period of adjustment. Throw in a global pandemic and it’s pretty clear that working remotely right now isn’t all fun and games.
Here are some things to try if you’re finding the adjustment challenging.
IGNORE PEER PRESSURE
Have you seen that meme flying around? The one that says if you use this pandemic and don’t come out the other side with a new language or skill, turns out you never lacked time, you lacked discipline?
I rage against the laptop every time I see it.
It’s absolutely fine – in fact, it’s pretty unsurprising – if you find yourself less productive, less motivated and less effective during this time.
Guys, portions of the whole world are closed down. Our schools. Our hairdressers. OUR BOOK SHOPS.
These are unprecedented times, and if you’re reaction to that is to hunker down and learn a new skill, update your LinkedIn profile, learn a new language, take up watercolour painting and start a vegetable garden – hooray to you.
But if your response is to switch off the news, put on a funny movie every night and try to make it through the daily essentials – hooray to you too.
You’re making it up day by day, and so is everyone else.
And guess what? Your pandemic response style doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.
CREATE A WORK SPACE
I’ve always felt sorry for people who have to hot desk at work.
I imagine them arriving and grabbing whichever desk is free each day and wasting unnecessary mental energy getting used to each workstation. The chair height isn’t quite right, the applications aren’t in the same place, the temperature in that part of the room is different and they didn’t bring in a cardigan.
Dude: we’re all hot desking now.
And the quicker we can end that madness and find a space and call it ours, the better.
Ideally, you’re going to find some kind of space with a door that can be closed. If it’s got a desk in it, you win. But if you don’t have a readymade office space at home, you’ll still benefit from finding a space and making it yours.
Have a dressing table? Bingo – that baby is your work desk now.
Have a spare bedroom? You pile those pillows behind your back and claim that space.
Dining table? Kitchen table? Own it.
And if there really is nowhere that you can claim, grab yourself a box (the laundry basket works too – empty it first) and fill it with all of the things you need to be in work mode. That box is your mobile office. Guard it well and set it up wherever makes most sense each day.
I know, I know, supposedly the whole pyjama thing is one of the best perks of working from home. And yet… it feels kinda icky any time I try it.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, anxiety or general mojo during ‘Rona, this step is especially important. Get your clothes on and do what you need to do to make yourself feel good.
This could involve such shocking things as brushing your hair and taking a shower.
You’ll feel better, trust me.
SET YOUR HOURS
Working from home can easily bleed into every waking hour of the day, and it shouldn’t.
I’d also argue that employers need to recognise that your work from home hours probably won’t be the exact same, uninterrupted, period they are when you’re office based. You might be wrangling kids and having to tag team with your spouse who’s also working remotely now.
Speak to your employer. Find out exactly what they expect from you during lockdown, and be honest with them about any concerns you have. Maybe you have an emotional teenager at home who is terrified about their future, maybe your elderly parents are ringing you several times a day to check you’re okay, maybe your own anxiety is making every job take twice as long as it should.
Most employers are going to recognise that you’re doing the best you can in this situation, just like everyone else. Unless you have some kind of track record of taking advantage or abusing flexibility, they’re probably going to trust that you’re doing the best you can.
And that’s all you can do.
Maybe you start working a split shift. 12pm-4pm, then 7pm-9pm lets you pitch in with the childcare and gives you a definite time when you switch off the computer and do something to unwind.
KEEP YOUR ROUTINES
As much as possible, try to keep the work routines that you found effective.
Maybe you got in to the office each day and looked through your task list, printed it out and prioritised things. Keep doing that.
Maybe you spent five minutes chatting to your team before getting into work. Definitely keep doing that. The isolation is real.
Maybe you took a lunch time walk or found time each week to send a thank you email to a client. Keep doing those things.
A few key routines will help you anchor yourself in the day and give your time some shape.
Ultimately, this time will pass and the world will return to something like normal.
Maybe you’ll have a future working from home, or maybe you’ll be excited to return to the office.
What we know for sure is that this will be a good enough chunk of time for you to look back on it for your whole life. You’ll be able to consider this time with hindsight.
And what will you wish you’d done?
I’m not talking about the achievements you could potentially tick off. I’m talking about the bigger things.
Will you remember the way your family spent more quality time together? Will you remember cooking together, or sitting in the garden chatting?
Will you remember the open space of weekends with nowhere to go, no extracurricular activities to attend, to competitions to enter and no prizes to win?
Will you remember spotting rainbows in the windows and the streets clapping for the NHS?
Will you remember the conference call where you couldn’t find the mute button and your dog went mad in the background? Or will you remember the way everyone you passed (at a safe distance) on a walk took the time to smile and say hello?
I hope you adjust to working remotely during this time, but I also hope you adjust to living, surviving and thriving in this time.