The New Normal: Working from Home

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(Photo credit: Sandie Clarke on Unsplash)

The COVID19 epidemic is fundamentally changing how some companies conduct business. Countless employees find themselves home bound and trying to figure out the best way to integrate their home life with their careers.

For me this is nothing new. I’ve been working from home for over a decade. In consulting, I’ve traditionally worked for smaller firms—those who may not have brick and mortar offices (or at least none in my area), so it’s not required for me to commute to an office. Plus, I’m naturally introverted by nature so working in solitude is always a preference for me.

For those of you new to this “there is no work/life balance anymore” world, here are some nuggets of wisdom from someone who’s been doing this for a while:

  1. You can draw a line in the sand between home life and work. But, to keep it real, it will be blurry. Work/life balance is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve discussed it in my job interviews for the past decade+. To be very clear, your company is not 100% responsible for creating that boundary – this is something that you will have to do yourself…and then enforce yourself. Some “rules” that have worked for me (and caveat everything with the fact that I don’t have human children, so my list of distractions is different):
    • When you spend dedicated time with your family, put the phone down. Seriously. Go put it in another room. *You* have to create and enforce this boundary.
    • iPhones have a “do not disturb” feature that will allow you to mute all non-essential distractions for a period of time that you set. I have mine set to start an hour before bedtime, and end at wakeup. But do what makes sense for you.
    • Pick an area of your home to be your dedicated workspace. If you don’t normally work from home, this might be temporary. It could be a kitchen table, an office, or an area of your bedroom. Doing this will help with the psychology of working from home. Go there at the start of each work day to “clock in” and then mentally “clock out” at the end of the work day. If it’s possible, pick an area that you can close off from others so you can focus and have privacy.
    • Put your work laptop completely away when you’re done with work, so that you don’t feel obligated to check your email or log in when you’re not working.
    • Have a talk with your family members to help them understand the boundaries of your work space and ask them to respect them.
    • Have dedicated working hours. Not all jobs allow for this, but try as much as possible to adhere to a schedule. This will also help your mental shift between “work” and “home.”
  2. When it’s time to have an important meeting (let’s be real – not all meeings are “important”), make sure you prep your workspace to be as respectful as possible to the other meeting attendees. If you have a potentially noisy animal, remove them from the space. Let family members know when your meeting is, so they can also respect your space. Understand how to use the mute button so you can mute when it gets noisy in your household.
  3. ^^ Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get this right from time to time. We’re all in this together, and we can all see how challenging this new #WFH world is.
  4. Many companies are asking that people turn on their laptop cameras to encourage social interaction during conference meetings. To prepare for this, test yourself on video in advance. Are there things in your background that you don’t want people to see? Are you somewhat decent looking? (And Ladies, wearing makeup is not essential any more in this new world!) Are you dressed from the waist up? Is the camera pointing at your face? Does it make sense to add a virtual background to maintain your privacy? Can people hear you speak clearly when you talk?
  5. Remember to get out of the house from time to time. This could be a “social distancing-acceptable” stroll around the neighborhood. This could be working from your backyard and in the spring sun. Whatever your choice, even introverts get tired of being inside all the time. Make it work.
  6. And finally, don’t take everything so seriously. What’s happening in the world sucks right now, and much is uncertain. But, we are all in this together and we don’t have a choice but to do our best and get through this.

Stay safe out there!

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