Over the last few weeks, the phrase ‘Work From Home’ or WFH has become synonymous with the world we currently operate and live in. Earlier WFH was a choice people made, especially those who operated in the gig economy. Or alternatively, it was an option of flexibility organizations provided employees with to help them balance the responsibilities of work and life.
However, during this mandated lockdown as the world grapples with an unprecedented pandemic, we have all almost instantaneously and with no choice had to adopt a whole new modus operandi.
So, as we peer behind the video images of colleagues to get a glimpse into their life, or manage our toddlers who insist on being our new co-workers, while shuttling between household chores, scrolling COVID news updates, fluctuating internet bandwidth, concerns over our future, meeting deadlines and family expectations, this world of not just “work” from home, but “life” from home is something quite new. And one we haven’t been completely prepared to manage.
In fact, I was surprised when a client of mine who over a decade ago moved his office to home, called me to talk through the challenges he was facing in today’s WFH paradigm. With no respite from his home space, navigating family at home and the struggle of doing every single thing from the confines of home, he could no longer manage his life as he did previously.
With anxiousness over the future at an all-time high, not to mention worry over the spread of the pandemic, and the struggle of managing work and home, we find that individuals are constantly oscillating across the WFH continuum: moving ferociously between the zones of over stimulation to slack and back. This is in turn leading to a series of mental health concerns, as well as impacting the overall work output of individuals and teams.
It has, therefore, become imperative for organizations, teams and individuals to consciously work to find a new paradigm that supports each person in finding the optimum balance as they look to manage Life From Home (LFH) in this evolving world.
As a leadership and performance coach, I have recently been asked by organizations to support them as they look to manage performance and productivity while being sensitive to the sentiments of teams as they balance LFH in these uncertain times. While there is no full proof solution and we are all fixing the engine while driving, here are some recommendations that could help manage our new challenge:
1.Set Boundaries: It is important to have a dedicated space in your home that is your work from home zone. It can be as simple as setting up a desk in your room, or having a fixed chair on your dining table. Earmark that as a zone you do your calls from, write up your proposals or check your emails. Train your family and children to respect your WFH zone. Take care not to let that merge with your life zone!
2.Get a Routine: With so much going on by way of updates on the COVID-19 situation, maintaining a focus on work is itself a challenge. Having a nice routine will ensure that you find the right balance between work, family/kids, being social, staying healthy and giving time to self-development. Keeping to a fixed schedule will help in making you feel more productive, be more balanced, as well as ensure you use this time wisely.
3.Adopt collaborative technologies: Adopting collaborative technologies will enable you to feel more connected to your teams, as well as get more efficiency into your work. It also enables you to assess how much of your work can actually be done remotely. Demonstrating a tech driven mindset also makes you appear more forward-looking, brings more consistency to your work and provides the necessary momentum to complete your tasks.
4.Check In: Make sure you schedule time each week to check in with your teams, clients, colleagues, bosses and dial up on the work one on ones. This is a strange time for everyone and a message or call today will go a long way in helping someone feel valued.
5.Take E-Breaks:As this new paradigm of work becomes an ongoing reality, it is important to look to transfer routines that we enjoyed at the office to the WFH zone. So, do take those coffee breaks, schedule a catch up with a colleague or engage in that office banter. You can also make some new routines while you are at it!
6.Schedule in Me Time: As we try to balance the different realms of our life its important to take a moment to schedule in some time each week for self-reflection and development. Set a personal goal each week to ensure you don’t neglect yourself in the process.
7.Get On With It: Accepting that there will be disruptions to work, that visions may need to change and disappointments could be in order, will help you in navigating the uncertainty that this period brings. It is important to build that resilience and flexibility to move ahead despite all odds.
8.Prioritize: In a world governed with this much uncertainty it is important to prioritize our tasks and focus on what is within our control to accomplish at this time. While we may have had a lot of other plans for our lives, and our professional growth, it is important to narrow that down to really hone in on what can be done today. Prioritizing will help with keeping things more manageable, preserve your mental strength, and prevent unnecessary overwhelm.
9.Be Realistic: This current global situation impacts different people in different ways. And hence it is important to acknowledge where you are currently and understand what you can accomplish at this time. It is important to be realistic on our own expectations of our self, first, and then manage those of family and work.
10.Appreciate: Take a moment each day to journal all that you have, the relationships that keep you strong and the organization that provides support during this time. Keeping a mindset of positivity, hope and growth will enable you to use this period of self-isolation more productively for your own and your organization’s success.
*Getting a routine going that includes a fixed time to wake up, dedicated hours for work, time for family, supporting the housework, doing something fitness and wellness oriented, as well as taking some time out per week for themselves
*Setting weekly goals for work and self-development
*Staying connected with their colleagues and friends through not just the phone but throwing in video conversations as well for greater social engagement
*Being realistic with themselves, their work and their families on what they can accomplish given the situation
*Taking a moment to appreciate themselves and all that they have, while engaging in some self-reflection and planning ahead
As we zoom in celebrations, fitness routines, meditation sessions, client pitches, chats with friends and family, the Russian ballet experience, Harvard classes, brainstorming calls and more, there is a real need for us to adopt to new rituals and behaviours as we grow accustomed to the new reality.
(Author Shubika Bilkha is Partner, Edpower-U. Views expressed here are personal.)