by Shari Weiss
For nearly 10 years I've had a love-hate relationship with working from home. When I became burnt out on my 90-minute commute (each way!), going remote was a life-saver. When I moved from Long Island to Wilmington, it allowed me to keep my job. And on days when my chronic stomach illness would take over, it gave me a respite.
But after a roughly seven-year stretch of working from home, I craved office life again. I needed human interaction. There were days when the only time I spoke aloud was to my dog. So when the opportunity arose to rejoin the living with an in-office position in the fall of 2018, I was elated. And then came Hurricane Florence. Back to the remote life it was!
A year and a half later, I've had long stretches of working in the office with some interruptions (like building repairs, Hurricane Dorian, and trips to visit my parents). Now due to the coronavirus, working from home is becoming a requirement across the country.
I'll be honest: I'm not thrilled. During my seven years of working from home, I loved the convenience. Sleeping later! Pajamas all day! Puppy cuddles! And I still managed to be quite productive. But once I returned to an office lifestyle, I relished my home just being my home again. My sanctuary. My work-free place to relax. Making it my place of business again isn't easy. It feels unnatural. I'm not as productive. MY BED IS RIGHT THERE!
But as is often the case in life, and especially in business, we don't always get what we want. So below are some tips to make the best of working remotely, especially if this is a foreign concept to you. Keep in mind that working remotely is not a “one size fits all” situation. Not every suggestion is going to work for every person, particularly if you have the added burden of caring for and even educating your children while schools are closed. But everyone should be able to implement at least one or two of these tips.
Wake at the same time each day as you normally would for going to the office. Shower. Get dressed. You will feel prepared for the day.
Have a designated workspace. If you don’t have a home office, try to set aside some part of your living area for work matters.
Take your lunch break. You may feel added pressure to just power through the day, but a mental break, especially one spent refueling, can ensure your mind stays sharp and your energy high.
Take regular stretch breaks. Your body is not meant to spend all day on the couch, laptop on knees. Do 10 squats each time you get up to use the bathroom. Walk around the block each morning and afternoon.
Host regular Zoom or Google Hangout meetings with your colleagues. “Social distancing” isn’t really the right word; what we’re really doing is “physical distancing.” Thanks to video calls, we can still work “together” – and check in on one another. Set time aside at the end of each work meeting for each person to share how they and their families are coping during this stressful time. Better yet, designate a one-hour meeting once or twice a week just for this purpose.
Make sure you’re eating three meals a day with healthy morning and afternoon snacks. The temptation to graze all day will be strong. Be mindful of just what it is you’re grazing.
Establish quiet hours with both co-workers and family members. Designate a time each day where you can focus exclusively on work projects without interruption.
Don’t panic-watch the news all day. Don’t get too caught up in “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young & the Restless,” either. All of it is addicting.
Seth Godin, wisely foreseeing the office restrictions that would soon be popping up at thousands of companies nationwide, wrote a blog post on this subject on March 11. This section was particularly inspiring:
“The best way to work from home is to plan your own agenda, organize your peers, make bigger promises, show up often, lead, connect, innovate and ask hard questions. And then do it all again.
You will if you want to.
Stay home, it’s a good idea. It’s a generous way to help people stay safe. Stay home and lead.”
If you're an Inspiration Lab member, remember that the members-only Facebook group is available for support and camaraderie during this pandemic and beyond. This week we will also launch Inspiration Café, a series of Zoom chats to keep us all connected and learning during this uncertain time. Each video call will tackle a different topic, such as taking care of your mental health, keeping children engaged, managing human resources, and respectful social media marketing in the time of a global health crisis. Keep an eye on The Inspiration Lab’s own social media feeds (Instagram and Facebook) for the dates and times of these chats. Inspi Lab founder Stephanie Lanier says:
“Inspiration Cafe is a biweekly virtual gathering to inspire our members and keep them connected. We'll often feature special guests and topics to delight our members and bring some comfort and joy to their living rooms.
It will be a soft place to land in a chaotic world. A place to wrap our goals in grace because our world has forever changed. A digital breath of fresh air. A virtual hug. A safe place to say you are worried about your family, your health, your livelihood, your work. A corner of the digital universe to practice gratitude.
At our virtual table... you can sit with us.
At our digital cafe… you can trust you belong here.”
Additionally, Stephanie has set up a private Facebook group for small business owners in the Wilmington area to support one another amid these unprecedented circumstances. In order to keep the focus truly on assisting local businesses, you must have an EIN to gain access. Stephanie says:
“Being a small business owner is never easy, but with the reality that none of us have business insurance that covers a pandemic, we have some hard decisions ahead. We will have to wrestle with how to best take care of our employees and customers with less resources for an unknown period of time. This is way more complicated to manage than a hurricane (although we are very familiar with that). BUT, our resilience, passion, and hard work (which are the things that helped us have successful businesses to begin with) are the things that will get us through this too. In a world that is chaotic and unpredictable, we want this FB group to be a soft place to land.”
If you have ideas on how The Inspiration Lab can further be helpful to members and non-members alike as we all navigate this ever-changing world, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’d like a personal boost from someone who simultaneously loves and hates working remotely, feel free to email me at email@example.com.