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Coronavirus Work From Home Guide

The Coronavirus work from home guide was created out of love and concern to help you navigate this uncertain time.  Many of you may be working from home for the first time ever.  Compound that with trying to manage the needs of kids/pets/aging parents/concerned friends and it can quickly become overwhelming.  

Bottomline: you are going to be less productive.  

That’s right, I said it. It’s virtually impossible to be operating at maximum productivity in these current conditions.  It’s best to avoid setting unrealistic expectations and focus on what you ARE able to accomplish

I’m right there with you. I usually write these blogs in a couple of hours.  Because my two young children and husband are all home, this blog has taken me all week. When my mind moves to all the things I’m not getting done, I get overwhelmed and lose focus.  Don’t go there.  Instead, focus on what you need to get done and congratulate yourself when you check things off the list.

This situation is hard enough without us making it harder by beating ourselves up. If you’re having trouble with this, check this out.

While Coronavirus may be throwing a wrench into our normally rapidly moving lives, we can get through this. And we may just uncover some surprising, delightful insights along the way.  

If you’re like me and you have much less time to get things done in this current environment, scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog for the top three MUST DO things to improve your work-from-home situation.  Otherwise, I’ve added several helpful tips to ensure you have the support you need in these unprecedented times.  

Managing the Anxiety

First, a little perspective. According to statisa, the fatality rate of COVID-19 (coronavirus) is hovering at around 2.2%.  This number decreases the younger and healthier you are.  To give you a comparison, here’s how COVID-19 compares to other viruses we’ve experienced:

Fatality Rate of Major Virus Outbreaks Worldwide in the Last 50 years as of 2020

Bottomline: yes, this is changing our lives in ways that we never imagined.  But if we hunker down now, the vast majority of us with get through this unscathed.  But that mean we’re all going to be stuck inside for an undefined amount of time.  Let’s explore what that means.

Making the Most of Isolation

As I write this from the San Francisco Bay Area, we have been instructed not to leave our house except for essential trips, like grocery store and drug store runs.  And we are allowed to go outside for exercise/fresh air as long as we stay 6ft away from our neighbor.  This is inevitably going to lead to a lot of people to feeling lonely and going stir crazy.  And if your calendar is filled with back-to-back meetings, this is going to be even more difficult.

Look through your calendar and mark yourself as “tentative” for all non-essential business meetings. With the extra time gained, make time to reconnect with old colleagues and friends.   Check-in and see how people are doing.  There’s nothing that makes your priorities more clear than a worldwide crisis.  Who do you miss that you can reconnect with?

We also have no idea how the economy is going to react as a result of this pandemic.  But one thing’s for certain: it will take a hit (click here for an article from UCLA Anderson School of Business that models what that may look like).  Networking is a great way to learn what other people are doing and remind them of the value you bring.  It also helps with loneliness.

If you’re an introvert and the idea of “networking” makes you shutter, you may consider starting to write articles on LinkedIn that establish you as a thought leader in your industry.  This will help you rise to the top of search results when people are looking to hire.

But if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, just focus on creating opportunities to connect with the people you live with and reaching loved ones remotely and leave the business networking to another time. You won’t be an effective networker if you’re feeling overwhelmed anyway so give yourself a break.

Maximizing Productivity

I’ve been working exclusively from home for six years now and most days, I love it.  You don’t have to commute, you can wear whatever you want (if you’re not on video chat), you can work out in the middle of the day and you can get your laundry done between deliverables so nights and weekends can be focused on family and friends.  The freedom is great.  

But it does require an extra degree of discipline than working from the office and there is an art to it.

To help, below is a list of the primary elements that exist in an office that may be challenging as you transition to working from home.  Let’s parse through these so we can identify small changes to introduce while working from home to help bridge the gap.

What you get from the office that you’ll want to recreate at home

  1. Social interactions- helps with loneliness, filling in information gaps, and sparking creativity

Make sure you create space for this, especially if you’re an extrovert.  Instead of diving right into business conversations, carve out the first few minutes of a call with a co-worker to ask how they’re doing and swap personal stories.  Not only does this help you feel less lonely but it helps you build stronger relationships with people you work with.  This is also an excellent time to network with people outside your organization in case you need to find a new job in the future.  LinkedIn can be your best friend to decrease loneliness and also, continue to strengthen your network.

If you’re feeling stuck on a particular project, don’t sit in confusion for too long. Phone a co-worker for help and to unlock some new ideas and fill in information gaps.  But be careful about jumping online– it’s super easy to get sucked into the information overload on the internet and suddenly, an hour has gone by and you haven’t made any progress (but you’ve read through your entire Facebook feed).

  1. Walking to meetings– encourages movement/releases endorphins

Grab your headset and take some meetings that don’t require you to be in front of a computer while walking around.  Bonus points if you can take your meeting while on a walk outside.  Vitamin D + endorphins= so good!

  1. Being physically around your co-workers– allows for timely information sharing

This is probably the biggest challenge working from home creates.  Programs like Slack are a great way to reach out to try and get quick answers.  Also, take down questions as they arise and record them in a document that you can access when you do have scheduled time with the person who can answer them.  Taking a couple of minutes to plan prior to meetings will enable you to make the most of the time and reduce the chance that you’ll need to follow up with them.

  1. Dedicated work space filled with your chosen decorations– increases comfort 

If you already have a dedicated office space at home, you’re lucky.  If not and you suddenly have a pop-up office, find small ways to make it your own. Perhaps a picture of two, a plant, or little knick knacks that inspire you. This will help you feel more comfortable and therefore, better capable of controlling your emotions.

