Don't spend hours trying to decipher what that means if you receive such a message from a colleague. It's probably sent by her cat who walked across the keyword! Such stories are common in the current WFH (work from home) scenario. However, such fun stories are set against the backdrop of significant challenges in getting some real, heads-down work done in the WFH setting.
Added to the inconveniences of working from home is the anxiety and gloom associated with a raging pandemic. In fact, over 42% of respondents of a reputed survey reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December last year, representing a massive jump from 11% in the previous year.
What's brought tedium to WFH?
The remote work culture was already catching on before “covid-19” became a buzzword in recent times. This format appeared highly appealing due to benefits like flexibility, no commute time, and improved work-life balance.
The pandemic seems to have changed that, mainly by pushing WFH from an option to a necessity. That, coupled with the uncertainty around when the situation will get back to normal. In fact, in total contrast to the pre-pandemic era, more than a third of Indian professionals complained about their work-life balance being severely hampered by the WFH model, according to a LinkedIn survey conducted in 2020. The survey also revealed that 40% of Indian professionals are experiencing financial stress, while over 60% feel lonely in the current scenario.
On the other hand, businesses have invested in setting up robust processes to manage a remote workforce over the past year. Many of them seem inclined to continue the WFH model even post-pandemic. A 2021 survey reveals that 83% of employers think the trend has been a success.
Ways to Make WFH Work for You
With the WFH seeming more permanent than we thought when the first lockdown was announced in March last year, we need to take steps to counter the negative effects of working from home, while enjoying the benefits.
“Routine sets you free.” ~ Verne Harnish
Research shows that time management helps cope with change, reduces stress, and enables us to be more focused on the task at hand. Here are some steps you may consider:
Adopt a ritual to begin your day. This could be having a cup of coffee with family, going for a brisk walk, or performing some simple breathing exercises.
Set alarms. Waking up at the same time on weekdays allows you sufficient time to prepare for the day.
Set reminders to take breaks and move around. Enjoy a cup of tea while chatting with a friend or coordinate mealtimes with your family members. Watch your favorite web series on Netflix, limiting it to just one episode. Breaks reduce stress and help you re-energize.
Prioritize tough tasks. Complete the most difficult tasks first, to avoid feeling overwhelmed later in the day. Our energy levels wane through the day.
“We fight too many battles that don't matter.” ~ Joel Osteen
While co-workers will not be dropping by your desk or calling you to the cafeteria for that evening snack, you have distractions throughout the day when working from home. Your child spilling milk all over the floor or that Amazon delivery guy arrives without informing - the day is peppered with instances that may be out of your control. Here are some ideas you may consider:
Find a secluded space for your work. Keep all your work-related items there.
Let family members know your work hours while reassuring them of your availability at all other times.
Turn off phone and system notifications that are not work-related.
Use noise-canceling headphones, while letting your family know how to grab your attention in case of an emergency.
A little planning can go a long way. For instance, instruct delivery people to leave the parcel in the basket outside your door, set up activities to keep kids busy, and cook a couple of extra dishes over the weekend.
Deal with Anxiety and Loneliness
“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” ~Walter Anderson
The second wave may feel like a huge setback. Feelings of loneliness, desperation, and even anger are normal. There may also be anxiety associated with loss of job and salary cuts.
Connect with friends and family every day. Make a conscious effort to engage with a friend or a family member every day, via WhatsApp messages, video calls, emails, or social media. Add it to your calendar as a reminder.
Do something that adds value to your day. It may seem difficult to manage your workload and household chores. However, scheduling some time to do something constructive can be hugely positive. You can read a book, pursue an online course, or do some charity.
Catch up with co-workers. Fix up a slot every day to get in touch with teammates.
Don't hesitate to seek help. Negative thoughts can be overwhelming at times and you can consult professionals online who can help you cope with them.
With the inevitable blurring of lines given the WFH situation, the pandemic has put the energy we used to dedicate to work into the context of our relationships, mental health, community sense, and various experiences that makes life meaningful. Business leaders can help their teams cope by keeping communication channels open to address problems, educating people about making the most of the WFH scenario, organizing regular team-building sessions, motivating people through recognition, broader roles, and voicing support for new ideas.