Working from home takes some grit.

Corrine had just finished putting her five-year-old son to bed.   The three-day-old pile of clean laundry had been folded and stacked.  The daily, week-to-date, and year-to-date reports she had worked on for the past few days had finally been given a green light by all the necessary managers.

This COVID-19 pandemic had finally given her the work option she so desperately wanted since the year began …working from home.  As the digital alarm clock on the breakfast nook flashed 10:30 pm, all seemed well.

Except that… it wasn’t.

She was dead beat and exhausted beyond words.  This was new.  Corrine never felt this way even when things got hectic at work.

Barely a month into the community quarantine, she found herself raring to get back to the tiny office cubicle she once abhorred.  “I got to finish more in such a shorter time”, she thought. No matter how her day went, she looked forward to kicking off her heels the moment she went home.  Then, It felt as if she had left the day’s problems by the door with her shoes.

This time, it felt like work issues followed her everywhere.

What made her feel worse was guilt.  She cherished spending more time with her son but couldn’t quite understand why she wanted her old routine back.

If this feels familiar, you aren’t alone when it comes to working from home

Working from home has been romanticized to perfection – no tiring commutes, more time with loved ones, flexible work hours, a relaxed working environment.  To an extent, these perks are real.  But if you are new to the game, remote work can prove to be more stressful.

Why so?

For one, it’s isolating.  As if social distancing weren’t enough, work from home quarantines you from face to face interaction.  Second are boundary issues.  Where does work begin? Where does it end?  What do you do when a home office isn’t possible? Third, your work set up may not leave you enough room to switch from home to work and vice versa.  The challenge is real.  Switching from work to home to work to home can take its toll.  Last but not least, if you’re programmed to a certain routine at the office, too much work or not enough of it can easily throw you off.

Here are some strategies to avoid them.

When working from home fix your work area

No matter how “temporary” the situation feels to you, designate a place for work. Many greenhorn remote workers do their jobs from breakfast nooks, living room armchairs, beds, and bedside tables.  Over time, these incorrect spaces can take its toll on your body with back pains and other health issues.  Find a stool, chair, and table with the right height.  If you work with a computer, be conscious of height and elbow positioning.

When working from home establish boundaries

Delineate spaces.  Family members (or flatmates) should be made to understand that just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’re readily available anytime for play, chats, and errands.  Have an open and honest conversation regarding work hours.  Keep your home office off-limits during work.  If a home office isn’t possible, create an office “zone”.  Children need to be reminded more frequently.  One technique that works for a home quarantined accountant is putting up signs. A red block on the desk means he couldn’t be bothered except when the house was burning – because even the tiniest interruption can knock off productivity.

Avoid making the kitchen table and living room places of work.  These are zones you should “come home to”.  Bringing work to these areas makes it harder to begin or end your workday.  

When working from home balance your workload

Too little work can do as much damage as doing too much.  If your routine in the office involves a particular workload, get that balance going.  Bid for more work if need be.

On the flip side, don’t let work take over your life.  Set boundaries with supervisors, team members, and even clients when it comes to late-night messaging, calls, or even emails.  It’s easy to fall into a perpetually-connected culture with apps that work for phones and computers.  Disconnect at the end of each workday.  Your consistency when it comes to responses will make everyone think twice before messaging you at midnight – because they know you’ll reply soon anyway.

Last but not least, give yourself regular breaks just as you would at work.  Since leaving the house isn’t a great idea at this time, connect with your friends and colleagues virtually. Take advantage of technology. It can never replace human interaction, but it’s the only way that gives you a sense of community at this time.

Care to learn more about the topic of working from home?

Next week:  Remote Work Tips for New Remote Work Managers

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

Project Team CultureAbout TIGERS Success Series, Inc.

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