  1. Clear physical distinction between work and home space– helps you focus (and unwinding when you’re away)

If you find the blurred lines between your work and home space prevent you from shifting your brain from work to home life, try and create a physical divider between your work space and your home life. When I lived in the city, I literally had my desk in a closet and just closed the door when work was done for the day. 

Another best practice to resist the urge to work all the time is to schedule time to do other things like yoga, meditation, reading, walking, etc.  You may even decide to replace your commute time with recharging activities.

  1. Dressed to impress– puts you in “work mode”

In the morning, stick to your routine.  Brush your hair and teeth, eat breakfast, and change out of your PJs (even if this means you throw on yoga pants or sweats). Feeling fresh and sticking to a morning routine signals to your body that it’s time to transition out of sleep/relaxation and into productivity.  

Managing your team remotely (if you have one)

Your team is going to take time to adjust to this new norm. And you are too.  The best way to ensure you continue to get things done is to:

  1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize- to help your team managed the increased responsibilities at home, get really clear on objectives.  What are the top three things your team should be focused on right now?  They have limited time and less support and so do you.  So make sure you’re all steering the ship in the same direction or you’ll end up treading water.
  2. Trust your team- if you’ve struggled with micromanagement in the past, you will drown in this environment.  Now is the time to trust the team you’ve built and let it go.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what comes from it.
  3. Make time for your people- you’re going to need to cancel non-essential meetings.  Make sure you prioritize the check-ins with the people who report to you.  They have less access to you now but they will still need your input.  And support.

This is a great time to flex a new muscle if you’re not used to managing a remote team.  And this may even result in new, more effective ways to work together in the future.

Keeping your Kids Busy During Coronavirus (if applicable)

There’s no doubt that a child who is exposed to a variety of activities thrives.  But let’s be real- if you’re working from home and there’s no one who can watch your kids during this time, you’re going to want to loosen the reins on screen time.  You can even choose educational shows if it makes you feel better.  But drop the guilt- it isn’t helping anyone and your kids will survive.  

Many amazing people and publications have already put together great articles to help you keep your children engaged during this time.  The one takeaway I’ve learned from reading all of them is it is best to establish a set schedule that your child can follow every day.  Kids THRIVE on predictability.  Here’s a sample schedule that I referred to as I set a new norm for my kids at home:

Here are some of the best articles I’ve found with ideas of how to keep your child busy and engaged at home:

  1. For school-aged kids: The Secret to Keeping Your Kids Happy, Busy and Learning if Their School Closes Due to Coronavirus- Time Magazine
  2. For toddlers: 20 Ways to Keep Toddler Busy- Teaching Mama
  3. To get out all the wiggles, try Cosmic Kids Yoga available through Amazon TV. They have Disney themed yoga work outs that cater to little ones. We tried it today and loved it!

And, as a bonus, here’s a great article I found about How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus

Ways to Get Exercise During Coronavirus

Although some comedians are using this as a great excuse to make jokes about cancelling exercise (check out Amy Schumer’s Instagram if you need some comic relief), gaining ten pounds on top of all the other difficult changes in your life will not do you a service.  Gyms are closed but there are all kinds of new ways to work out.  

As a new mom and fresh off maternity leave, I used a lot of free exercises on my smart TV when I had 30 minutes between naps and feedings but couldn’t leave the house.  The resources available today are pretty cool, and lots of them are free!  In addition, lots of businesses are trying to help ease the situation by offering free classes.  

Here are a few of the best resources I’ve discovered online: 

  1. On your smart TV, simply search for “exercise” or the specific activity you like to do (yoga, pilates, Zumba, etc.) and a ton of resources will pop up
  2. Peloton is offering new members 90 days of free exercise classes, no equipment needed
  3. YouTube also offers a number of free classes.  Simply search “exercise” and you’ll find a number of options

Also, take the family for a walk or a hike outside.  Because nature and exercise are a magic combination.

If you only do three things differently as a result of this blog, here’s where I would advise you to focus:

  1. Lower your expectations

There’s no way to debate it- that fact that there are additional business complexities, you may have your kids at home and no one able to dedicate their whole day to watching/entertaining them, and your team all working from home for maybe the first time means you are going to be less efficient. I’ve battled this all week and in the process, ended up feeling crappy about my worker productivity and my parenting until I realized, I was setting unrealistic expectations for myself and felt like I was disappointing everyone.   Most importantly, I was disappointing myself.  I decided to switch my thought process and come to terms with the fact that less is going to get done.  And how grateful I am to have my family safe and healthy under the same roof.  Now I feel much better. And I raced through finishing this blog today (while my toddler practiced her letters).

  1. Get clear on your daily objectives

Take a few minutes before you start your day to write your to-do list and focus on the things that are most important to accomplish (refer to #1 when doing this).  To ensure you and your boss are on the same page, clarify priorities with your boss during your next 1:1.  If you manage a team, clarify priorities for your team. You will feel must more productive if you can cross your top priorities off your to-do list and you’ll also be less likely to get distracted.

  1. Get outside and get some fresh air and/or exercise

Even shelter-in-place guidelines allow you to go outside.  Do it. Make it one of your top priorities. You need fresh air and a change of environment.  Even a walk down the street will make you feel better.  Don’t let this one slide.

You’re Not Alone

We’re experiencing times like we’ve never seen before.  There are naturally going to be a lot of emotions, including overwhelm, anger, and complacency.  Let yourself cycle through those emotions.  They’re real and they’re valid.  

But let’s also take a moment to marvel at the outpouring of love and support that has emerged in our communities around us.  You may not physically see anyone outside of your family for days on end.  But you’re definitely not alone.

Want more support with career management during the Coronavirus (and the inevitable economy downturn after)?  If so, sign up for my mailing list.  I got you!

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