Covid-19 has revolutionized our lives as we knew. Social distancing and staying at home whether we like it or not have very quickly turned our lives upside down. Many of us have never worked from home, many spend more time away from home than at home. The future seems uncertain and our lives confused. We are worried and frustrated. Suddenly being at home is not equal to family fun, but work, family and relaxation. Three in one! Sounds like we won the lottery – except that we didn’t.
I have been isolated in my own home a couple of times in my life, and had to learn how to work from home – without going mad. 28 years ago, in 1992, I was pregnant with my 3rd child. I nearly lost her on the 7th week of the pregnancy, so for the next 25 weeks of the pregnancy I had to stay in bed as there was a big risk of losing the baby. After week 32 I could walk, but couldn’t take the stairs. As there were stairs into the room, I could either stay in the bedroom or be carried out of it. My other children were 2 and 3 years old at the time.
Then 6 years ago I broke my foot and ripped the ligaments of my ankle. 3 months of crutches followed. I lived in a house on a slope, with stairs everywhere. Just a half a year after my foot incident, I broke my knee. Another couple of months on crutches followed. And at home I stayed, again.
This #stayathome time, I think is a great time to share a few pointers on how to work from home during a forced lock-down, whilst still maintaining your sanity. If you’re wondering how you can stay at home when you are so used to moving around, having everything well planned and organized; if you’re struggling with working long hours and the stress of everything depending on you; or if you feel limited and maybe even a bit petrified - here are 6 suggestions of how to make it through this time.
1 - Focusing on the positive – focus on what you CAN do, NOT what you CANNOT do. Forget that you cannot go to the office and have face-to-face meetings with your colleagues, that you cannot have the curtains installed in the common room and the guest library painted. Remember that you are still working. Your focus may have shifted, the curtains will have to wait but you can still work on your computer, use the internet, zoom and team and skype. You can actually work hours on end without guests knocking on your office door. You can work early morning if you feel like it, and have breakfast the whole morning while you are at it. You can take a break when the sun is shining and keep working through the rain. You can work in your pyjamas the whole day if you want to! But of course you don’t want to, in the long run, because you know that:
2 - Keeping a proper structure for your time is essential. This includes scheduling your day. You might be working from home, but you are working. Setting a timetable for work and play not only gets you going in the mornings but reminds you to take off at the end of the day. Working from home also allows for working according to your preferred schedule. Are you most productive in the mornings? Would you rather work later in the evenings and sleep in? Schedule yourself so that you work when you are most productive. If you are working in a team, make sure all of you are working (and properly dressed in case there is a sudden need for a zoom meeting J) a few hours at the same time daily, be it at 10-13 or 15-19, whatever works for all. Having a few hours when everyone can get and share information is essential, and a few hours of fully concentrated work without interruptions raises performance and productivity.
3 - Taking care of yourself is important to keep positive. Eating well, exercising regularly and sleeping properly is a key to keeping healthy and strong. Remember that you also feed your thoughts – try not to dwell on negative news. Are you fortunate enough to have a dog that needs walking? Schedule the walks in your day. Brush your hair, wash your face, get dressed. Do you have a balcony or a garden? Can you at least open a window? Get some sun and fresh air to clear your mind, every day, regularly. Keeping up with family and friends, all be it by calls and teleconferences, is crucial to our mental health – knowing that we are not alone in this helps put things into perspective.
4 - Challenging yourself gets a new meaning when you are restrained. Take part of a 21-day exercise program on-line. Practice playing the instrument that has been sitting in the corner. Read at least an hour each day. Write letters, paint, and dance. Learn to use a new computer program. Finally organize your pantry or winter clothes. Practise creative cooking. (So you have no carrots? What else can you use in the soup that you have in the fridge?) Make the dish you have not made in a long while because it takes so long. Whatever it is, get around to it. It’s like a game – play it. Take note, record your achievements. Fill in the hours that you save from commuting with productive things that are not your work to help separate work and play times.
5 - Celebrating everything is important – it breaks the monotony. Celebrate everything you can: birthdays, the perfect casserole, your family. Organize a date night at home, dressing up and setting the table with candles and flowers. Take a long bath in candlelight when you have accomplished the 25 push-ups. And celebrate your work achievements! It keeps you motivated and develops a successful mindset. ‘YES! I have successfully completed two weeks of working from home’ instead of ‘Oh no, four more weeks to go’ makes a big difference in your motivation.
6 – Defining a purpose is the key point, the point that makes or breaks it.
In 1992, after 3 weeks in bed, I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and was able to hear the heartbeat of my baby. After that, being constrained in my bedroom was easy and I was able to put everything into perspective: 6 months is a short time for me, but for a baby, it is everything.
In 2015, I learned that if I walked without setting my foot on the ground for a few months, it would eventually work properly. I reorganized my life and work so that I did not, and as a bonus, I have never had stronger core muscles than at the end of that year, as I learned to walk up stairs 3 at a time on crutches.
Once you have a clear objective of what it is that must be done, everything becomes easier and adversities become something you work around. Once the initial frustration is controlled, you become more creative.
And once this time has passed you come out stronger, a winner.