Covid-19 has driven lots of employees to work from home. I’ve been working from home consistently now for more than four years. Here I share my approach, customized for employees that have temporarily moved home. Also included are tips I share with my clients who are leading others through this unprecedented time.
General tips for everyone:
- If you don’t have a home office, put up a desk or table in a quiet part of the house.
- Keep only the essentials nearby. Computer, phone, notebook, and relevant files for the day.
- Clear it off at the end of the day. This will make the next day less stressful.
- Morning routine.
- Maintain the same morning routine. For me this includes a warm beverage, reviewing affirmations or meditation, reading the newspaper, and breakfast.
- Maintain and communicate a consistent start time. I start my office hours at 9am but am available earlier when necessary. I rarely take meetings before then.
- Dress the part. It’s tempting to lounge around in PJs all day. Get dressed. Groom. (You’d be surprised what I’ve experienced first-hand!)
- Schedule everything. I haven’t had a to-do list for more than four years. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth putting time on the calendar to do it.
- Turn off email and messengers. Yes, you need to maintain contact with the outside world, but not every second of everyday. My goal is to check and respond to email no more than three times a day. Some jobs require more immediate response – but be real – most of us don’t have those kinds of jobs.
- Drink heavily. Yes, that’s right. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. And warm drinks are better to help fight off whatever might be going around. I don’t drink anything colder than room temperature.
- Take breaks. Stretch. Play with the dog. Play with your children. They could use the break, too. Yoga, meditation, and other forms of exercise are good, too.
- Speaking of which – Exercise. I like a good power walk in either early or late afternoon. Combined with stretching and fresh air, it’s a great way to stay alert.
- Don’t forget to eat. Have lunch and snack breaks. Eat food where you normally eat – like the kitchen or dining room. Limit eating at your desk.
- News cycle. Turn it off. Limit your consumption of news to the morning paper or news program and an update in the evening. There’s enough out there to consume you 24/7. Don’t do it – it’s not healthy.
- Check in with others. I do this anyway, but with the current crisis, I’m doing it more often. I check in with my adult children daily. I check in with other family members and neighbors about weekly. I check in with colleagues as needed, but no less than monthly.
- End of day.
- Consistent end time. Shut down at a regular time every day. Don’t use email for business purposes in the evening.
- Family time. Now more than ever it’s important to check in with the rest of the family every day. Young children especially don’t understand why all of this is happening. My daughter takes time regularly to help our four-year-old granddaughter understand our current environment.
- Connect socially. I’ve been to more Zoom meetings in the last two weeks than in the last four months. It’s a great way to maintain connections with friends.
- Among other things, I’m a writer. I keep a daily gratitude list and a hand-written journal. Occasionally, when I have more on my mind, I write in an e-journal.
We leaders had almost no time to manage the change as legions of employees marched home from the office. Now that we are all here, there are a few important things you can do as a leader to help your employees cope.
- Follow guidelines. Whether you use mine or someone else’s, encourage employees to follow guidelines for working from home.
- No 24×7. Don’t expect your employees to be on call 24×7. Working from home adds different stressors employees are not accustomed to – especially if they have small children at home.
- Work time. In addition, encourage employees to shut off email and message apps for extended time so they can think and create. (Editorial comment – I believe one of the worst things we’ve invented is instant messaging apps. They encourage bad behaviors, sets up unrealistic expectations, and have destroyed our ability to think critically.)
- Introverts vs. extroverts. Recognize that different personalities have different needs. Your introverts may be thrilled about more private alone time while your extroverts are going crazy because they want interaction.
- Now more than ever, your meetings must have solid agenda with clear objectives. Some meetings are bad enough when they are in person. They are exponentially worse when conducted electronically.
- Encourage social time. Have one meeting a week where there is no structured agenda – at least for part of it. Give employees a chance to catch up with each other. Keep it informal. Also, encourage other social time together. As an example, do a Zoom happy hour from time-to-time.
- Focus on purpose. Keep your organization’s purpose out in front. With added distractions, it will be more difficult for employees to focus. Help them by reinforcing your organizations purpose.
- Recognize struggles. Know that some employees are going to have difficulties with this situation. They may have a relative dealing with the virus. Children are now at home. Elderly parents are at higher risk. It’s a long list and we are just beginning to see the mental health impacts. Keep Employee Assistance Program information available.
- Be an example. Follow these or other guidelines and make it visible as appropriate. For example, you don’t need to tell employees the details of your morning routine but letting them know how yours has changed helps keep the human element visible.
As we continue to proceed through a great deal of unknowns, your role as a leader, and just being human, is critical to the health and safety of others. This means both physically and mentally. Our prayers are with you as we fight this battle.
I always welcome phone calls and emails. Let me know if you’d like to talk. Anytime.
Dedicated to your safe and healthy transformation through this unprecedented time,
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.