Apr 5, 2020 | From home: tips and tricks

HOW WORK HAS CHANGED EVER SINCE THE CORONA CRISIS BROKE OUT

The corona crisis stirred the job market and changed the workflow in companies around the world. In these circumstances, business is moving online, and as professionals, we need to adapt and become efficient remote workers. This blog post lists some strategies for achieving good results at working from home. Let’s hope this material is useful to you!

HOW WORKING FROM HOME IS DIFFERENT

Firstly, the difference between working from the office and working from home is more mental than physical. At the end of the day, most of us were used to do sedentary work and collaborated through emails and other media even before the crisis. Today, organizing a progress meeting online is not a problem. There are only rare occasions when the productivity of such a meeting is considerably lower than the “traditional” face-to-face gathering. It is why while working from home, your working schedule does not need to be much different from working from the office.

We can often be even more productive while working from home, once we do not need to commute; this should spare between 30 and 120 minutes per working day. For most people, commuting time is this limbo during the day when you neither work, nor exercise, nor relax. If you bike to your workplace, you can count this time as a physical exercise. But if you walk or commute by public transportation, you will not get much fitter. Plus, you need to keep your attention to what happens around you on the way which makes it harder to relax. For most people, the lack of necessity to commute is a blessing!

So, why is working from home so hard? Firstly, it is hard because you lose the mundane, everyday contact with people. Chatting to others – even if it is just a casual, counterproductive small talk with some annoying, nosy colleagues by the coffee machine — is beneficial for our sense of belonging in the long run. Without these everyday little personal contacts in the workplace, from exchanging smiles in the corridor to birthday greetings and little celebrations, one can slowly descend into depression.

Secondly, it is hard to work from home because you lose the baseline for comparing your behavior and/or performance with other people. Comparing is a very natural thing that we subconsciously do all the time. For instance, would you be concerned that taking a lunch break for the whole hour is too long and counterproductive? If you notice that all your coworkers take the same lunch break (as this is a general habit in your new workplace), you probably wouldn’t have these concerns. So, when you are working from home, you can’t see in real-time what other people on the team are currently doing. It can generate a sense of guilt and an impression that you never really do enough.

Thirdly, it is hard because you have more temptations than usual. No one is looking at you from behind your shoulders to check whether or not you are working. The dopamine generators like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, or YouTube, are all there, smiling at you from the open tabs in your browser. The fridge full of tasty food is nearby. The sunshine behind the window makes you think that this would be a good time to do some gardening or take a walk in the park.

HOW TO DEAL WITH YOUR NEW LIFE AS AN EMPLOYEE WORKING FROM HOME?

How to overcome all these issues? There are many solutions you can consider. The obvious ones are, among others:

  • Creating a home office, with a clean desk and a minimal amount of items and distractors around,
  • Experimenting with various working schedules,
  • Making sure that your working- and sleeping hours are regular,
  • Eating well,
  • Exercising regularly (btw, in times of the corona crisis, there are lots of good free online training programs such as Natalia Vtuyrina’s stretching class).

But, there are also more non-obvious (mental) tricks that are equally important. From my experience, sticking to these rules can make a difference between descending into a feeling of imprisonment and apathy, and a true blast while working from home.

1. SPARE MERCY FOR OTHERS

People who can successfully carry on with working in isolation usually have double standards for empathy. It sounds counterintuitive, but to stay in command of your life while working from home, you need to treat yourself worse than you normally treat other people. In situations when you would recommend someone who works for you (or your student) to rest — as they feel tired, dizzy, demotivated, or ill — you need to tell yourself to shut up and continue working instead. If you are not hard on yourself – and you let yourself rest every time it feels right – your mind will soon create more and more reasons to complain and to take breaks.

2. FORGIVENESS

At the same time, you need to be able to forgive yourself. With working from home it is like with keeping a diet: if you happen to break your own rules and cheat one day, you need to put yourself together as fast as possible and come back to the diet routine on the very next day — instead of dropping the diet completely or promising to yourself that you will get back on the diet after “just one more cheat day.”

3. NO NEWS

While working from home, you are more vulnerable to depression and other mental problems. You can catch yourself looking into the mirror more often and searching for the first wrinkles, thinking about passing time or the meaning of life way more often than before. Therefore, it is important to be selective about the information that you let into your head. Plus, to avoid putting any seeds of negative thoughts in your mind. Avoiding the daily news is, in general, a good strategy as TV news is usually a compilation of catastrophes, deaths, quarrels in the parliament, and potential threats.

Plus, people who achieved anything – from politicians, through artists, to entrepreneurs – are usually pictured in a bad light on the media; either as greedy, empty inside, sociopathic, or stupid. How can you get anywhere with your career if you are conditioned to think that all the people on top are evil? So, let your family and friends filter the information for you! If important events are going on in the world, they will call you and tell you about it.

4. MASTERMIND GROUP

Create yourself a mastermind group: contact 2-4 other people who also work from home and who are at similar career stages as you are. These people do not necessarily need to be your closest coworkers, but rather, they should wish you well, have a similar type of job, and be highly motivated. It is good to have pacemakers and induce a bit of friendly peer pressure. Therefore, it is advisable to check in online regularly (e.g., once a week), monitor the progress, and brainstorm in a group.

5. YOU

Working from home is a test for multiple relationships. Are your friends going to make an active effort, reach out to you and talk to you online? Are your coworkers going to stick to the deadlines and help you in completing projects in time once you don’t have face-to-face contact daily? Once you start working from home, your perception of multiple relationships with other people might change for good. You will be positively surprised about some of them, while some other people will heavily disappoint you. But, one relationship put under a particularly hard test in this situation is your relationship with yourself. Do you even like yourself? Do you want good for yourself? Do you believe in yourself? Or, rather, will you will sabotage your own goals? When you look into the mirror in the morning, do you have a strong feeling that you want to help this person go forward? Do you need thumbs up from your boss every day to feel good? Or, do you do what you do because you genuinely feel that this is the best way of spending your time?

Many people believe that the key to effectively work from home is to create a system of little rewards and please yourself after completing every chunk of work. However, if you really need to reward yourself for working, the question is: do you actually have a plan, do know what you want, and do you take steps towards your goals? As then, making the next step should be a reward in itself.

So, if you want good for yourself and if you have a plan, you will not care if there is sunshine or thunderstorm behind the window, if you receive feedback for your work, or whether or not other people help you with your projects – you will just sit down, open your laptop, and proceed with your journey no matter what. One step at a time. Day by day. Always forward. So, as much egocentric as this sounds, it is advisable to smile to yourself in the morning, bringing back a few warm thoughts about what you like in yourself, and why you wish yourself the best. This piece of advice sounds trivial but, especially for people coming from academia, this might be actually hard. In academia, we are taught that we should not think too good of ourselves, that we have to accept a lot of inconvenience and hardship in daily life and be proud that our sweat, blood, and tears (might) serve the humanity. Whereas at the end of the day, self-love is the only way to keep yourself going regardless of the circumstances.

If you know of any other strategies that are highly effective, please drop your comments below. Good luck with working form your home office!

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2020, April 5th). From home: tips and tricks. Retrieved from https://nataliabielczyk.com/from-home-tips-and-tricks/

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If you would like to read more about careers (for PhDs and other white-collar professionals) and effective strategies to self-navigate in the job market, please also take a look at the blog of my company, Welcome Solutions where I write posts dedicated to these topics.

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