If someone told us a few months ago that most of us would be working from the coziness of our own homes – we would be thrilled. Now that it’s reality, we are not so sure anymore, right?
People generally don’t do so well with any uncertainty, whether it’s an illness, fear, any limitations, or isolation. No matter how many things are taken from us, the most important ones stick with us – our need to socialize, go out, connect… In other words, our need to feel a sense of purpose remains.
And that’s extremely hard to accomplish in these uncharted times.
In a New York Times article, Dr. Vander Elst pointed out that:
“Research indicates that job insecurity reduces both physical and mental health, increases burnout, reduces job satisfaction, and decreases work performance.”
When we add a global pandemic into the mix, staying focused and motivated isn’t so simple.
As the lockdown goes on, we are increasingly feeling disconnected, scared, and uncertain about when our lives are going back to normal.
So, what should we do? Or better yet: what CAN we do?
First of all, we need to think about any positives there are. Even if we are not able to see them right now, little things can still make us feel better. Like avoiding the morning commute, finally reading a great book or taking 5 extra minutes for a cup of coffee at the start of the day.
For long term adjustments, we will need to learn how to look a bit deeper within ourselves. Before this unfortunate lockdown, we lived a completely different life. Now, our work habits have changed, so it’s time to identify how our old ways of thinking were restricting our personal and professional growth and what steps we need to take.
For instance, we have many more online meetings, the majority of collaboration became long distance, we have more calls than ever before, and what is the bottom line?
We actually spend more time planning and less in execution.
An interesting fact came up when it comes to working from home. The analysis of server activity on NordVPN network, have shown that since mid-March the average working day increased by three hours in the U.S. At the same time, similar researches show that in the U.K., France, Spain, and Canada, people are typically working for two more hours a day since then.
We are obviously spending more time working while staying at home, however, the results are still to be seen.
What else happens?
Our private time and our work time merge together.
One thing that can help is having a different set of clothes for rest and different ones for work. Seriously. Don’t go working in your PJs all day. You don’t have to put on a tie or high-heels, but just wear something cozy and decent. You’ll look good and feel even better. More than just keeping up appearances, it helps to put your brain in work mode.
All the way back in 2017, a UN report announced (based on their research) that remote workers are more likely to experience high-stress levels than office workers.More often than not, their work pours into family life so remote workers often record more working hours.
Now that many of us are actually them, the need for finding ways to cope is extremely important. When you feel yourself becoming anxious, try switching to exercise, reading, listening to music or podcasts, and try to support your creative and intellectual pursuits.
And if you’re a manager, your role is even more important than before. Remember it’s your job now to reassure, motivate, and make your team feel secure. For that, emails just won’t do. Video chats, face to face or all together as a team, can bring back a bit of the office environment.
Different online tools can be of great assistance too. They will minimize misinterpretations and prevent time-wasting chains of emails that can easily overwhelm you daily. Also, it can make your team more effective in these sensitive times. A study in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that teams who met regularly for debriefs produced more innovative solutions to problems. This goes for viral meetings, as well.
And never lose from sight that we are, after all, social creatures. Dr. Angela Carter, an associate fellow at the British Psychological Society said:
“Part of the reason we go to work is that we love being with other people.”
The threat of loneliness shouldn’t be taken lightly during this pandemic as it can easily lead to poor mental and physical health. Talk to your colleagues, see how they are holding. Listen to them complaining, complain yourself, make them laugh, let them make you laugh, help each other.
But first of all, starting today, or even better, starting now, refuse to stay home without a plan, it is only adding to our anxiety. Ground yourself by creating just enough structure and establishing a Mini-Work Day Schedule. Add other activities besides just work. Organize your day in blocks and do other activities in between, like making lunch, cleaning out the attic, reading, or something creative like drawing.
One thing that can help is the ABCDE method. It makes prioritization much easier and helps us avoid all the downsides of a traditional to-do list. Productive procrastination is a real issue. We feel very busy while still procrastinating on our most important tasks.
The times we’re facing will definitely take a toll on the way business is done. However, if we all work together and do our best to look towards the better times ahead, we can get through this. And if we get through this, the business world will eventually bounce back as well.