When your company shut down the offices due to COVID-19 but informed you that you could work from home, what was your reaction?
Elated for joy?!?! Bummed because you’d miss the riveting water cooler discussions…or… Not be a big deal, business as usual in a more relaxed environment.
If I were to conduct a survey, I would guess most people did not think it would be a big deal. “It’s all good, I’ll work from home for a week or two and everything will be back to normal.”
Well… that couple weeks turned into three. And then four. What week are we on now? I’ve lost count!
The first few days of your work from home experience (maybe even the first week) was likely some form of a trial run or experiment. First, you designated a workspace. “I’ll set up my workstation at the kitchen table! That way, I can grab a snack when I’m hungry and easily stay hydrated; this is going to be great!” Second, you have your first Zoom meeting. (In my imagination, this meeting happened at 9am. Side-note: No one should have meetings at 9am, but I digress). The conversation is mostly you and your co-workers comparing notes on COVID-19 from the medical degree you’ve earned through Facebook and the actual business that took place could have been handled in a single email. After that you may have fired off some emails, call on some clients to see how they are surviving, but then by mid-afternoon you realize that Netflix has asked you twice if ‘are you still watching?’. This is when you realize you’ve been thrown a real curveball and whisper under your breath “I really need to get my $@!^ together.”
In April, Gallup reported that “The percentage of full-time employees working from home because of COVID-19 closures has increased from 33% to 61%” and “The percentage of parents working full time who have kept their kids home from school because of COVID-19 has increased from less than half (44%) to EVERYONE (100%).” (source: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/307622/leaders-responding-covid-workplace-disruption.aspx)
Wait… now I’ve got to work from home AND keep an eye on my kids, too?!?! If you picked 1 or 2 in my imaginary survey think again. Your joy just turned to stress, and now you are overwhelmed.
Well, you didn’t lose your way; these times are different, and it was a rapid adjustment. The typical work environment changed almost overnight. This is not what we are used to as functioning adults. The world tells us that if you are a valuable member of society because you are to get out of bed, brushed your teeth (hopefully), suffered through your AM commute, work, suffered through your PM commute, repeat. That is the norm. I did it for a long time. If you are anything like me, you finally get to a point where you don’t know if you are bored or sick, you just know that “the norm” sucks. Do not embrace the suck. Look at the remote situation you are in now as an opportunity for learning and experience.
Here at MartianCraft we have been a remote-first company since day one. We’ve got a great group of individuals who have mastered the art of working remotely. I’d guesstimate that 99% of us work from our homes and when you work from home, there are/will be distractions. For the sake of your time, and to not make this article a book, I won’t list all the distractions that could pop up during your day; kids and Netflix are enough. I could breakdown my personal routine but we’ve already got a great article from our CEO, Kyle, about building a routine (https://martiancraft.com/blog/2017/08/routines/) which I suggest you read (and then of course share both articles with your friends…we both know they need it too.
For this article, I would like to give you a few helpful, yet simple, tips to stay productive.
Simply put, separate your Work from your Home. If at all possible, designate a work area where you can distance yourself from possible distractions. (Remember when you set your workstation up at the kitchen table, yeah… that won’t work). If you try and work a full-time job from your kitchen, living room, family room, etc. the chances of you staying productive at a constant pace is probably near none. When I first started with MartianCraft my home office had recently been converted into a nursery, so the kitchen table seemed like an easy, temporary fit. Though it worked out for me to stay productive in the short term, it would have failed me in the long term because now my “workspace” was integrated as part of my “relaxing/home space.” Those early days, I would end up working 12-13 hours a day because I could not separate work and home anymore. The lines were blurred, almost non-existent, and I did not realize it. I did not have the “it’s time to go home” moment in my day. You must make it a priority to create the right workspace. If you cannot find the difference of “working from home” and “at home working” make a conscience effort to find the right balance or you will get burned out very quickly. If your significant other is also working from home and you have kiddos running around, you may need to create a makeshift work schedule and designate when each of you have “office time.”
“I can still be productive while winging it.” That thought/statement is #fakenews. This bullet point could easily fall into the aforementioned Find a Routine category, but make sure you take the time to do the typical things you would do if you were in the office. First, change your clothes. Your co-workers do not want to see your SpongeBob pajama shirt on that 9am Zoom call. Studies show that you are more creative and energetic when you dress for productivity (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022103112000200). Now, I’m not saying to put on your tie or dress suit by any means, but change out of your jammies. Trust science on this one. Onward!!! Breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch-break, walk to your icebox for water 15 times, the list goes on. When working from home, it is much too easy to stay glued to your chair and work through lunch, not take breaks, etc. I recently suggested to a friend of mine who cannot find balance in working from home to try a 3 hours on / 1 hour off schedule. He seems to have found success. He works from 9am until 12pm, takes an hour lunch, works from 1pm-4pm, takes a break to workout, comes back at 5pm to start his wrap-up and calls it a day at 6pm. That type of schedule will not work for everyone. But a similar structured schedule should be able to work for you around all those Zoom meetings, and email discussions you find yourself in.
Keep in touch with your friends, family, and co-workers. At one point, 95% of Americans were under stay-at-home orders. I am an introvert, so keeping to myself, not talking/seeing many people does not affect my mood or overall productivity. Many extroverts, however, need engaging connections and without these connections overall productivity will decrease. Challenge yourself to make the best of this situation and a possible test run for future work from home opportunities. After this is all said and done, and we’re given the ok by our governments to open everything back up, it is forecasted that many businesses who are willing and able to allow their employees to work from home will do so. I truly believe all remote companies will become the new normal. Keep your communication channels open and communicate often. Don’t forget you are still on the clock and your co-workers and bosses may need you during typical “office hours.” If you are using Slack, Teams, or other online communication platform for instant communication, be mindful of others and their time and keep access to that communication close to you during the workday. Ghosting your team or boss will not sit well as you are trying to conduct the best business as possible. Even if you feel like you are repeating yourself, do it. Everyone thinks they are a great communicator, well, you are not. It takes a concerted effort to effectively deliver your desired messages for productive outcomes. To be overly communicative is better to be silent.
MartianCraft not only provides custom mobile software development and design, but we are here to help your business adapt to a remote workforce. We are available to consult on an as needed basis.
Chris Shields is the Director of Finance and Human Resources at MartianCraft. Although, you may believe he is a professional writer; he is not. The satire you read in this article is meant purely for humor and not to offend. He will not burden your eyes with an abundance of articles as he promises that the majority of his day will be consumed by numbers and paperwork.