Even as we master new skills and transition to this socially distant reality, there’s the anxiety of so many unknowns that no amount of planning or personal diligence can help us to control. So how do we cope? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up over the past several weeks.
My WFH Coping Kit
Have and maintain a routine
Don’t make being at home an excuse for behavior that is otherwise not reflective of how you want to live or present yourself. Make the bed every morning and keep things tidy, get up and get dressed — I strive to look like the professional and leader that I am daily. This routine puts me in the right mindset each day. I read an article written by a much-decorated retired military general who said, if you cannot handle the small task of pulling yourself together at the start of each day, why should anyone look to you to lead when it really matters? That resonated.
Have regular check-ins with colleagues. Our morning virtual coffees are something I look forward to in order to receive and give quick updates, share good news. In addition, my one-on-one meetings with members of the executive team have become even more important, as is connecting to all staff in order to have a sense of shared purpose, which may be as simple as sharing a recipe for an easy lunch or talking through plans for a new online service.
Communicate with care
Remember the old adage, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it”? I’m not sure that’s still true, as what you say is very important when we are all living through a global crisis. The topics you choose to raise can influence the overall mood and spirit of the team. When daily news updates include how many people have died and how many new cases of the virus have been determined — not to mention the financial burdens this pandemic is and will continue to have on global business — it can be easy to focus on the doom and gloom of the day within your messaging. I could easily fall into this regarding the impact on ACC and our finances.
I don’t recommend sugar-coating or misrepresenting the truth. However, once known, the negatives should not be dwelled upon, but the strategy and vision forward should be the focus. Further, do not speculate, but speak from a place of knowledge and facts to the extent possible. We all know that speculation can cause miscommunications, misunderstandings, and mistakes. Therefore, communications need to be focused and crafted with care. What is said, how and where, matters today more than ever.
Sink or swim in technology’s riptides
I’ve lost the luxury of on-site tech support and someone to come over and “fix” it for me. Sound familiar? In the office we can get help from a colleague when technology proves … challenging. Without that help, or safety net, it’s like being tossed into the pool and having to learn to swim in order to get the job done! And guess what? I am learning. It is humbling, but I’m proud of being able to navigate my way. Also, when technology inevitably does not work, be forgiving, resourceful, and have good humor. We are all experiencing the same challenges; people understand. And that technology gremlin who drops in at the most inconvenient time to make familiar processes suddenly freeze up or fail will eventually go away.
Versatility and pride in self-reliance
Many of us already wear multiple hats — employee, caretaker, virtual educator, community leader, etc. Now we wear those hats in the same room and continue to add to them. For example, I am now also an IT repair professional (if you count climbing under my desk to reconfigure cables, reboot and install systems and apps, and review online tutorials to follow the instructions), and an administrative assistant — organizing my daily schedules and necessary materials to review, implementing a filing and tracking system to find what I need, and more. I’m also moonlighting as a hair colorist, cleaning lady, gardener, house repair, home chef, manicurist, dog groomer, bartender — all roles I happily “outsourced” before. While these may all fall under the category of “first world problems of the privileged,” this is still a big change. We all have to give ourselves some grace and some slack. Yet we are juggling a lot more than we thought we could. We have our communities and networks to rely on. We are resilient.
Take time for you
As the lines between our work and home lives become even more blurry, it’s important to create separation and remember to take personal time. Keep work out of your bedroom for example, and schedule time to veg out with a movie or a good book. Take a walk. Listen to music and get up; dance like no one can see you; sing like no one can hear you (because for many of us, this is likely true!). Be a little bit selfish and carve time for you. My sanctuary is now my garden where weeds don’t stand a chance and instead of spending time with electronic equipment, I am literally slowing down to smell the flowers.