This is a difficult time for some – and merely a different time for others.
What makes the difference? Mostly attitude.
You can decide to be uncomfortable or you can use this as an opportunity to catch up on things you don’t ordinarily find time to do.
Of course, it’s so much easier for those who have experience working from home, and I don’t mean to minimize the difficulties facing people who are not accustomed to that. I suspect that Skype and Zoom and other platforms are on overload because so many people who don’t ordinarily need to use them – do so now.
BUT – we are sheltering at home – so here are some ideas as to how to make it work more successfully for you.
Hours worked – Holding Yourself Accountable
There are those who will tell you to shower and dress as though you were going to the office – and to keep regular business hours.
That may work for some – but may be totally unnecessary for others. Don’t get caught up in following someone else’s rules – but figure out what works best for you.
As I write this, I’m in an “at home” long dress with no makeup. My hair is pulled back. You probably don’t want to see me right now – it is certainly not my best look.
Some people need fixed structure. If you are one of those people – decide what hours you are going to work – and what you can wear that is comfortable but makes you feel as though you have dressed for work.
Have a special place from which you are working. This might not be the living room couch.
For those of you that are self-motivated and don’t require the external structure – be comfortable, no one is looking. Wear just enough to be safe if someone comes to the front door. Oh, if you are online visually wear a little more clothing!
Instead of setting “office hours” set deadlines – when do you have to have certain projects finished? Can you select “sprints” so that you know when you have accomplished a portion of what you need to accomplish?
Let me give you one example of what I mean: When conducting a one hour webinar, I keep a list besides me of how many power points I have to complete in 15 minute intervals. In that way, I stay on time and am not rushing to finish during the last ten minutes or so.
When writing, I think of concepts – or chapters if you will. I learned many years ago not to be looking at the whole project or I will frighten myself.
I’m also really wed to “to do” lists that are prioritized. I usually scribble notes from the living room where I am watching TV, or in the bedroom before I fall asleep. Those notes get transferred to a formal “to do” list when I sit down at my desk the next day.
I prioritize them – and get them done. Some don’t get done because sometimes it is a long list and unimportant items (like filing) fall to the wayside.
BUT – that’s me. What works for you?
- Fixed time of day
- Fixed location
- Accountable to someone else
- Dress for work
- To do lists
- Freedom to choose whatever time suits
- Casual comfortable clothes
- Laptop on the patio
- Fixed amount of work per hour
- Project by project.
Family Members at Home
Some of us are all alone. That makes it easier to work without interruption, but for some a sense of sensory deprivation – some people are afraid to be alone for any length of time.
For others, there are family members around and it is tempting to interact with them rather than get any work done….It’s a special treat to have our loved ones nearby during the day – but we have to get work done.
Also, if we have young kids, it’s hard for them to understand that you are home – but you are at work as well. So you have to find ways to make it clear to them so that you minimize the interruptions.
Let me tell you a story from many years ago. I was step-mother to two young children. At the time I am going to describe, I was working on a term paper that was due that Monday. The children were with us that weekend and they were 8 and 5 years old. I was working out of my second bedroom where I had a desk. I’d asked the kids to leave me alone because I was working on a deadline. They could interrupt me only if it was important.
Well, as you can imagine, important to me was quite different from important to 5 year old Laura. Every few minutes she came knocking on the door. Finally, I sat her down and asked: “Laura, do you have to write a book report for class?”
“Yes” she replied. I asked her how long it needed to be and she explained one page – in her big print – she was just learning to print. I explained that mine had to be 20 pages typed.
Oh, she said with big eyes – left the room and didn’t interrupt me for the rest of the day.
So, my message is: Find a way to explain to your kids with examples and in words that they can understand. Remember, this is a different experience for them as well.
For those of you at home alone – here are some things you can do to make yourself feel better:
- Open a window – or a patio door – and get some fresh air
- Watch more TV than you usually do
- Call a friend – telephones still work
- Skype or Zoom or something
- See what kind of special meal you can create from the items in your freezer and pantry
- Give yourself that facial you’ve been meaning to do for months now
- Read a good book – that always works for me
- Write in your journal – or start a journal
- Write an article
- Start to write the memoir you have been dreaming about writing
- Clean out the closet and your dresser drawers
– Stuff to keep for the coming season
– Stuff to bring to the garage for next year
– Stuff to sell to a second hand store (there are many)
– Stuff to give to someone in need
– Stuff to give to Goodwill – Salvation Army, etc.
– Stuff to just plain throw away
– Catch up on your filing
I bet if you looked around you could find many things to do at home that are fun and useful. Intersperse those with the work you have to do.
This too shall pass. Don’t let it get you down – you have the resources to make it merely a different time – but not all that difficult.
ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D. is a consultant specializing in people and processes in the workplace and can be reached at [email protected]