Most of us non-essential workers have now been in lock down for nearly two months. Our habits are slowly changing and we are beginning to accept this new reality that we did not see coming. While I’ve always been a remote worker, I thought the lock down would not be a major challenge for me. But having the entire family at home all day every day has posed some interesting challenges for all of us, and I am no exception. I wanted to share some of the changes I’m incorporating as I continue to adapt to this new norm.
Prior to the lock down, I traveled most weeks and so did my colleagues. Now that everyone is at home in front of their computers, the expectations are just different. Most of us are working way more now to meet the increasing demands and to also manage the optics of being productive. As a result, we are doing a poor job of defining our boundaries. Since our colleagues are stuck at home as well, work related queries prop up at all times of the day and we feel obliged to respond more than ever before. As I hinted above, some of this might also stem from the uncertainty that we are all facing with respect to our jobs and us wanting to go the extra mile to differentiate ourselves. But this affects our mental and physical health and also affects those around us. We need to define boundaries. I am guilty of not having done so all through these years but the lock down has made me realize it’s importance. A simple change that I’ve incorporated these days is to shut down my work computer by 6 pm. I am not afraid to push back anymore when I feel the expectations are unrealistic and I have found that people respect you more when you do provided your reasons are logical. I’m also beginning to realize that my actions have an impact on my peers as well. I am now trying to set the right example.
Don’t Neglect Your Health
Our physical and mental well being should be something that we always prioritize. And you would think that working from home should mean that one has additional time to focus on health. This has not been my experience so far. Being a diabetic, it’s critical that I have my meals frequently and on time. However due to constant meetings, it’s been a challenge. There are days when lunch is pushed past 4:30pm. If you are dealing with the same issue, my advise would be to block time on your calendar for meals. Since all meetings are virtual these days and people are in various time zones, chances are that your calendar is booked during meal times unless you block it off. While I have not implemented this yet, I hope to do so soon! I have however been better when it comes to having breakfast and sleeping 7-8 hours each night. This has really helped me maintain my blood sugar and control stress to a certain degree.
Share The Burden
It’s tempting for us as individuals to focus solely on our career and challenges and forget that our spouse (whether employed or not) is also dealing with various challenges and that our kids are going through tremendous change and need our full attention. It’s important that we do our fair share and help out in whatever way we can. This could mean adjusting our work to make sure we help out with cooking, checking on our kids and helping with school work or whatever else. One does not need to feel guilty to let a peer or a boss know that you need to take some time out of your work schedule for such things. Family above all, especially now!
Find A Creative Outlet
I spoke earlier about the importance of mental well being. While success at work and time spent with family helps with this, it is also important to carve out some time for yourself to do the things you love. I know this is challenging given the current circumstances, but we need to make a conscious effort to do so. In my case, I’ve been trying to spend more time making music, listening to podcasts and reading. I also recently kicked off a podcast that I am quite excited about. I know others who go for long walks, paint, cook etc. Whatever it is that excites you, find that outlet and spend some time doing what you love.
Build New Skills
I called this out separately from investing in your creative side as I see this as time spent building new skills that help in your career primarily and I feel both are important. So this could be a course that you sign up for on Udemy, Coursera and the like, doing an online certification or pursuing a degree. I recently signed up for a course on ethical hacking just to broaden my security acumen. When you have down time, make the most of it by learning something new that will help you get better at your job and further your career. Don’t let time go to waste.
Invest In Others
Most of us are extremely fortunate to have jobs and earn a decent wage during this economic downturn. However, many around us are not so lucky. So it is important to give back in whatever way you can. While we can all make a monetary impact in others lives, another way to make a difference is by investing your time in mentoring others. See how you can help their careers by understanding their goals, charting out a plan and helping them along the way training them, having regular touch points and getting them introduced to others in your network who could help them in their career. I have taken on a few more mentees at work and I spend an hour or so every week with each of them. I am confident that I will learn from their experiences just as much as they learn from mine.
While this list will continue to grow, these are the areas that I am focusing on for now. I hope to update this over time. Would love to hear about your experiences.