The World Health Organization has just declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a global pandemic. And it’s a little scary, and that’s mainly because of how the American federal government is responding (hint: not very well).
So as many businesses and events are shutting down, you may have to work from home (WFH). Online and offline, many people are offering tips about how to transition as we’re trying to implement more social distancing. And I’m here to give my two cents of advice, too.
But first of all, I want to say flat out that it will be a transition, but you can do it!
I’ve worked from home starting in 2007 when I had knee surgery, back when remote work isn’t as popular as it is now. That was for two weeks where I had to be on crutches.
And, I admit it was strange.
I lived with three other young women. In the morning, they all would go to work or school for the day. And then, I was left with myself. I called myself “the cat lady without any cats.” because I didn’t leave the house except to go to physical therapy for two weeks. There were times I enjoyed the solitude, but after my knee was stable enough for walking, I was happy to go back to work because it was weird to be by myself for 8 hours a day.
Fast forward to now and I’m a freelancer/business owner who has steadily worked home, except for a couple of years, since 2012. I’m very used to working by myself and not talking to people except through social media or the occasional client or sales call.
But for a lot of you, this may be emotionally taxing, so it’s important to take care of yourself.
So let me start off with this bit of advice.
There’s a lot of information on how to make WFH life work for you already. I am not a WFH guru even though I’ve done it for years. I’m no expert on telling you on what to eat, how to set up your space, when to take breaks, or any of that stuff.
But here’s a round-up to get you started.
You are definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to the sheer amount of information out there about telecommuting. So read up on this topic and follow your intuition about what may or may not work for you.
One thing I want to highlight: you need to give yourself time to set up your computer for work. And I don’t mean don’t have Facebook or other social media apps on it. I mean your company’s virtual private network (VPN) and how you’ll access your files and documents. That part will take longer than you think, especially if you have never accessed the VPN, or any sort VPN before.
The VPN is basically how you’ll connect to your company’s servers and possibly your own computer. You’ll want to know who your IT contact person is so they can help you with any snags you encounter. Do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions about the technical side of things. Also read this article from Slate about how to keep your computer safe while working from home.
Also, just one other thing: videoconferencing. If you’re familiar with FaceTime, videoconferencing is similar. And this may be the method of how you conduct your meetings for a while and it’s strange for so many reasons. I never thought myself to be vain until I saw myself in a Zoom video conference. But eventually you’ll get used to it. But again, whether you use Zoom or Skype or Teams, ask your IT folks for help with that, too.
I love working from home and I’m sure that’s because I lean towards being an introvert. I’m fine with being at home by myself. I enjoy the peace and quiet as well as the freedom of shaping my own schedule. Most people are actually ambiverts, a balance of introverts and extroverts. But going into a more hermetic lifestyle can take some adjustment.
The way I work from home works for me, but it goes against the grain of what a lot of people do.
But not having a fixed schedule doesn’t mean work isn’t accomplished. I’m a writer which means I have deadlines. So the work has to get done. And this doesn’t mean I drop everything for an email that comes after business hours, either. I have boundaries within my flexibility.
So rain or shine, I try to go outside for a few minutes. That helps with any feelings of cabin fever. I can’t work outside (too distracting), but it’s nice to feel a little terra firma that isn’t carpet or tile.
So although I’m not using a walking desk treadmill or standing desk, there are times I need to track and promote. So here are some free apps I use as I work from home.
The work from home lifestyle does require to have good boundaries because it can be so easy to get lost in time. Especially if you are hourly, make sure to cruise on in at your normal time and leave at your normal time. Make sure you take your lunch break and other breaks.
Your boss may start to be really concerned about your productivity and email or message you all the time. Feel free to kindly push back on that, since it can and will hinder your productivity. Work with them about when they should check in. Maybe offer a weekly check-in call or email to keep your manager abreast of what you’re working on (and I believe that’s a good idea to bring back into the office).
If you’re the manager, check in on your direct reports to see how they are faring with the transition from the office to work from home — both work wise and emotionally. Offer supports that your company may have. Offer your own support, too. Your human touch can help with productivity and it will help you seem less like just a boss and more like a human being who is also going through a stressful time.
As you give yourself time to figure out what methods help you keep track of your work, there’s the reality of life at home off the clock, too. The social distancing we have to do to protect the elderly and the immunosuppressed/immunocompromised is of utmost importance so this disease doesn’t overwhelm our already tenuously held together healthcare system.
But that means we will have to temporarily sacrifice a big chunk of who we are as a species. Being cooped up indoors can be challenging for most of us.
We are social beings and loneliness is already a rampant problem in the United States. This is not akin to social isolation (this twitter thread does a good job of deciphering between the two). In fact, people who are already socially isolated will feel the negative effects of social distancing even more.
So how can we keep in touch with each other without going stir crazy in our own homes? I have a few suggestions that may help.
We all may be living and working life in the great indoors for a while, so this is a new normal that we’ll have to get used to for a while to ensure we “flatten the curve” of this pandemic. Working from home may be weird or inconvenient for some, but most likely it will be temporary.
But my ultimate hope is that more people will work from home. This could considerably cut down on greenhouses gases from commuting while offering flexibility to people with young children, disabilities, or other needs that make going into an office 40 hours a week more of a burden than a benefit. Making work more accessible for more people can be a great boon to our economy and our overall wellbeing as a nation.
Interested in working with me on creating some captivating content for your business? Hit me up today and let’s chat.
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