In this tough time of social distancing and immediate need to learn how to work from home (WFH), I wanted to share how this journey began for me and how I learned to persevere in the hope it will give you a few ideas during this change in how we are all doing business from home.
In 2011, I broke my fifth metatarsal and needed surgery; this was when I experienced work from home for a long duration. I was fortunate to have this flexibility, and it helped me in my healing process, and I decided to continue working from home even after I healed completely.
I was initially excited for the short commute, work in my pajamas, the flexibility, and multitask with household work. Little did I know that what I was so excited about would end up being my worst enemy. Since the majority of Corporate America is now working from home, I am writing this blog to provide some insights from my experience that may help others eliminate the issues I went through.
I started my conference calls at the crack of dawn; I hesitated to turn on the video option in my calls, as I was barely awake and sometimes not decent enough for people to see me. I stayed in my pajamas all day, which led to my daughter once asking me if I was sick when she returned from school as my appearance made her think I was ill. I didn’t take proper breaks away from my desk. Constantly staring at the monitor made my eyes feel tired always. I would go days without hitting my 10,000 steps a day goal. My healthy eating habits turned into quick, unhealthy meals between calls. I was becoming less fit and wearing loose-fitting pajamas and stretchable yoga pants. I hardly noticed the change. My stress level went through the roof. I would schedule doctor’s appointments and keep canceling them as work would take priority. My social life took a hit as I stopped meeting my friends for lunch.
In addition to the adoption of unhealthy habits, I felt always pulled between work, family, and household chores. Once the kids came home from school, they would barge into my home office and start asking for things without respecting my workspace. They complained that I was always on a call. I decided to block 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. as “unavailable” in my calendar so I could spend time with them. Taking this block of time led to additional work hours as I would get back into my home office after 8:30 p.m. when they went to bed. The bedtime moved out from 10:00 p.m. to midnight, which then led to a lack of sleep. Eventually, I regretted deciding to work from home. In order for me to continue this, I needed to instill some discipline in my life.
I planned my day in advance, so when I woke up, I knew if I was working out in the morning or evening. Depending on this, I would schedule my availability for work. If I started my day without a workout, the first thing I did was shower and get ready. I went to the extent of wearing makeup so I could turn the video on for calls. I designated a specific space for work and told my family strictly that if the door was closed, not to disturb me unless it was an emergency. It took a while to get this practice instilled, but eventually, they started respecting this. Now they text me instead of walking in so I have the option of replying later. When I walked into my office room in the morning, I would have my coffee and a 1-liter bottle with water. My goal was to finish the water by lunchtime. I followed the same practice when I came back to my office in the afternoon. The discipline to workout took some getting used to, but eventually, it became a routine. I laid out some parameters for myself. 1) I would not bring my laptop to the couch or bedroom after my scheduled work time, and 2) I would not go back to my office after I left in the evening. It took a lot of discipline, but it helped. I don’t mind using my phone to check emails, but I would not reply to anything unless it is a quick yes or no type of response. I also made sure to get my six to eight hours of rest. All of this came together gradually, but in the end, I feel like a professional without the commute.
Many of you are experiencing the need to work from home (WFH) these days. You are also a teacher for the school-aged children who are attending online courses, a babysitter for the young ones who are home from daycare. Not to mention handling interruptions from your four-legged family members, and becoming the chef for all the family members who seem to have an increase in appetite while practicing social distancing. These demands definitely take the meaning of WFH to a new level. All I can suggest would be to practice some of the changes I made and maybe those changes can help you. More importantly, set the expectations with your employer that you will need a few breaks in your day to succeed at this new juggling act. Stay safe out there, and best to you as you work from home!
This post was originally published here.