By Amanda Sangster - March 30, 2020
With social distancing becoming the new normal, the work-from-home option is emerging as the best way for companies to stay productive in the middle of a crisis. It minimizes the spread of infection, eases the burden of childcare and allows employees flexibility.
But staying at home when you’re accustomed to an office or cubicle can present new challenges.
“Under normal circumstances, if you’re working from home, you’re most likely alone. However, with our current situation, the entire family is home,” said Liz Vogel, the director of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Department of Organizational Development and an expert in helping teams during stressful transitions.
Whether you’re in self-isolation or surrounded by family members, Vogel says you are entering uncharted territory. Here are some tips for surviving and adapting to your new work environment:
Go to work
Maintaining your morning routine can be crucial to your productivity. Wake up, have your breakfast and get dressed for work. This will help you mentally prepare for your day and perform at the same level of professionalism you follow at work.
Walking into your dining room or home office may be a shorter commute, but you’re still going to work.
Get the family in sync
Share your day, set expectations and create a plan with your family. Vogel recommends starting the conversation with, “If we’re having a good day at home where everyone could be productive, be together at the right times and also have the space we need, what would that look like?”
Being in sync with everyone can ensure a smooth day for all.
Listen to each other, talk through the options and map out that effective day. “Chances are your family hasn’t spent this much time together in a long time and you will need to find your own spaces,” said Vogel. “Remember to make modifications and be flexible.”
Minimize disruptions, eliminate distractions
Your family is on the same page, but other distractions may arise. Minimize disruptions from your furriest family members by making sure they’re fed and distracted with their favorite toy. “It’s tempting to shut the bedroom door or let them outside, but that could cause anxiety that results in unpleasant barking and undue stress,” said Vogel.
Also, don’t let outside noises derail your concentration or distract coworkers on a phone call. Remember that your microphone can most likely pick up all surrounding noises. If your neighbor’s landscaper is scheduled for Friday mornings, try to avoid scheduling conference calls during that time.
Clicking that “turn on video” icon may be less appealing to introverts, but using your computer’s camera can have positive effects on morale and communication. “Video conferencing connects you more effectively with your team, it provides visual feedback to read reactions, and simply makes for more effective communication,” said Vogel. “It humanizes an already stressful situation.”
Don’t forget: Your camera picks up what’s in the background. Changing your virtual background in your teleconferencing software can help maintain some privacy. Also, don’t forget to mute yourself when it’s not your turn to talk. Interruptions from someone’s failure to mute can cause miscommunication and confusion. A productive meeting can swiftly turn south.
Well-being for everyone
Take a break! Step away from your work space and make that time something special. Take a walk around your neighborhood and get some fresh air. Planning activities gives you something to look forward to and helps you get through the day.
For the sake of everyone’s mental well-being, don’t forget to have a good time with your family and friends. Schedule a digital happy hour with friends, create a comforting playlist, livestream a concert or dance with your children.
Finally, remember to stay positive and relax. Staying connected with your colleagues and the outside world, even digitally, can provide a sense of normalcy during these stressful times.