We’re grappling with significant changes to work.
The novel coronavirus cases in the United States continue to rise. As the country becomes the epicenter of the global pandemic, there have been major implications for millions. From travel restrictions to rampant unemployment and cancellations of big events, most facets of everyday life have been impacted by the outbreak. Companies—including Amazon, Spotify, Google, and Facebook—are encouraging work-from-home in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. But work-from-home arrangements can be taxing as the days that have become weeks seem destined to become months. Especially as schools everywhere close.
As a freelance writer and mother to two kids under 2 years old, I have learned many tricks to cope with the unforeseen stressors that can arise when remote working becomes a daily lifestyle and not a seasonal break from the status quo. Here’s what I recommend.
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1) Dress for success
When I first began my career as a freelance writer, I thought working from home meant working from bed. That was a huge mistake. On a heavy workday, sometimes an entire day would pass and I still did not get out of bed. Getting out of bed and following your regular morning routine will help you maintain a sense of normalcy. It will also keep you sane. Get up and get dressed, do your hair, look the part, at least a little, and it will jump-start your day. No one is saying get into your corporate business suit… but then again whatever works.
2) Stick to a schedule
Do you hiss at the sun and draw the covers up over your head in the morning, but your inspirational muse shows up at 3pm? Or are you one of those chipper, up-before-the-sun morning folk that then turns ogre after 2pm?
Though your company will likely have a set amount of hours you have to work and scheduled calls and meetings, much of the way you organize your time will be at your discretion. That means you can set a schedule that best reflects your periods of productivity. Over the course of the day, everyone experiences moments of high and low energy. Being aware of your own inner dynamics can allow you to play to your strengths. More importantly: Understanding these same highs and lows in your kiddos can make-or-break your online career.
3) Guard your workspace
Just like working from bed is a no-no, creating an off-limit workspace will reduce interruptions. I worked at the dining room table early on, which had a glass door dividing the living room. I liked the idea of being able to see the kids while I worked. My plan backfired. If they can see you, they will come. I quickly learned that this even goes for adults. When my mom visited, small talk and endless questions never ceased.
Finding a secluded area of your house that can be locked is your best option.
Next, make sure your technology is optimal. Upgrade your internet speed and become savvy with all work-related software. Remember everything has a learning curve. Don’t wait until the last minute to start using any work tools. From my experience, having access to a backup device can also help out in a jam. Also, don’t forget to save all work continually.
4) Deal with rude co-workers
Trying to work with anyone in your space can be a nightmare. I have had my share of business calls interrupted by high-pitch wailing, and drama-filled toddlers demanding my undivided attention.
Firstly, give your children as much of your undivided attention as you can when you are not working. This will set a precedent that distinguishes your work hours.
But don’t be afraid of screen time. There is a lot of educational online YouTube content. My kids’ favorites happen to be Blippi and Mother Goose Club. Also, try content in different languages. You may be surprised by what their young minds can learn. Screen time should also be limited to your work hours—or at least, their favorite content should happen during the busiest time of your workday to form a routine and keep them engaged as long as possible.
Don’t forget to stock up on age-appropriate educational toys; I recommend interactive apps for tablets. These allow kids to keep their little hands busy while engaging them at the same time. (Try ABC Mouse as a go-to.)
Sometimes when I can’t get a break, I have them FaceTime with a relative who can keep them occupied. My mom has an uncanny way of keeping them busy with funny filters and songs. That even might buy you some time for a work conference call.
5) Enjoy your commute
The U.S Census Bureau averages Americans’ one-way commute at 26.1 minutes. Commutes can be taxing, but they also offer alone time: Something that will be in short supply when you work from home. Don’t cheat yourself of your “you” time. Plan in time before work to prep your mind, and time after work to unwind and reflect on your day. You may catch something you missed before your mind gets consumed by never-ending demands.
6) Happy hour from home
Stay connected. According to an article from Parent magazine published in February, depression continues to be a challenge for stay-at-home moms. Not a stay-at-home mom you say? Are you a parent? Are you at home most of the day? Yep, you fit the bill. Although you may still be following your passion and earning a living, you are still cut off from the “real world.” It is easy to feel isolated and out of the loop when you are your whole team. The current pandemic doesn’t afford the luxury of hitting the town with fellow co-workers after 5pm, but making the extra effort to connect is necessary for your mental health. Try decompressing with a glass of wine over video chat with fellow co-workers.
7) Expect the unexpected
Remember when that BBC reporter had his very serious, live television interview interrupted by a dancing toddler and a baby in a walker? That could be you at any moment and that’s just a reality all work-from-home parents must embrace. Just as the reporter simply continued to speak, pretending all was well, sometimes you will just have to go with the flow. I’ve had my youngest break my computer in the middle of a hectic shift. Or had to work through screaming tantrums. Deep breathe and remind yourself that you will be back in the comforts of your cubicle soon.