In the years I have been working from home, I’ve witnessed how attitudes have swung from one extreme to another. In the 90’s, it was: “You work from home?” (puzzled face, disbelief). Dare disclose you work from home, and be prepared to be looked upon as a second-class citizen of the working community. Those were the days when paid work equalled being employed within concrete confines.
One would have thought that, because of Coronavirus, most people would have gotten used to working from home by now. But from what I hear, this isn’t the case. Many still struggle with personal effectiveness even if working from home is a choice they made themselves. Frequent distractions from kids, the temptation to help yourself to leftovers in the fridge, or simply the ambience which doesn’t seem to lend itself to “work”, and social isolation might cause you to be less productive than you expected.
If you’re still finding it hard to adjust, here are some tips to manage the stress as you work from home:
Do the most unpleasant task first. I guarantee, it’s simply the best strategy I learnt early on. Completing the hardest job first is so effective there’s a phrase for it: “Eat that frog!” Obviously, the frog is your biggest, worst, hated task. When you work from home unsupervised, there’s a natural tendency to do the tasks that you like, and avoid the ones you dislike. The clock keeps ticking until that deadline you’ve been dreading is just a few minutes away.
Set a routine. It doesn’t have to be set in stone, but have a routine that works for you. For me, the minute I sit on my chair, my mind instantly knows I’m working. Doesn’t matter if I’m still in my pyjamas. But if dressing up is important for you to get into the zone, so be it.
Plan your day the night before. Have a to-do list which you update daily, so you don’t overlook anything significant. This list will help you pace your days ahead.
Be flexible. If you’ve hardly slept the previous night to meet a deadline, allow yourself to rest before starting the next task. An alert brain means higher productivity.
Schedule your breaks. Those of us who are workaholics can go on for hours without skipping a beat. But the long -term cost of not having breaks is your health. Sitting down for prolonged periods without stretching creates a strain for the entire body. Muscles need to be stretched regularly, or you could suffer recurring conditions e.g. frozen shoulder (trust me, it’s painful!).
Have realistic expectations. Working from home means saving time and energy commuting to and from work, as well as money on fuel/transport. Ideally, if you have kids, you’d have a baby-sitter to mind them but if this isn’t an option for you, work around it. An infant or toddler could only last so long in a playpen. Propping a gadget in front of a young kid to distract him for hours isn’t smart either.
Exercise. The pandemic has taught us it’s possible to have a good workout within the confines of our own home. You’ll find very doable exercise routines online, such as Walk Walk with Leslie Sansone. Regular exercise keeps your heart strong, uplifts your mood and helps you sleep better at night.
Keep in touch with others. Even if you’re an introvert, you’re still a human being who needs to interact with your loved ones. Call them regularly; it helps to keep your feet on the ground. The feeling of loving someone and being loved makes us complete. Social isolation is not a good thing.
To conclude, working from home has its benefits and challenges. The advent of smart devices has blurred the lines of work and home. “I’d be wrapping things up at day’s end, and in comes a task, due the very first thing in the morning,” says a mother of three in dismay. “Not to mention the calls late into the night. The phone would ring at 10.30pm, just as I’m about to fall into deep sleep.” My advice is, be assertive when you need to. Negotiate, or ask to delegate. “I just got it at 5pm. I need time to go through the document.” Or, “May I suggest so-and-so to follow up with the client?” Stand your ground. Burnout is real with far-reaching implications. Be kind to yourself, no one is indispensable at work.
Featured image by Anastasia Shuraeva