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Working From Home and Feeling “Normal” in a COVID-19 World

3/30/2020
— Matt Trocchio, GM - SVP, Austin 

The outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, and more and more of us are feeling stressed and out of our control. Many of us are fortunate enough to be in a position that allows us to work safely from home. One area of “control” you can take back during this trying time is how you approach that remote work. Working from home semi-permanently has been a new experience for me, so here are a few suggestions that have helped me feel normal in an abnormal time.  

 

Creating a routine is not a negative

To some, routine is boring, but in times like these it can also be freeing. Be the architect of your day. Create a firm start and stop time and try to behave as you would if you were not in a position to work from home. This means establishing a morning routine similar to what you used to practice: Get up, get dressed, do your hair, make breakfast, etc. Not only will it help you focus, it will give boundaries to ensure you have time to yourself and with your family.

For some, creating a routine has nothing to do with re-creating the ordinary but making the extraordinary feel normal. Maybe this means creating a new schedule that allows morning time for you to be with kids who can no longer go to their schools, then working a flex schedule in the afternoon or evening. Set the schedule, communicate it to your teams and try to take back a little “normal” for your day.

Find your work area

Whether it’s at a desk in a home office, at the kitchen table, or standing at a countertop or bookcase, establish a designated area where you’re “at work.” I can hear some of you — but the couch and the bed are so much more comfortable. I don’t disagree. But, do you really want your bed or couch to be associated with work? Save those spots for when you want to relax when the workday is over. Otherwise, it may start to feel like you live at work instead of working from your home.

No matter how much you love your job, you will eventually want a break from it. If you have multiple people in your home, try to rotate those station options with each other. Not everyone in the home will be on the same work schedule. If that’s the case, inform others in the home of your workspace so they too will understand that you are “working” when in that area. Suggest that they also establish an area for their interests. This helps set minor boundaries so that everyone in the house can coexist and still be productive.

Communicate frequently and let us SEE you 

The key to remote work has always been clear, frequent communication with your team. This is the case now more than ever.

You may be apart from your team, but you can still feel like you’re “a part” of your team. Don’t become a hermit heads down on your to-do list. Find time for daily check-ins not only with your manager, but others on your team or your friends from the office. Thankfully, today’s technology has made remote working more possible than ever. Skype/Teams, Facetime, Lifesize, GotoMeeting — there are a number of offerings available for video conversations. Use them and look at each other. This is not to babysit or monitor you like some digital Big Brother — it’s to maintain a sense of connection. Sometimes it can be a nice reprieve to pretend someone else is there.

Take breaks, catch your breath and move around

One of my favorite parts about working in an office has always been stepping outside for a walk around the block to brainstorm with co-workers, or to grab a quick coffee or lunch. It allows you to better know your colleagues, but also gives your mind a much-needed break. Sometimes when you stare too long at the monitor you get too wrapped up in one project and lose sight of the bigger picture. That walk to the coffeeshop or chat with a colleague may have helped you trigger that next big idea for your career, the agency or your client.

When you’re working at home, those opportunities are no longer there, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build in time throughout the day to take brief breaks. Step away and have a cup of coffee or tea, maybe host a virtual coffee with colleagues via video, or step out on your porch or balcony (or take the dog for a short walk) and just breath in the open air. Find at least one moment a day to reflect on something positive. No matter how small it may seem.

You may not be able to step out for lunch, but that doesn’t mean you only have to eat what is in the pantry. Support local businesses offering takeout and delivery options. If your city is still allowing this, Eater and other food outlets have been keeping track of offerings in most major metros, and apps like DoorDash can help you find restaurants delivering in your area. I would also recommend you eat away from your computer. Come back energized, refueled and ready to tackle the rest of the workday.

Do your part to not spread panic and misinformation

Being at home for some may also mean more access to information at your fingertips. Whether its cable news, online media or just social media chatter, there is a lot to digest right now regarding COVID-19 and its impact on the world. There are also a lot of people trying to take advantage, so be extra vigilant in your news sources before you share with your co-workers, family and friends. WE client Trend Micro recently put together a solid list of reminders for its Internet Safety for Kids & Family program. Make sure you and your family are engaging in media literacy best practices.

For others working at home, what has helped you focus? What tips or ideas would you add to this list? Let us know on Twitter, and we’ll all make it through together!