Updated: Apr 7, 2020
If you've transitioned to working from home, how are you coping with this temporary change to your daily routine? How did you manage the switch to working from home when you are used to being in an active work environment? I know some introverted friends are loving this, however for those of us who thrive on being with people, we struggle with being alone for hours on end. The days are long, and it can be tough to stay focused with all the distractions out there during this unprecedented time. Although my job is fairly flexible and I have worked from home many times, I’m not a regular “work from homer’. When I do take the opportunity to do so, it’s usually on a snow day, or just for a few hours before or after an appointment.
When working from home so infrequently, I got in the habit of working from my cozy couch, with the fireplace channel going, and some coffee house music in the background. Definitely wearing comfy clothes, and most likely wearing one of my favourite face masks. This worked for me, and I was able to be both cozy and productive for a single day.
So when Day 1 of working from home came along, that’s how I started, it’s what I’m used to when working at home. However, mid-morning the fireplace channel was replaced by watching CP-24 with constant COVID-19 news updates, and government briefings. Between that and navigating chat messages, memes, and so many other distractions from everyone else who’s working from home or not working at all. To say I was distracted is a serious understatement! I quickly realized that this was not going to work for me for the next couple of weeks / months.
While there are an array of articles available with best practice for working at home, I didn’t feel like they prepared me for the ultimate test of my attention span. Those articles are naive to think that the world is in a ‘normal state’ and we aren’t being inundated with changes to our surroundings and lifestyle on what seems like an hourly basis. Then there is also frustration with the world being online and feeling like calling into a conference line is like calling into a radio station - two phones going, you check the number to make sure you have the right one since you can’t get through, you get excited when the phone starts ringing thinking that you may finally get in, then it hangs up on you. Anyone else experiencing this?
Now that we are potentially going to be in this situation for much longer than initially thought, I needed a plan. As a planner, I can be good in crisis mode, however I’m also used to the luxury of projecting how something is going to work, what the experience will be like, and preparing for anything that could come up or go wrong. I was not prepared for this, so I went with the flow of what came naturally to me. Now that I have a week under my belt, a couple of focused days, and the chance to plan for it a bit more, here’s how I’m going to handle working from home going forward. Hopefully, some of this will resonate with you and help you to get into a groove as well!
1. Working from home has it’s benefits. There are definitely luxuries that come with working from home, so I’m going to enjoy and take full advantage of those while I can. I know the articles say to get up and get dressed, but seriously, for me that’s not realistic. I’m still wearing my comfortable romper with a pair of cozy slippers, and even starting the morning with one of my favourite face masks. This is the luxury of working from home! I can still be productive, yet comfortable at the same time!
2. Comfort is key. While sitting on my couch is great, it does get uncomfortable after long periods of time, which are typically spent in the same position. Although I’ve been pushing to renovate a section of our house for years, that space is coming in handy now as an office. We have an old architectural desk, complete with drafting area so I can even stand if I want to. I’m missing the two screens from the office, but I can manage. What’s most important is keeping my posture in check, with a comfortable chair, and an ergonomic height for my laptop. No cramps in my back, or aches in my wrists makes for much better focus.
3. Managing the distractions, and creating boundaries. All I want to know is what’s going on in the world, however I also have to get work done. Just like being at the office, in the days leading up to the work from home notice, people were talking about the changes that seemed to be hitting us hourly. This has not stopped. To balance my need to know what’s going on, with my need to work, I love the Pomodoro Technique for time management. It allows for a dedicated amount of work, with a little bit of a break. Read more about this technique via this link, if you like it download an app to help you stay on track. Right now, based on what’s currently distracting me, I’m scheduling my day around the daily Prime Minister briefing. I’ll work for 3 - 4 rounds of pomodoros, then take a 30 minute break for the update depending on when it’s scheduled, and of course if I don’t have a conference call at the same time.
4. Keeping my mind focused. For me that means giving my mind permission to wonder and that comes when I’m not really doing anything. At work, I wouldn’t hesitate to take 10 - 15 minutes to walk down to the cafeteria to grab a tea, or chat with coworkers about the news or work on the department crossword challenge. Now that I’m at home, tea is super quick, so I’m planning time for a quick break with friend chat groups, Instagram and all the amazing memes, or the penguins in the aquariums… come on, how cute are those videos?!?, I’ll do a bit of work on a 1,000 piece puzzle, or even a quick yoga stretch break. I haven’t found a yoga app that I absolutely love, however Down Dog is great for simple stretch breaks when I feel like some movement is needed. There’s even a chair yoga option starting at just 2 minutes and it’s free until April 1. I’m used to doing a workplace yoga at lunch on Thursdays with @aomalleyoga, so I will continue that via this app, or anything that Anna is able to share.
Also, there are a plethora of webinars available, and my plan is to attend 2 - 3 per week, when possible. There are so many right now in the event industry because it’s been totally shaken, turned on its head, and spun around in the last couple of weeks. Global DMC Partners is doing a weekly series to focus on the health and well-being of those working in the meeting, incentive, conference, and event industry. Many others are focused on the crisis and how to get through it, or just simply offering discussion group platforms to ask questions of each other. It feels good to see so many people rallying together in my industry so I know I’m not alone. Hopefully your industry has something similar!
5. Normalcy - remembering to eat and connect with humans. When I get into a groove, it’s so easy for me to lose track of time. Without other people around, I’m not seeing them leaving for lunch or going home at the end of the day. So I have to remind myself to eat lunch, and actually stop working at some point. On my cozy snow days, I seem to work until I have a headache, which is when I realize I haven’t eaten yet. Writing this now, I’m realizing that I’ve only eaten a few crackers for lunch and it’s now well after 6 p.m. Maybe I’ll set some daily reminders for myself.
In connecting with people, this happens so naturally in an office setting. We’re so used to meeting up with friends, colleagues, peers for lunch, or for after work drinks, or for coffee meetings in the morning, etc. However now that I'm alone, I’m really making an effort to book little chit chats with my friends at work, along with staying connected with friends, family, and neighbours on chat groups outside of work. With my ‘wine night friends’, we had a virtual wine night on Wednesday, over Zoom, and agreed that our monthly gatherings will now be weekly until further notice. With another group of friends we are planning a Netflix party this weekend so we can watch some trashy TV together, this will also definitely include wine. Also, my hubby and I are going to continue our weekly date nights by ordering takeout from one of our favourite local restaurants, and cracking open one of our ‘special’ bottles of wine that we’ve accumulated from tours and travels. This includes actually getting dressed up and eating together at the table - two things that are definitely not happening the rest of the week! What about other elements of your regular routine, in self-isolation? Now that gyms are closed, how are you keeping up with your workouts? To ensure I don’t gain 10 lbs from all the extra wine nights, I’m taking advantage of the many free at home workouts popping up, which is fantastic. On Instagram, @paleomg has been posting at home workouts each day that can be done with no equipment, so things like that work well for me personally as I need someone to tell me what to do. Also my friend @arisewellness is going to be launching a variety of at home stretch breaks and workouts so I’m looking forward to those.
I share my experience as someone who is incredibly grateful that I still have my job and that I am even able to work from home. I know there are many people out there who are not so lucky, so please know that this is my way of handling change and I am in no way ungrateful. Everyday, I share my gratitude in some way that I have my job, my family, and my health.
Stay safe and healthy friends! Carolyn