“Working from home? Oh! it’s a holiday for you”.
Many of us have heard this at different times, from family or friends. I for one, experienced this widely held belief within my social circle, whenever working from home was mentioned. This was of course, the Pre-COVID-19 world (as we knew it).
Fast forward to Mar 2020 and we witnessed the unprecedented. Over half the world was /is in lockdown. Governments asked employers to enable work from home.
In India, we have experienced the lockdown for 2 consecutive months and this could be the norm for many in the times to come. So how has remote working fared for us?
Let us take a count of the positives before diving into the numerous challenges while acclimatizing ourselves to the new normal. No 3-hour soul-crushing daily commutes, no traffic jams, no co-workers slinking up and flexibility to work in the comfort of one’s pyjamas are some of them. Isn’t remote working great? Sure, but it also presents its own set of unique challenges.
Overwork and Burnout
With the lines between work and personal time blurring as a result of the extended period of Working from Home, it’s an ongoing challenge to avoid overworking and experience burnout. The suggested course of action
- Set appointments for personal tasks during the day: Could be for a walk, jog, exercise routine, shopping for essentials, tending to family members, reading, music, etc.
- Set reminders to take periodic breaks: Use your computer clock settings or schedulers to set up reminders to grab a glass of water, take a short walk, rest your eyes, or grab a meal. WHO recommends taking 3 min breaks every 30 mins.
Optimal Time Utilization
During this period, devoid of the support system of domestic helps, cooks, drivers etc. most of us are cooking, cleaning, washing, mopping, feeding, home schooling children, shopping essentials etc. besides tending to our day jobs. This seemingly unending cycle of repetitive tasks coupled with the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, demands us to utilize our time efficiently, more than ever. Suggested course of action
- “To-Do” List: Do it the old fashioned way. On a pen and paper, jot down the tasks you plan to accomplish each day. For me, the 1-2-3 rule works great. 1 big thing, 2 medium things, and 3 small things per day.
- Prioritizing work: First thing when you start work, eat that frog. The ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to defer and procrastinate on.
- Minimize interruptions: Maybe it’s a do not disturb sign on your door. What works for me is letting family members know when I get into a call and would be unavailable for any consultation for the next 2 hrs. At times, I sit with my headphones ON, even when not on a call, it’s a cue for my toddler that mommy is in the “DND” mode.
Lack of Human Interaction
Humans by nature are social animals. In the present era of extended lockdowns and remote working, should you find yourself living away from family, it could lead to a feeling of isolation. One may miss the office “watercooler” chats, coffee breaks, team lunches or after work drinks. Suggested course of action:
- Include virtual social breaks in your schedule: My husband’s office came up with a very interesting virtual “after-work” drinks party. A habit nurtured by me during the lockdown is daily video chatting with family and friends. I also pick up the phone and talk to co-workers, trying to simulate a “watercooler” chat.
- Team meetings: Highly recommend managers to catch up with their team members 1on1 regularly, have virtual team meetings and most importantly do these with the camera mode ON. A virtual meeting helps reduce the distancing and iron out any chances of (mis) communication. Empathy and understanding will go a long way in these times.
With the whole family hooked on the home broadband for various tasks – Work from Home, phone browsing, kids watching “Netflix”, internet speeds can be iffy. It can get a lot worse if your computer breaks down amidst the lockdown (happened to me twice, in the past two weeks). Learnings:
- A mobile hotspot device or a cell phone plan that allows tethering can save you when your internet goes out.
- A backup computer or tablet can get you through the day until you get your computer fixed.
Preserving Mental Health
As per a recent United Nations report, Covid-19 would trigger off a major mental health crisis amongst the world populace. These unprecedented times have brought upon all of us varying degrees of stress and anxiety about the future. When will schools open up? How will I manage work with kids for an extended period of time? Will my performance be impacted? What will happen to my job? How will we pay that big home loan? How do I keep myself and my family safe?
Preserving our “Mental health” in these times, when everything else around us seems to be falling apart is very important. Here are some things that can help:
- If it is finances that you are worried about, draw up a financial plan for your family carefully listing down expenditures, income and savings to help you prepare for the worst. There are several tools on the internet that can help you with this.
- Try adopting “yoga” or “meditation”. Again, there are many helpful YouTube tutorials and Apps to help you get started.
- Gratitude List: Draw up a gratitude list with at least 5 things that you are thankful for today. Pin it up at a place you can see daily. Believe me, if you watch the news daily, you will realize that having a home, food on your plate, good health and a few loved ones are a lot, to be thankful for.
- Empathize: Don’t be the one trolling on that WhatsApp group or your social media. Everyone is trying their best.
- Help around: At our home, there are no boundaries between the job profile of a mother and a father. We both strive to do our best and share responsibilities, in equal measure. There are times when we both have concurrent conference calls and it isn’t easy with a toddler in the house. However, we watch each other’s backs and do our bit to maintain our sanity.
- Ask for help: No harm in asking for help when you need it. Many firms today offer its employees support in the form of discreet services such as “Employee Assistance Programs” (EAP) that their employees can use to seek help on any professional or personal problem, free of charge. Many EAP services are available not just for employees but also their family members. If you do not have the details, check with your HR department. Don’t be shy, use the service.
- Paid Leave: These unprecedented times have seen many firms offering employees extra paid leaves. These are meant to be utilized to enable employees juggle between managing homes, work and kids more efficiently.
While the world braves this pandemic, there are a host of survival tool kits and support mechanisms that are available to us. Look within and around. A lot of answers are available.
Humanity has overcome numerous obstacles throughout history. This time is no different. Together, we shall overcome…
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