This article is based on several conversations I've had while being "locked down" in 2020. There are several issues and solutions mentioned, although this is documentation of my views rather than a how-to guide.
While the title is "Working From Home," I am not talking about those people who work from home full-time. While some of this may work for them, this article is written from my perspective ... from working in an office to a "forced lock-down;" or working remotely.
I tried to put everything into perspective and to create some kind of flow through the various categories and my take on them.
We are blessed and should be grateful ...
- To have work.
- To be working in a field where work from home can be accomplished with some ease.
"The Mundane": Working from home is, at times, "boring and monotonous." The days can, and do, get repetitive. When work and home time blurs together, many of us look for some form of distractions; which is not necessarily a bad thing. The proper distraction can actually make a day better.
But, at the same time as we are feeling trapped by artificial boundaries, we are also able to feel remarkably free. Free to get distracted: take a break, check in on family, ... go kayaking.
Image from ...Official Vectors by Vecteezy
"People have become flat," two dimensional, in our ongoing, and never-ending, telecommunication meetings. It becomes very easy to feel disconnected from the world around us.
The highlight of my day was going to the dentist.
Communication with both teams and clients has definitely become tougher, relationships become strained. Odd hours can be contributing to this with distributed teams ... the lulls of communication eating at us. At a simpler level, a lack of visual cues can be adding to the difficulty (particularly when teams have meetings without video).
Most meetings have a rhythm and working from home has disrupted that. Most of us have accounted for that over time, but the rhythm has definitely changed and evolved.
When beginning to work from home, there is always a question about how to actually run a remote meeting. Additionally, leadership will sometimes question the volume and quality of work generated when not in an office environment.
These questions get answered, over time.
Additionally, onboarding is impacted. You can no longer just walk someone around and introduce them to the team.
Meetings were mentioned previously, but I want to dig a bit deeper here. I've seen a massive increase in the number of meetings and at times a general lack of concern about scheduling meetings over top of other ones.
I've heard it's a thing.
In addition to the physical experience of fatigue, people are experiencing back or neck pain, headaches, eye-strain, and more. Many people are reporting that delivering services electronically is "harder" and "more draining" than in-person delivery.
- With Family
- With Friends
- With Co-Workers
I find myself at times, "hoping" my microphone kicks in and I get the chance to be heard ... then, there's that awkward pause when I'm not heard and I mute out and look to get my point across another way. These meetings are much more linear ... there are no mixed voices. Side-conversations are additionally, much more difficult.
It is much harder to read the room in these virtual meetings. We can't see when people are distracted or off-task. And, it makes authenticity in our communication much more difficult.
We have all had some experience with this. Something happens and we look up and realize that the day has gotten away from us. Sometimes, we get a lot of work accomplished; other times, we get nothing done.
A simple technique to remind us when the workday should end is to schedule something for after work. This way, we are forced to stop.
The Pomodoro Technique® is a simple process that can be used to make work time more effective.
However, I believe there are other methods to keep from losing time that are less strict and rigid. I believe there are two directions that can be gone here; examining ways to minimize distractions or using those distractions to create healthy breaks.
1. Put yourself in minimal-distraction mode.
Begin building habits that help you eliminate distractions and stay focused. Start by creating an environment in which you’re less tempted to get preoccupied with something other than what you’re working on.
Work to create habits that signal that you’re in minimal-distraction mode. For example, close the door to the office or put on noise-canceling headphones.
2. Set three main objectives every day.
A long list of things to do can feel insurmountable and leave us feeling overwhelmed. We’re ready to give up before we start, and that’s when it becomes easy to give in to distractions.
By limiting the number of daily goals, you will have clearly defined what you need to work on.
3. Take on more challenging work.
If you are having trouble focusing and are chronically distracted, it may be that your work isn’t engaging you fully. You might feel like you’re working hard all day, but it could be that your mind is fighting boredom and looking to fill the time with something more interesting.
Complex tasks demand more of our working memory and attention, meaning we have less mental capacity remaining to wander to the nearest stimulating distraction.
Distractions can be health and a positive tool. For example, distractions can provide an escape and a much-needed break from our routines, our work, our stress, and our anxiety.
- Listen to soothing music.
- Eat your favorite snack or have a cup of tea.
- Take a long walk.
- Exercise. “Exercise, exercise, exercise! ...
- Do yoga.
- Read a book or magazine.
Many of us had our "me time" while traveling to and from work. It was a great time for me to let my mind wander or take care of that one phone call I can't seem to get to at work or at home.
Our time to think, while alone, has been shortened drastically.
I am looking forward to returning to normalcy, with a small voice in the back of my head telling me that it won't be easy. Many of us have gotten "numb" to the lack of normal in our lives.
What can we do? We need to be able to embrace the unpredictability that brought us here and realize that this generally gives is more flexibility in the long run.
How do we go back to normal?
It's been seen that inmates become "institutionalized," unable to face returning the "real world" after experiencing such a radical separation from society.
Thank you for all you do, looking out for the health of the individual, as well as the team. Reaching out to check in with us during these trying times is greatly appreciated.
My wife actually told me to, "Sleep on the couch, you'll have a shorter commute in the morning."
- With the "shorter commute," we undoubtedly get more sleep.
- Mornings are more relaxing with more time for family and/or pets.
- We can generally focus better without the general office interruptions.
This article was written, as I said earlier, based on several conversations. I'd love to see some comments with your thoughts.
- Can I expand some areas?
- Can I improve in other areas?
- Are there resources out there I should reference in this article?