Hundreds of thousands of people are seeking refuge from the devastating coronavirus. Most are isolated; many remote working. Is thriving possible today?
Leading into this dreadful pandemic, remote working was accelerating as many organizations were quickly moving towards this forward-thinking model. Employees allowed to work from home with periodic office check-ins. About 30% of the US labor force, to be exact.
Now, most “alternative work arrangements” were voluntary until a month ago. Today, AWA is just about everyone’s new work status on Slack.
And this potentially stressful experiment can be a very strange test to the rest of the world unaccustomed to an isolated work space. It may not be for everyone. Fortunately, it works for me.
“You look so happy working from home, Grace”.
Well, I am. And here is how I get there. Ten tips that help me cope and thrive in today’s new normal. I believe this could help you too.
Coronavirus Remote Working Plan
Establish Set Routines
Have you seen the movie “Groundhog Day“. Who wants to relive the exact same day over and over? Don’t laugh – today, it can actually feel that way.
For optimal work-life balance, you’ll need to have specific routines for each day. Otherwise, everyday will feel like the last.
I feel like Sundays are a great day to strategize. Monday’s I wake up refreshed with a focused plan, excited about the new week.
Pro-tip: When planning your day, make sure to divide out your personal tasks from work-related ones. Make lists and then assign specific time frames. For example, Saturday mornings I blog; I watch Daily Mass every afternoon; Mondays-Thursdays I host team calibrations at 10AM central; Friday nights I TV binge; etc. 🙂
Use a Planner
This Catholic girl purchased her first liturgical academic year planner last year. Honestly, I used it very randomly. Wasn’t sure how to integrate it into my electronic-driven office life.
Fast forward to today and it’s my best friend! I carry it with me always, everywhere.
When the outbreak happened, I suddenly felt the need to journal. So, I broke open my “Blessed is She” mini-planner, ordered some colored pens and voilà: my daily activities took life!
My day to day life planned out in beautiful colors! I even started adding small sketches, YouTubed some journaling ideas. Loved it so much, I’ve pre-ordered the 2020-2021 already!
Pro-tip: Get past your electronics and use an actual, tangible agenda. Paper. Pen. It’s cathartic. Trust me, something about jotting down ideas, gets the creative juices flowing.
Start Your Day with a Bang!
Friends – you 100% can not spend your day dishevelled, working from home in a bathrobe. It’s depressing enough to be isolated at home. And unless you’re not planning on walking past any mirrors during the day, catching a messy glimpse of yourself won’t be very uplifting.
I guarantee you will feel your best if you follow the same office routine you had prior to the unleashing of the coronavirus.
Start your day with a bang. Don’t neglect yourself just because you are social distancing. Grab a quick shower and get ready to face the day as if it were any other day, under any other circumstance.
Pro-tip: Ladies, pamper those lovely locks, add a touch of lip gloss, even dab on some perfume! Guys, dust off that 5 o’clock!! LOL. Always look your best.
Prioritize Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a work-life balance is probably one of those most important lessons I learned working from home. Being able to separate the two promotes a healthy state of mind and ultimately avoids burn-out.
I get it. It’s so tempting to want to do a load of laundry between conference calls. But, does that really make sense? If we’re trying to mimic a work environment, would you be leaving your office to do chores? Probably not.
Maintain a clear line between your obligations at home and work. Keep realistic office hours. It’s never a good idea to invest more energy into one area of your life at the expense of another.
Pro-tip: Expand your business calendar to include personal tasks. I use the private mode on Outlook and a color-coded system to flag personal time. And that includes lunch time!
Creating a dedicated workspace is perhaps easier said than done. It all depends on your personal situation. Nonetheless, you need a place to call “home office.” Otherwise, we are back to square one: work-life balance.
Think about it.
If you’re carrying your laptop from room to room, you’re basically sleeping “at the office”. Treating your designated make-shift workspace as a virtual office will allow you to walk away and power down.
Pro-tip: Once you’ve landed on that space, no matter where it is… decorate it a bit. Tiny living? Designate your work area with a fun, cheerful placemat. Add a framed family picture, some “desk accessories” and even a table-top plant to care for.
Mealtime is Real Time
Raise your hand if you ever sat down, started your day only to look up and realize you’ve been sitting in the same chair for several hours, maybe all day?
Right here! Guilty as charged.
The times my children have walked by and said, “you’re still sitting there mom”? And my answer: “just one more email and I’ll be done”.
