Whether you’re new to working from home or you’ve worked remotely for years, COVID-19 is presenting challenges for all workers right now. It’s stressful enough to process the big changes happening to our economy and society, but there’s probably a lot happening within your own home too.
For starters, you may be concerned about loved ones, worrying that they remain protected or recover from illness. You probably have more people sharing your space as schools and offices send everyone home. You may be feeling a little stir crazy without your usual social outlets to go to and your routines interrupted.
And you may be dealing with work in flux and a little frenzied as projects are canceled and postponed. Or you’re having to turn deliverables around sooner – like yesterday.
While all these changes add stress to your day, it can be tough to concentrate. Here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years to stay productive and focused during difficult times.
Let’s be honest, many of us don’t make as much time for self-care as we should. It’s all too easy to give up exercise or downtime and put work or the needs of loved ones first. But if you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you know the safety instructions say to put the face mask on yourself before your child. After all, you can’t help someone when you’re losing consciousness, right? Likewise, you can’t be as helpful to clients or loved ones when you’re emotionally, mentally, and physically tapped out. Here are a few ways to add self-care back into your day:
- Take breaks throughout the day. Schedule reminders in your calendar or download an app that reminds you to walk around, stand up, drink water, watch a funny dog video, or to take a few relaxing deep breaths.
- Move your body. Movement is linked to many health benefits from reduced pain to improved mental clarity and moods. In addition to regular exercise, you can do little things that add up throughout the day. You can pace around the room while on the phone, stand up during meetings (put your laptop on a box if you don’t have an adjustable desk), or walk outside for a few minutes in between calls.
- Schedule yourself. If you need help prioritizing yourself, schedule a workout or other self-care into your calendar a few times each week. You must treat yourself like a real appointment, so don’t push it off or ignore it, unless you absolutely must. Then be sure to reschedule it as soon as possible.
- Reach out regularly. One of the biggest challenges of remote work is dealing with loneliness and isolation. A Gallup report, How to Manage the Loneliness and Isolation of Remote Workers, explains how one can lead to the other and what managers can do to help their teams combat it. If you're feeling lonely, reach out. Call a peer or someone in your network, join one of the many virtual Meetups or other online groups. Or try professional counseling resources like Talkspace or Ginger.io. There’s a reason so many resources exist to stay connected; we all need each other to feel human. So empower yourself by reaching out.
Set new workday rules
If you’re in a town where schools and offices are closed, you’re probably finding it challenging to focus when there are other people who are at home sharing your space and making lots of noise. Reclaim your productivity and sanity by setting boundaries—yes, even with kids.
- Create a designated workspace. Even if it means sitting in the closet with a TV tray and folding chair that you put away at the end of each workday. Having your own space can help you concentrate and feel more organized. For inspiration or to check out how other people work from home, check out photos from Zapier employees or grab one of these chic video backgrounds for your next Zoom call.
Another tip: If you’re working from a space that has multiple functions, such as a dining table, clear away all evidence of work at the end of the day. It helps reduce stress when you separate your workspace from your personal space.
- Communicate your schedule. If you have other people working from home and need to share the same phone line, share calendars so you can schedule calls when the phone’s available. Or so you know when to put on headphones while the other person is talking. Tools like Calendly, Google Calendar, and Clockwise can make scheduling easier. It also helps to give reminders like, “I’ll be on a call in 5 minutes, please don’t turn on the TV until after 3:30.”
- Set a hard stop. Your clients may be working long days as they figure out their work-from-home boundaries. But that doesn’t mean you must answer texts and emails that come in after your standard work hours. Setting hard stops goes back to self-care. You can politely reiterate your hours to clients when you answer their email the next morning.
Check out this article on 8 Ways to Stay Focused When Working Remotely
There are many other resources to support you and your business during these unusual times. It seems new programs are being created weekly as COVID-19 affects more communities. You can get started by checking out these sites:
For emotional/mental support:
- CDC’s “Manage Anxiety and Stress” tips
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s guide for parents and caregivers
- SAMHSA’s “Coping With Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks” tips
- SAMHSA’s “Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health” for tips on social distancing, quarantine, and isolation
- SAMHSA’s “Talking With Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreak...” offers strategies for helping children manage stress
- Vibrant Emotional Health’s Safe Space provides interactive coping tools
- suicidepreventionlifeline.org for helpful resources or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is free, confidential, and available to everyone in the U.S. You do not have to be suicidal to call the Lifeline.
For financial support:
- Small business (SBA) COVID-19 disaster loan assistance
- Your local governor or mayor’s offices. For example, Washington offers no-interest hardship loans to small businesses and New York City is offering special loans and grants)
- Financial institutions. Many suggest calling for support and some offer specials like Citi is waiving fees to qualified businesses.
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