by Val Hastings,
As we continue to move forward through uncertainty, the only thing we know for sure is that more things are going to change. Some people who have always worked in brick-and-mortar settings may never return.
The extroverts I speak to think this is horrible, while the introverts wonder, “What’s the problem? This is great!”
Across the board, many people say they’re getting much more done, and feel way more effective at home than in their usual workplace.
I’ve been working at home for more than 20 years and I’ve gone through my share of ups and downs. If you’re struggling, here are some of my own insights and experiences.
Location, location, location
I’m lucky that I have a designated space set aside as my office. I do sometimes switch things up when I need a change in pace, and I may end up in a common room like the kitchen. I’ve spoken to people working in the basement, living room, all over the house.
The best we can do is plan for this, communicate with the other people in our household, and accept the reality that people may wander in and out of “our office.”
Another big mistake I’ve made over the years is to keep my neck locked in the same position. I need to move it around, or better still, move myself around. I also recommend you make sure your screen is in the right position, as best you can (here are some office ergonomic tips from the Mayo Clinic).
“It’s exhausting being in front of a screen all day.”
It’s not your imagination. “Zoom fatigue” is a real thing. Research suggests video calls increase our cognitive load compared with face-to-face meetings, according to a professor of organizational behavior.
While I recommend you create space between all of your meetings, with video calls it’s even more important. Even if you’re not on calls or meetings, experts say to get up at least once or twice every hour to move around.
Also, be aware of eye strain. Shift your gaze away from your screen every once in a while and focus somewhere else. I’ve also been using anti-glare glasses and they’ve helped.
“I’m feeling like I’m working all the time.”
If you’re working harder at home than you did at the office, try to slow down and pace yourself. Again, make sure there is some space between your tasks.
When you work outside of the home or have a designated room as an office, it’s easier to physically separate yourself when you’re on a break or at the end of a workday. If you’re not able to simply close the door, you may need to find some ritual or symbolic way to make that transition.
Even though you can work at home any time of the day or night, don’t. Resist the urge to do one more thing or send one more email in the evening or on the weekend. Set up hard stops for when you will stop working, and hard starts for when you will start.
Try to avoid eating your meals at your “desk,” even if your desk is the kitchen table. Try eating in another room if you can.
“I miss the chit-chats when I’d pass someone in the hallway.”
This one is not as easy in quarantine, but it’s about getting out and connecting with people. If you’re on a walk outdoors, make eye contact and say hello to the people you pass. If that goes well, try a little small talk – while practicing social distancing.
At home, use social media, use the phone, even get onto another video meeting. Be intentional about keeping your social connections strong and making new ones. These don’t have to be deep or long conversations. Just check-in to see how someone else is doing.