Let’s Be Honest, It’s Not All Been Plain Sailing

By now, if you are one of the few who have had the ability to work from home, you are starting to realize there are not so great aspects of working from home. At first, you may have revealed yourself working at the edge of your bed, wrapped in a warm blanket, or going to the kitchen to get a snack instead of heading out of your office all the while carefully avoiding the water cooler. Maybe you celebrated the lack of traffic you experienced rolling out of bed, on your way to the sofa for work, just maybe.

Blurring The Boundaries Between Work And Home

But now, you may realize that this situation has indeed brought out quite a few negative aspects. You may have noticed that there is a lack of working boundaries and, as such, your privacy is constantly invaded by your job with impunity (not to mention by those you may live with). You may even feel that there’s no longer any room for simple, private tasks like taking a shower or going to the bathroom in peace.

As someone who has worked from home for close to five years now, I feel like this situation has become even more intense by the event that caused it: COVID-19. Yes, working from home is like this somewhat, however, the situation is exacerbated by the forced isolation or by the uncertainty of ever having another get-together with your coworkers in the near future.

There are so many of my work-mates I have been looking forward to seeing again, not to mention visiting London and Ipswich once more. I was even hoping that some could even come visit me in Atlanta this summer. Now, I’m not sure when I will ever see them in person again…

So we must press on and keep going, knowing that each day the situation in the world is getting better. In the meantime, here are my top 5 suggestions to keep in mind to make it easier to deal with working remotely.

1. Clear Divisions

By now, you may feel that sense of lost time. It may feel like the day never ended and you feel yourself asking if it’s Thursday yet. Maybe you have a special day where you can officially relax and pursue hobbies or interests, only to find that specialness is now gone. That is because when you work from home, sometimes that new found freedom lends itself to a lack of schedule or daily routine. You may find yourself rolling out of bed to hop onto a meeting, leaving no time for a proper breakfast. Your morning coffee ritual is all but completely gone, hanging on by the thread that is your dependence on caffeine. The lines of time have all blurred and disappeared. It’s a tiring existence, leaving no personal time to live.

To change this and reclaim your time, set divisions of tasks and absolute boundaries. Make a schedule and follow it to the letter, even if those around you push for more. Get up early with the intent of making breakfast and follow through, it’s worth the effort to properly feed yourself.

You’re worth it, after all. Create a work cutoff time and let your coworkers know about it. That gives you room to destress while giving leeway to those you work with to respect your privacy and call you if there’s a real emergency. Give yourself enough time to change your clothes for the day. Trust me, you’ll feel much better in a pair of clean pants and a fresh shirt, rather than staying in your PJs all day. These divisions will set you up for maintaining good hygiene, which is an essential part of working from home.

It’ll also be great if it’s possible to have your own working space at home that doesn’t not conflict with when you spend time on your hobbies. It’s subconsciously you become more tired and find it more difficult to stay on task during work time.

From having clear divisions, you will now have a work life balance from having a work schedule, and you should start feeling some appreciation for your hobbies again.

2. Hygiene Routine

Let me admit that I have bad acne, and yet in the five years I have worked from home, my skin is in the best shape it’s ever been in. I get the same amount of sun and outside time as before, I eat the same foods in the same amounts, and my stress level is somewhat similar. What exactly is the difference caused? My determination in setting and keeping a hygiene routine. While I do regularly visit my esthetician every two weeks, since the lockdown I have been unable to see her.

Basic maintenance has helped keep my skin clear. I wash my face two to three times a day, shower at least once and after I swim and/or exercise. I use at least 10 products on my face twice a day and 5 each day on my body. The result is that my skin looks and feels good, which affects my overall mood and self confidence.

So, you may feel tired and want to skip the shower, don’t. You may feel fatigued and think it’s not that big of a deal to skip your hair care routine, don’t. Maybe you just just finished using the toilet and you are getting a call coming over your computer, so you decide to skip washing your hands for the sake of answering on time, don’t. When the importance of hygiene slips in your daily life, the quality of life soon slips to meet it. Take the time to take care of yourself and this will help enable you to free up your mind and clear itself more freely.

3. Well Crafted Thoughts

When we are working from home, we find that there’s a need to do something we find fun and enjoyable. Interests and hobbies are a great way to relieve stress in this current environment. They can be, at least, if they aren’t causing you more stress than they’re worth. I like to consider myself a MAKER, and thereby an inherently crafty person. In my experience when using my hobbies to deal with stress, it can become a crutch or even an obsession. They can take up all of your time, ruin relationships, isolate you from friends and family, and lower one’s self confidence if it gets out of hand.

In our practice, we want to improve our skills, however, many makers turn to tutorials on YouTube to learn how to do what we need to accomplish our vision. Working on a big project can suddenly become a stressful, all consuming, frustrating, and even demoralizing situation when trying new techniques.

Sure, I’m learning a new skill, but if the result is somewhere between property damage and a scar that will last me a year at the very least, I may get down on myself and feel a significant level of failure that may be hard to come back from quickly. Or maybe the project I’m working on is turning out to be more expensive than I first thought. I have budgeted out what I think it may cost, but the decision to spend more is always a deep judgement of one’s ability and vision.

