Let’s face it—coronavirus is seriously messing with our sense of “normal.” Not only has the pandemic created physical and logistical challenges for professionals around the world, but those challenges are amplified by stress and uncertainty on behalf of ourselves and our loved ones. In turn, it’s become even more difficult to stay focused and productive.
At RW3, we’ve been hearing from many folks who are facing a unique set of challenges to working remotely and staying productive on their virtual team during the pandemic. Here are a few of the major issues many people are confronting and some recommendations for how to address them:
Home Office In A High-Traffic Zone? Compromise and Coordination Can Help
With so many people working from home, many of us are struggling to adjust. Beyond getting accustomed to new technology or team procedures, the logistics of combining your workspace and personal space can be complicated, to say the least. Many of you may not have much extra space to work privately, and even if you have a home office or an extra room, you’re probably not accustomed to having family or roommates around 24/7.
If you find yourself sharing an office (or dining room table) with the rest of your household, it’s important to develop a routine. Of course, this will look different for everyone depending on your situation, and it will probably involve compromises on both sides, but it will definitely help everyone find a new rhythm and reduce potential conflicts. For example, maybe you get to use the guest bedroom in the morning, and your partner gets to use it in the afternoon or evening.
If your space is very limited, try coordinating schedules. A friend of mine has two roommates in a one-bedroom apartment, so they created a Google Calendar and add events for the times when each person needs to have a quiet space for calls or meetings.
Working From Home With (Young) Children Around? Be Ready to Flex Your Schedule
In many ways, having your children at home directly overlaps with the difficulties of creating a home workspace where you can be productive, but it’s also a unique and extremely complicated situation that warrants its own discussion, especially if your children are younger and therefore less independent.
Just like coordinating with other family members, it’s important to develop as much of a routine as possible. However, in building that schedule, it’s helpful to set time aside to spend focusing on family matters. Research has shown that employees tend to be more productive when they take regular breaks, so incorporating children into your down-time can be a great way to provide the little ones with some structure, enjoy a moment away from the screen, as well as help you return to work feeling more refreshed and engaged.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your regular work hours probably won’t be the same during the pandemic as they are when you can go into the office. In part because working from home takes some adjusting and in part because having younger children can be so demanding, it’s a good idea to be transparent with your colleagues and/or supervisors about your circumstances and how they’re affecting your availability. It’s often helpful—if not necessary—to create a schedule that is oriented more around the tasks you accomplish than the specific time at which they’re completed.
Feeling Isolated? Make Plans to Stay Connected to Others—And Yourself!
When I started working from home, I found it really difficult to stay motivated throughout the day because I didn’t have others around to hold me accountable. When you’re accustomed to working in an office where you’re surrounded by friendly faces, working from home can feel very isolating, especially during such stressful times as these. And of course, this might weigh on you more heavily if you also live alone.
To combat those feelings of isolation, it’s a great idea to find ways of staying connected. Host virtual hangouts or “happy hours” with colleagues where you can chat about non-work-related subjects, play online games against friends or family during your daily breaks, or spend part of your day working in an open, public area that is not your usual corner of the home (at a safe distance, of course!).
Making plans in the evening can also be a great way to combat feelings of loneliness or isolation. Personally, I’ve started playing board games over Skype with my family on a weekly basis. While I enjoy spending my evening with them, I’ve also noticed that it helps me accomplish my work goals throughout the day because I have something to look forward to. Even if your plans are just to cook yourself something you’ve been craving or take a long relaxing bath, those rewards will help you feel more connected to the people and activities that are important to you.
Troubles Focusing? A Quick Break Can Help You Recharge
Because we are all operating under more stressful circumstances, it’s natural for us to have more trouble focusing. If you are having difficulty staying on task, don’t hesitate to take a quick break. Like I mentioned before, this can be a good time to connect with colleagues or children, but it can also be a good moment to get some exercise, practice meditation, listen to a favorite podcast, or just scroll through social media for a few minutes—whatever helps you recharge!
Another strategy that helps me stay focused is to break down my work into smaller tasks. This often makes the work go by faster because I can check each part off my list instead of feeling daunted by something that might take several hours or days to finish completely.
Whatever your situation, we’re all grappling with unprecedented stresses, so it’s important to seek out the resources that can help you get into a groove that works.