A Series to Help You Navigate Leadership, Work, Life in today’s climate of chaotic disruption and unknowns – aka, Covid 19.
TODAY’S TOPIC: If you’ve never worked from home…
In a world that keeps changing it’s hard to imagine we haven’t yet seen it all. Just when you think you’ve got your arms around the last change – here it comes again. More swerves, unknowns, and this time – a tidal wave of unexpected disruption with Covid 19.
How to cope with all the unknowns, complexities, changes and challenges? How do we find a new normal – at least for now?
I certainly don’t have all the answers. Like you, I’m trying to find my equilibrium too. But I do have a wealth of resource via experiences, thoughts, ideas, and strategies that I’m doing my best to tap into personally and professionally – and I thought they might be helpful to you too. I will be writing about various issues in a series to support us all as we find our way in unprecedented times. And….I will also very likely invite you to some complimentary online gathering opportunities to connect together (stay tuned). We need more than ever to stay “Undistanced” in a ‘Social Distanced’ world. Read on!
Today’s Topic: If You’ve Never Worked From Home…..
Right now, millions of people around the world are being asked to stay home. For the lucky ones who still have a job, they will work from home and receive a paycheque. Many are grateful for that. But, if you’ve never worked from home in a sustainable way beyond an occasion day here or there, it can be disorienting – for many reasons, and especially with all the stress associated with why we are staying home.
“Social Distancing” (more appropriately now called “Physical Distancing” is imperative but is going to take a toll. For many, it will be difficult to maintain focus, be productive, and get stuff done. Perhaps you have a full house, an ill-equipped workspace, and distracted mindset (all that news and uncertainty coming at us at lightning speed!). It also takes a huge hit on our need to be social and feel connected. Work provides that built-in social network. Colleagues, staff, clients – all that people factor built into our days. Without all that one might find themselves feeling isolated and lonely.
As an independent business owner (first in communications, then coaching and training), I’ve worked from a home base for many, many years. I thought I’d share just a few starting strategies to help you navigate and create your new ‘normal’ working from home. And more to come!
7 TIPS — If you’ve never worked from home
Create a (reasonable) Structure to Your Day:
It’s nice to have white space for a short bit but too much white space can pull you into an abyss of unproductive activity, a feeling of isolation, and other unhelpful habits and feelings. Instead, take time to carve out a starting schedule. Your work might in some way naturally set that up (i.e. if you have meetings, are on call, etc.). But if you don’t have built in structures, create them.
Daily rituals and a plan for each day can help. They need not be ultra rigid or scheduled to the nth minute, but writing out plans, tasks, and goals for the day with some timing associated with them can give us some helpful structure and focus for the day.
Carve Out a Dedicated Space for Work:
If you don’t already have a home office, find a special (and hopefully quiet) space that you can designate as your work area. This will will help you create a space mentally that signals ‘this is work time’ which can help you get into the zone. If you live with others (family, room-mates), try to establish some agreements around space boundaries, quiet time, etc.
Take Breaks. Make them Meaningful:
Taking breaks is important whether you are at your workplace or based at home. Your brain needs a refresh every 20 minutes or so. If working at home is new for you – you might find yourself challenged by taking too many distracted breaks or too few meaningful breaks. Find your balance but do make sure you give yourself some time to refresh and recalibrate.
Staying Informed But Go Easy on …
Speaking of breaks, taking some time to check in on latest updates via the news, social media, and other outlets is fine. It’s important to stay informed – especially as the Covoid 19 situation is unfolding at a rapid, unpredictable pace. But a word of caution: too much consumption on the scary, scary news of the day can be disruptive to your wellbeing too. Find a balance. Check in, tune-in, but balance your intake.
The idea is to keep yourself safe, fueled and focused. Can’t tell you how many people have been feeling lost in the vortex of the current crisis. Consume wisely.
Connect with Others (virtually).
Social distancing means physical distancing but you don’t have to (nor should you) go it alone. It will be extremely important to find ways to engage and connect with others. And luckily there are ample ways to connect virtually. This will be especially crucial for collaborative work. But even if your duties aren’t collaborative, you still need to find ways to connect with others. More to come on this to come but for now, reach out and call others. Take advantage of all the media that’s available to connect — i.e. Facetime, Zoom, What’s App — and more.
(FYI, speaking of connecting, I’ll be inviting you all to an online gathering real soon. Stay in touch (sign up for my newsletter to hear more).
Create Goals To Fuel You:
Goals are always a good idea to give your life (and any given timeframe) a sense of purpose, focus, and inspiration. And now especially, there’s never been a better time to create goals to energize you. They need not be huge goals. Tiny ones will do fine. See this article on Tiny Goals. Your goals can be related to your work (get some stuff done!), to learning (a new skill or some personal development). And even about how you engage with yourself, others, and this particular tough time in life. Break them down into chunks and tasks. Or use that SMART goal formula to make sure they are specific; measurable; actionable/attainable; realistic, and time-sensitive.
Self Care – and Take Care of Your Inner Game:
This is a huge one. I’ll be revisiting this in more depth. The gist though is that as you tend to all the stuff in your ‘outer world’ (figuring out work; finances; getting food and supplies) which is increasingly more complex you will also need to navigate your internal world. Your emotions, resilience, mindset – and more.
Make sure you intentionally pay ample attention to the good in all this challenge; practise gratitude; learn to develop a positivity habit (more coming); and consider learning some mindfulness (also coming).
Leaders – Communicate, communicate, communicate:
If you are a leader and have never lead remotely, now is the time to shore up on your skills! For starters, make sure you find ways to show up with the team and empower team connection. This means communicate, communicate, communicate.
Communications is crucial at any time but extremely so during times of crisis and uncertainty. Make sure you talk to your people regularly and not only about the work but also about the bigger picture of what’s going on with the organization, and with their own lives. This is a time to show support, compassion, and care. Never was there a more important opportunity for you to show your human side of leadership.
MORE TO COME — on these and other ideas on how to find your way in this unfolding time of challenge. I’ve barely tapped the surface of all the challenges and questions you likely have. You likely have more questions AND lots of wisdom and ideas to share. Stay tuned for invitations to gather collaboratively to share and exchange ideas. If you aren’t already on my mailing list – what are you waiting for? Please join and be part of a community to support you in of leadership, learning, life.
(Btw, if you’ve ever thought you might want to tap into the support of a coach for any of the above, this could be the idea time. I’ve got a few people who signed up with me recently not ‘in spite’ of the current situation, but ‘because’. AND if you are concerned about finances, I am putting together a very special rate card for these times of Covid so that I can be here for you at a time you may need it most (seriously, check in with me on that… Should we talk?)
Till next time – stay safe and well,
Eileen Chadnick, PCC, ABC is principal of Big Cheese Coaching and an award-winning coach and communications professional in Toronto. She specializes in career management, leadership development, and communications. She works with leaders (aspiring to experienced) and organizations to foster personal, professional, and organizational wellbeing. She draws from the disciplines of emotional intelligence, Conversational Intelligence®, and neuroscience. Author of the book, Ease: Manage Overwhelm in Times of Crazy Busy, Eileen is also a contributing leadership and careers columnist with the Globe and Mail. Join her in conversations about leadership, learning, life!