That was the old me. Powering through, neglecting my body.
You know how before take-off there’s that whole routine about “put your mask on first before helping others”. It’s because you have to take care of yourself first.
Food is energy. Your body, your brain needs it. Don’t skip meals – leads to other issues and bad decisions.
Pro-tip: You guessed it. Lunch time is an actual time I’ve blocked as “busy” on my work calendar. And I’m not ordering in. I’m working from home, so I can budget time to meal prep and eat something substantially healthy.
Take Conference Calls like a Pro
Honest to goodness, the times I’ve been asked how I look so great during video conference calls. I’ll keep it simple.
1. Invest in a “selfie light ring”. Mine is on a tripod that is about two feet tall, in total. I might have spent $10 on Amazon for one.
2. Make sure your camera is minimally eye level. Stack books or that empty Amazon box to elevate your camera. Otherwise, your image may look distorted.
3. Face a window or well lit area. Having a window behind you casts odd lights.
4. Pick the right location for you. Some of my peers choose plain walls so that they can flash up fun virtual backgrounds. I prefer to sit sideways at my desk so you can see a family picture and desktop rose bush, to my right.
5. Look your best. Nice shirt, combed hair. And ladies, I’m a fan of strategically placed highlighter. 🙂
Now about external distractions: cats, dogs, kiddos, roommates. That’s what the mute button is for. Personally, I wouldn’t turn off my camera just because my cats are running around. My work peeps know I have a furry family.
Pro-tip: Create a private conference call meeting to test those tips: lighting, backgrounds, etc. Find your best place to show off your best self.
Unplug and Power Down
Part of the work-life balance attitude is knowing when to step away. It’s so important to truly unplug. If you’re “always on point and available” when do you nurture the person behind the professional?
Today I prioritized me, just like in that airline example above. Oxygen mask on Grace first, always.
Power down to make time for personal stuff. Read a book. Call a friend. Go outside for a walk. Take a nap!
Pro-tip: Start by leaving your phone, your laptop in another room when “office hours” are over. I don’t even charge my phone next to my bed anymore. Bye, bye to waking up to a cell phone, checking emails with one eye open before grabbing that cup of joe.
Stream Your AWA Soundtrack
Today, I find constant stillness overwhelming and deafening. Suffice to say, I do not thrive in silence.
Sure, we all need random quiet time. However, given our current circumstances, I vote for happy background sounds.
In my case, a little bit of low-key music is the perfect soundtrack to my everyday routine. I have a few different /Spotify playlists that keep things light and airy all day long: Hootie and the Blowfish, Have a Great Day, ABBA, Worship Now.
Pro-tip: You need an Alexa. Read on.
Yep, you need an Alexa. Believe me. I have 2.
And this is definitely NOT a paid advertisement. It’s my honest to goodness opinion.
My son Max gave me an Echo Dot for Christmas. And at first, I thought, “hm, interesting”.
It took me a hot minute to figure Alexa out. But once I did, it was game over. I was able to program news streaming, music, lights, greetings, reminders. You name it. I programmed it.
And how does this help me during this working from home situation? I program Alexa to help me with many of the tips I’ve shared with you. For example:
– At the end of the day, I power down to a great audio book.
– During the day, she is programmed to remind me of meetings, personal tasks, even taking a prayer break.
– I’ve set “good morning” routines to wake up to happy music, turn on lights, listen to the news.
I have successfully liberated myself from having a cell phone on my person, at all times. Sure, at first it’s a challenge. We fidget with our phones. We all scroll through our phones while watching a movie.
Old Grace: Ugh, I know.
New Grace: Yay, I’m free from distractions!
Pro-tip: So obvious. Get an Alexa! 🙂 It’s the cheapest, best investment you can make… if you’re interested in simplifying your life, of course.
Okay so here’s a shameless plug: I’m great at finding silver linings. But, I’m not immune to falling prey to the challenges that the coronavirus has imposed on us.
Home all day. The hours spill into each other. The days run together.
Coronavirus remote working. It can get crazy quickly.
If you need me to pray for you. Click here and you’ll be directed to a form, a very private form. Fill it out and I’ll pray for you.
Don’t let this coronavirus imposed remote working situation get the best of you. You are not alone.
How do you cope working from home? Leave me a comment below and share your thoughts. I do so love hearing from you.
Stay home, be safe!