May 8, 2020

Best Practices for Working from Home

One of the traits most important to the life of an old tree is how intricate its root system has become. Each root meandering through nooks and fissures beneath our feet, all of which ended up precisely where they are because they served a purpose. Years and years of adapting have allowed that tree to overcome, thrive, and at worst, survive.

In times of crisis…

Our ability to adapt to change, overcome challenges, and thrive is put to the test. With the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altering our day to day lives it becomes increasingly important that we not only bear down on our business skills, but also learn to maneuver through an ever-changing environment with increased complexities. Organizations and employees must learn and adapt to change in order to succeed.

Business as usual

Or is it? I would image most of you would say your lives are quite different today than they were several months ago. Close your eyes and imagine entering your place of business hearing office chatter, phones ringing, photocopiers, and the clicks of keyboards. Those sounds have been substituted by children playing, pitter patter of puppy paws running to every window to investigate (SQUIRREL!), and maybe even an unexpected silence.

Learning to cope with your new work environment is a challenge and we’d be remiss to overlook the impact isolation can have on the human condition. We must set ourselves up for success if we want those around us, including our employers, to also prosper during times of duress. So how do you set yourself up for the new normal?

Home office space

When working from home we often begin tying in our stressors from work to areas of the home in which we work. Having a space, when possible, that isn’t your couch, dining room table, or bed can help you *disconnect*. You may find yourself working longer hours from home than you previously did in office. It’s incredibly important that you separate your day to day work from your sanctuary to decompress. We may not realize it, but subconsciously we will begin to associate rooms in the home with feelings – let’s be sure to keep our safe places just that, safe.

Anyone participating in video calls will want to be sure to find the right lighting. Try not to sit in front of windows as it can create glare and hurt the quality of video. Avoid ceiling fans, dirty dishes, messy bed, etc. in your calls as well. You’re a professional and although not in the office – we want to make sure others know we’re still taking work seriously. Provide yourself a workspace that’s inviting and allows you to do your best work.

Routine

It’s important to hold onto as many of the success factors you relied on prior to quarantine. Incorporating a routine into your work from home schedule is incredibly important. Humans may not like to admit it, but we all love structure and operate better when we have it. Schedule recurring meetings for the same time each day with your teams – they don’t have to last for hours, but need to serve as quick check-ins. In the least a small check-in allows time to be human and have some personal interaction.

If you’re leading the meeting be sure to ask your team how they’re doing and make yourself available to them to talk if needed. Meetings provide all of you the opportunity to connect, stay up to date on deliverables, and just as importantly, see each other. Schedule lunch breaks and some time for you to get up and walk around a bit. You likely wouldn’t sit at your desk for 8 hours straight so try to get up and move around a bit. Adding this into your routine has a lot of health benefits, too!

Sweats and a tee

For some the dress code at their workplace is lax and for others it comes with more formal attire. As tempting as it is to work in comfy clothes all day, make it a point to get dressed for the day by wearing more than your sweats and a tee. Providing a bit more in the dress code at home will allow you to feel a bit more normal, and for some your productivity may increase as you feel more normalcy.

Let’s not forget our outward presentation to peers and clients! For those of you joining video meeting’s it’s wise to keep a more formal top, suit jacket, etc. nearby your workstation so you can easily increase your wardrobe with minimal effort! Treat your wardrobe like a mullet – business up top with a little more relaxation at the bottom. Party on.

My mental health is my rock

Your family depends on you. Your coworkers depend on you. Your clients depend on you. That can add up to quite a stressful scenario when business is all but normal. One of the hardest and most unspoken aspects to dealing with newly found work from home is the toll it will take on mental health. Stepping away from work for some may mean stepping directly into parenting, being a significant other, or being a child of a parent in need – this can be overwhelming at times.

I often tell my team to be the lighthouse – a beacon of hope and stability for all of those in need. Dependable. Able to weather the storm and still shine bright at the darkest of hours. In order to succeed in being a source of reliability and strength for others we must maintain the aspects of ourselves that are intrinsic to our core.

Everyone’s non-negotiables are different. Identify what you need to succeed. I need to laugh. I at times need to cry, too. Music softens my core. It’s ok to be vulnerable with yourself. Decompress. Try to meditate, do yoga, run, walk, write – whatever it is that fills you and allows you to exhale. As much as we’ve adapted our work environments at home, we need to also be sure to hold on to the areas we have to express and decompress. As much as others may depend on you – you depend on you more.

The global response to COVID-19 has varied and so will your experience with work at home. No two lives are the same and you may find some tricks work better for you than others. Good luck in all you do and wishing you success in the days and weeks to come!

Ryan is a Virginia native who has 18 years of retail experience across multiple industries. In his current role at RELEX Ryan serves as a Business and Account Manager. He’s an avid outdoor enthusiast most likely to be found hiking the mountains of Virginia on his days off with his 6 month old puppy named River.

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