My solution for deciding to shelve, abandon, or finish is a formula (though not mathematically measurable) I’m sure many other makers have come to on their own means:

(Time X Skill)/cost= completion viability

I have shelved many projects to sit for a later date, abandoned a few as well. Much of what I start I do finish, however that by no means is a qualifier for a job well done.

I say this in all sincerity: do not let your interests rule you. Your hobbies and interests shouldnt be a burden or a crutch to you, or add to your overall stress levels. If you find it reduces your confidence levels, hurts your relationships, reduces your ability to be responsible in your everyday life, or if it’s digging into the funds you use to live, maybe reassess how this hobby is worth your time and what you can do to make it more viable in this situation.

All of this, along with the everyday stress that comes from working remotely will negatively collect in your mind and affect you on every level imaginable.

4. The Isolation Poison

While at first, working remotely can be incredibly freeing, that freedom will come with a price. The lack of human interaction you would get by working in an office will affect how you view the world. World events that would normally not seem to be such a big deal may suddenly seem a little scary to you.

Human touch is something you may end up craving, whereas before, you were never a hugger. Eventually you will feel forgotten or left out of company activities, under more scrutiny, or unable to voice your objections and opinions because, “what’s to stop them from just finding someone closer?” Mistakes will feel like a life and death situation, and fear, if left unchecked, will pervade what was once a freeing career choice. All of these negative feelings and sudden desires develop particularly easy when working remotely, and can be poisonous to you and your perception of the world around you.

What some are coming to realize is that working from home takes a mental fortitude that has to be developed and a support group to help develop that working state. Yes, remote workers are often forgotten or left out of conversations because of the lack of visibility.

Now, just imagine your entire company (including yourself) and how hard everyone is working to be seen and heard in such isolation. Remember to actively give yourself credit for working so hard and not giving up. With the sudden shift in changes to your life in such a scary environment, you’re really showing how strong you are.

Let yourself admit that this situation isn’t normal and never will be normal. To admit this is to allow yourself to step back and see how isolation has affected you the most. Take responsibility when it comes to making mistakes and acknowledge it. Taking this responsibility will free you of the negative energy that mistakes can create. Holding onto these births anxiety, sadness, fear, and uncertainty deep within you and will ultimately skew your perception of work and working relationships.

With all of this insight, it can be possible to assess the actions that will only end up isolating you even more so than your current state versus those that will ease these negative emotions.

5. No Binging

When I first started working from home, I found myself with more time to enjoy movies and TV shows. I took this privilege carte blanche and free-for-all’d every show and movie I needed to catch up on.

Sometime after, about four seasons into Poirot with episodes of Star Trek: TNG season two thrown in, I was skipping showers, taking meals on the sofa, and feeling all around alone. My friends were calling, my parents begged me to visit, and yet I felt that a better use of my time was finishing the seasons of these shows. My house was looking like a mess and my dogs were begging for real exercise instead of just being let out into the back yard.

It took the looks on their angelic faces for me to realize that my binging wasn’t just hurting myself; it was hurting those I care about and love. I was missing that natural division and structure I had come to rely on, but I foolishly thought it was a part of what was making my life less free. Little did I know that I really crave structure and organization. I came to realize that structure and routine is wonderful when we are the ones who set it ourselves.

I also realized that it can look like just about anything as long as your needs are being met. Because my job is based on London time, I have shifted my schedule around to cover my day and the start of my co-workers’ as well. Some find my schedule to be odd or downright insane, however, I’ve been working at SETL for almost five years now and it’s been the best and most enjoyable job I’ve ever had. The schedule is a part of what makes it so great. People judge me and try to get me to change it, however being on a schedule of my own design is much better than the alternative.

My Support

Really, through the years of learning these lessons, I had the support of my co-workers and friends. They have supported me through the difficult, the sad, and at times, the surreal events in my life. Without them, making it this far may or may not have happened, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as fun. Never have I respected or liked so many people I work with as I have at SETL.

Truly and sincerely, I can say that I work with people who genuinely care and look out for each other. They notice if you’re having a bad day, they notice when you have something to celebrate, and once they meet you, they notice when you’re not around. When you work from home with a remote team, that’s the kind of attention you need.

That being said, it was still incredibly difficult for me to initially open up and talk about how I truly feel, I had to feel safe to do so. The way I decided whether or not to take a chance on my colleagues in particular, was by asking them their thoughts on certain topics and then truthfully responding.

I did try (and still do) to keep my responses as logic-laden as possible, despite its saturation in my emotions. This is just my particular way for broaching difficult subjects and feeling others out. Through the years my approach has changed, but nothing really gets people talking than asking someone their opinion.

How do you break the ice on difficult subjects? Are you a part of someone’s support group? In the end, we’re all at each other’s mercy, so my advice is to remember, in whatever you do, be kind, have patience, and actively listen. You might just change someone’s life for the better.