The She+ Geeks Out team has been fully working from home for approximately two months at this point. While we were a blended team beforehand with roughly half our team predominantly remote, the past few months have seen everyone settling into a remote-first work environment. When we initially realized that due to COVID-19 concerns we (and many other organizations) would be transitioning quite quickly to remote work, we wrote up some thoughts on how to transition into working from home.
Two months into our new normal, I’d like to revisit that post, since expectations don’t always match reality. Personally, pre-COVID, when I wasn’t on the road traveling for client training I would typically work out of our co-working space in downtown Boston. From time to time I might work from home one day a week, but most of the time I was commuting and sharing physical space with others. As a leader, I wanted to model effective working from home behaviors. The initial new-ness of it all, along with heightened emotions surrounding what was going on in the world, resulted in a transition that was bumpier than if I had made the choice on my own to go fully remote.
Looking back, I’ve realized that I haven’t always taken my own advice, but some of what I suggested still holds true. Here’s what we got right:
- Create space that’s just for work
- Set up a routine
- Set up a schedule that delineates work time from personal time
- Make use of tools and technology to connect
- Give yourself grace
Here’s what we didn’t know, or think about:
- If you have a dedicated space in your home for work, make sure you set it up with ergonomics in mind. Working from bed might sound great at first, but after two months your back might disagree.
- Routines are helpful, but can and should change (check out my updated daily routine here). Acknowledge that remote work is not the same as (enforced) virtual work. There is a lot of pressure to be productive right now, but productivity in a time of pandemic is not always going to be feasible. If you need to take some time away from work for mental health, to sleep in, or to just watch Netflix and recharge, do so.
- It’s much harder to be active when at home- each of us has different home situations- for me, I used to walk anywhere between 10,000 to 12,000 steps a day thanks to commuting and walking around Boston. Now that I’m homebound and sometimes don’t leave my apartment for days on end, I have to make a real effort to get my steps in and stay active.
- Zoom fatigue is real! Technology has been a wonderful way for us to stay in touch with each other, but as more and more events and gatherings are moving online, it’s becoming clear that it’s just as, if not more, tiring to hang out and work virtually as it is in person. (Here are some tips on how to combat Zoom fatigue).
- Be flexible! You may think you have it all together, but then something unexpected will pop up. This might be a cranky child or curious pet, it could be construction noise or a bad WiFi connection, or even your upstairs neighbor deciding that now is a great time to learn how to play the drums (yes, this happened to me). We have to practice grace towards each other, but most of all we have to have self-compassion. These are challenging times for all of us.
I’m not the only one readjusting these days– many of us are privileged to be able to stay home during these times, and so I’ve gathered together some tips from the She+ Geeks Out community as well:
- It’s OK to miss working in an office. These are not normal times and many people are not only trying to shift to working remotely, but also juggling teaching, childcare, cooking, housecare, and more, without any breaks or ability to separate out these different parts of our lives.
- Everyone is struggling in different ways, and you may not always know what someone else is going through.
- Wear real clothes- just the process of putting an outfit together and getting ready in the morning can help you feel like you’re not just rolling out of bed into work.
- Give yourself time during the day to get distracted on the internet. Go down internet rabbit holes, bookmark recipes, check in with friends online, make your post-quarantine shopping list.
- Try out the Pomodoro Technique to help structure your time, if you’re having trouble sitting down and focusing for long stretches of time.
- Use the full lunch hour to make lunch! Don’t eat in front of your computer just because you’re at home.
- Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t sitting in front of your computer from 9-5. If your job allows, experiment with starting a little earlier or later than you would if you were in the office. You might find you hit peak productivity at different times a day when you’d normally be commuting.
- There are still companies hiring during these times! Here are some tips on how to network and look for a job during an outbreak.
Finally, in the words of co-CEO Rachel Murray: when all else fails, take care of yourself. Talk to people. Step away from the screens. Sleep. Journal. Exercise. Eat carbs.