It’s a lot that’s going out there now. On one side there is fear, anxiety, and uncertainty to a level that most of us have never faced before. On the other, with many companies across the globe telling their staff to work from home, people are terribly missing their daily routines. The terror of COVID-19 is weighing almost equally on both sides. This virus is nasty, and though there is business continuity, it has brought our lives to a halt. Many countries are experiencing second, third, and even fourth waves of this pandemic.
In India, we just about started moving out of our homes, with employees back to the office, of course with precautions and restrictions. For many, it was a welcome respite to get back to a working team environment and water cooler chats. For some, it was simply a change of environment and bringing back the lost routine. Sadly, without blaming or judging anybody, things went from bad to worse. The second wave in India seems to be much more fatal, making the government and local agencies enforce near-lockdown-like conditions in many regions of the country.
So you’ve suddenly found yourself working from home, once again, thanks to this coronavirus. Working from home is a mindset, which most of us haven’t really prepared ourselves for, even after spending most of 2020 at home. For a lot of people, this pandemic could very well be the first time they are forced to work from home.
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” ― Hal Borland. This quote reminds me that this too shall pass. Even though the situation is grave, it’s temporary and we’ll all be ok! But in this interim situation, we still need to make ourselves more productive than before and be far more trusting than perhaps you generally are.
Since I quit my 15-year corporate job and become a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I’ve worked from home for almost 5 years now. We bought an office space in 2019 but ended up not using it as much as we would have loved to. So, I’m here to tell you that working from home life is not so bad. If you are having a hard time getting used to it, my tips can help you make it awesome.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR DAY YOUR WAY
The best part of working from home is that you totally eliminate some of the regular distractions. At the office, your coworkers, some idle chit-chat, and sticking to a structured block of time often pose the greatest threats to getting some real work done. Removing these hurdles plus some other ones like your office commute and an hour-long lunch break makes it relatively easier for you to accomplish getting your work done in four to six hours. The flip side to this is that at home you could very well end up being your own enemy. Well, no one’s watching, right? I remember when I was in grad school, I used to work at a computer lab. Our boss used to remotely monitor us by checking our messenger status. The chat messenger that we used was programmed to show ‘idle’ if we weren’t using our machines beyond 20 minutes. To trick this, we used an auto mouse mover app that kept the screen active even though we are not at our desks. We were grad school kids at that time. It was fun to rebel. The idea is not to give you tips on losing trust from your employer, but just to inform you of what our human minds are capable of doing. If you think you might have extra time at home, could you spend it learning something? Some online courses or skills that will help you do your job more efficiently. So, invest in learning new things and in your creativity. Business coach Dan Sullivan calls this phenomenon ‘strategic by-products’ that result from this new way of living and operating. The last thing you want your mind to focus on is this distress and fear that’s going around.
MAKE KIDS PART OF YOUR WORKLIFE
Amidst all the rumors being spread on WhatsApp over the last couple of weeks and conflicting guidelines from different authorities, there was one forward I received about an email sent by Rowan Trollope, CEO of Five9. I am not sure about the authenticity of this email, but I will still use it to put my point forth. In that email, Rowan stressed the point that instead of focusing on how to keep your kids at bay while you try to work, think about all the ways you could make them a part of your work life and have fun along the way. Your kids probably have an unscheduled and now extended ‘Corona’ vacation, and they may not be used to seeing you at home through the day. They will want your attention from time to time. So give it to them instead of fretting over how to manage work and kids at home. It’s okay to announce to your colleagues or even customers that you are on a kid-duty if you need to step out to manage your kids for a few minutes during an ongoing meeting. Even get your kids on video and introduce them to your colleagues. Let them come on-screen and say hello, or sit in the same room and play with their Peppa Pig or Captain America action figures as you continue with your meeting. It’s a total stress-buster!
HAVE SOME VIRTUAL FUN WITH YOUR TEAM
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Find innovative ways to bring some fun into your conference calls. Elizabeth Harrin, a project manager and a good friend, made some project management bingo cards she could use with her teams and play on her conference calls. Billy Boughey, president of Elevate, a branding agency, starts his morning Zoom meeting with a roll call. He asks each of his attendees to make whatever sound came to them as he calls their name to express a little excitement. Meetings don’t have to be boring. We are people. And deep down we all are worried and tense. But… we’re all in this together. Some other ways you can introduce fun while working from home is to give each other a peek into each other’s homes, creating coffee buddies and having live virtual coffee sessions, storytelling workshops, or even creating a watch party together.
I believe we are better when we work together, even when we are working from home. Try to embrace all of these good things about working from home, and who knows, you may suddenly find working from home is awesome! Wishing you continued good health and success.