Continuing with the subject of working at home in the time of COVID-19 and doing this effectively, we will now go into the importance of properly managing our interactions with the outside world. This entails calls, emails and instant messages from workmates as well as browsing through social media or checking the news. It also includes our social circles that are now physically separated due to lockdown or quarantine.
Previously, we talked about how managing our own patterns to separate work from daily life is essential in being good at both. Now we’ll talk about how we are both separated but still connected, simultaneously at risk of being isolated and overwhelmed. Plus how we can chart a course that will keep us functional and healthy while working at home and doing our part to flatten the curve.
Don’t Dwell On The Feed
Upsetting news and shocking social media posts can be major distractions for people working at home. You can be sucked in for hours on your feed. Similarly, even serious developments of the pandemic – the infection rates, status of supplies, so on – can be emotionally and mentally draining to parse through even if they are important.
On the other hand, people can get immersed in activities to lose themselves… and there’s a chance that this escapism can go too far. It’s no longer healthy if your “hobby” ends up filling your house with duck carvings or mecha figurines, leaving you with no space or time for anything else.
So, yes, you can take breaks during your shift whether you’re working in the office or at home. You can do some chores while you’re at it. But don’t see these breaks as moments to immerse yourself, whether it’s doing your laundry or losing yourself on social media or painting your miniature figurines.
Set time for the breaks. You still want to keep up a steady pace of work with scheduled intermissions. Likewise with your other daily activities too. You don’t want to end up preparing dinner when it’s already near midnight because you spent hours immersing yourself in grim news.
Keeping track of colleagues and superiors, or keeping them abreast of your activities, was way easier when you could simply holler at them from across the room or cubicle. But now you’re fully remote and working at home. If this ain’t your first rodeo, it will probably be second nature. For first timers, though, there will be some growing pains in this regard.
So you should adopt the habit of checking in on others. Make it part of the work flow. Ping your colleagues, check in on subordinates, loop in superiors. Keep them appraised of changes, new assignments and so on. Especially when it comes to projects that are worked on collaboratively throughout the day.
You can start this new SOP immediately or plan and implement it in phases/increments. Most of your colleagues will also take a bit to get used to the new set up. And that’s fine, this is new for everyone. There will definitely have to be some changes or revisions as you go, depending on the type of work you do as well as the type of team and colleagues you’re working with.
Moreover, don’t hesitate to reach out to those who you would ordinarily ask for help in the office. Even though you’re not in the same building as them, try to maintain the setups and interactions that did you well previously.
Try out different mediums of communications. It doesn’t have to be all emails. Try messengers or Slack. Voice conferences. See what works best for you and for the rest.
Socialize From Afar
On that note, the shift away from the office setup will make a lot of the casual social interactions at work untenable. The banter and chit chat are useful in breaking up the monotony of work and making people feel less lonely, giving them the sense of being part of a larger group. Without this, isolation and alienation – already real risks due to the quarantine – may be exacerbated. Likewise, people might have less outlets to release stress.
Working at home isn’t as easy as it sounds. Who knew banter had a vital function?
Combat the isolation and maintain the water cooler chit chat sessions with Slack, group chats and other forms of communication. Ask colleagues what they do during their downtime. What Netflix shows they’re binging. Or what culinary feats of home cooking they’ve achieved. Share photos of your pets.
Likewise, these sessions can be more than lighthearted. Check in on each others’ health, see how well people are doing, whether they are fully stocked up on supplies or if they need anything. Are some people having trouble receiving deliveries? Do they have physical conditions that require help with grocery runs? Maybe someone lives far off and doesn’t have a vehicle, making it hard for them to go out and resupply.
Beyond your teammates, it’s also good practice to do this with your family and friends. Be sure to have each others’ backs.