Tips to Working From Home During Uncertain Times

Thaisa Fernandes
Apr 13, 2020 · 8 min read

I have been talking with a bunch of friends and family members lately. It’s amazing to reconnect and help each other deal with this pandemic situation. A lot of people have been complaining about not being as productive as they used to be or even saying that they’re struggling.

The main thing we should keep in mind is that we’re not living in a normal situation. Everyone is trying to deal with the changes caused by this pandemic. We may be struggling in different areas, but the reality is that we’re all affected by this in different ways. However, we are all affected.

I’m sharing a list of things you should consider to alleviate the stress you’re feeling. I’d love to hear what helps you to cope with living through this pandemic situation. I hope you’re all safe and helping and learning with each other!

▪️ Assess What You Really Need to Get Done

Consider taking a moment to assess what you really need to get done. This is the time to act smart and prioritize what is essential. You can use the Pareto Principle’s 80/20 rule, which I discuss here. The most interesting thing about the 80/20 rule is that it helps us analyze our goals and tasks differently.

You will start to tackle first what will give you the most results and happiness. This will help you to focus, and more importantly, handle one task at a time and will make an immense difference. As we know, human beings are not as good at multitasking as we think we are.

After you analyzed what you can and can’t do during this uncertain time, you can start to have conversations with your boss to prioritize and manage it especially because not everyone has a job that can be done 100% remotely or easily remotely. It’s important to set expectations with your team and boss during this period and prioritize the right projects and tasks.

▪️ Start Work at the Same Time Everyday

When we’re working remotely and typically don’t have meetings early in the morning, it might seem like you can wake up whenever you like. However, in reality that isn’t the case. It’s not that you can’t do that, it’s more like you shouldn’t. I’m going to explain why.

One of the most important things during this time is to establish a routine and set boundaries between your home life and your work. If you start to work at 9 am, do it, and if you’re used to finishing at 5 pm, keep your routine.

Make sure you get your routine right. Perfecting your morning routine can really be a game changer, helping you get the most out of your day. One way of doing that is consistency. If you need to make adjustments, do it, but try to keep as consistent as possible to avoid confusion.

▪️ Dress Up to Work

I always heard people talking about the importance of getting dressed to work even if you’re working remotely, and I totally agree with it. I know for some people it doesn’t make a difference, and I respect that, but I believe in the psychological change it creates.

When we’re working from home we might lose track of time and the day of the week. Sometimes we might have difficulty focusing and feel like we’re not accomplishing anything, which can be frustrating and deprive us of the sense of accomplishment we’re looking for.

One thing that you can do to help is to get dressed everyday. Pretend you’re working in the office and get ready before you start to work. This simple act can help you to feel better while working from home and also show your coworkers that you care.

▪️ Schedule Daily Team 15-min Check-ins

Many team members might be feeling alone and missing the time together in the office. A good idea to mitigate that is to have 15-min check-ins with your team every day. This provides a moment to touch base and share non-work related things.

The 15-min check-in is short enough that it doesn’t disrupt work and also meaningful enough to help team members to feel connected and provides an opportunity to discuss work and non-work related things instead of sending Slack messages. Send a calendar invite and make sure everyone knows they should be attending only if they have bandwidth so there are no pressures involved.

▪️ Take Breaks and Team Coffee Time

We tend to work more when we’re working from home since we don’t have the commute time or even time for relocating between conference rooms. It can be really challenging too because we can lose track of time, and before you know it’s 3 pm and you haven’t had lunch.

You can set some Google Calendar reminders to ensure you’re taking lunch breaks and coffee breaks. You can also set some alarms on your phone. For example, if you want to take breaks every hour, you can set those alarms for Mon-Fri in your phone. The set up can take time, but you can automate it repeating the same schedule everyday, and the reminders will be good to have.

▪️ Bi-Weekly or Monthly Team Parties

I’m part of the group that is in the 9th week of social distancing at home. I really miss having the usual hangouts with the team over coffee breaks, ginger shots, and wine time. We’re used to having something every two weeks called wine (or grape) Wednesday. Last week we had the first virtual version of it, and it was amazing. We spent a lot of time talking about the TV series we’re watching and the new hobbies we’re pursuing or crafts we’re developing, and it was so much fun.

Another idea of a fun virtual gathering is the hat meeting, which is a meeting where everyone should be wearing a hat. Some people are doing a kids meeting with folks from work where everyone’s kids can get to know each other. Other ideas include lunch meetings or cooking class meetings with team members. We also had a lunch meeting in which each member showed their homes or their pets.

Be creative and don’t be afraid to propose new things if you feel your team is not doing much. Make sure everyone understands these types of meetings are optional since not everyone may be able to make it or may even feel pressured to participate.

▪️ Use the Right Technology

Another thing that can make a difference during this time is the technologies and tools you use. If your employer gave you a laptop and tools like Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Slack, and Google Docs, you’re more likely to keep to your schedule, meetings, and communication with your team.

Not all companies are prepared to conduct business 100% remotely, and also not all jobs can be done remotely. If that’s your situation, you may want to explore different tools with your team. Don’t forget to read reviews and understand well how the tools would be used in your case.

I truly can guarantee you that the tools you choose to use can make the difference in your success working remotely. I encourage you to read reviews before adopting new tools. I’m sharing a WFH 101 series, and I wrote a blog post about tools to be used during this WFH situation, don’t forget to check it out!!

▪️ Self-Care Timing

A lot of complexity can be involved in your working from home environment. You might have roommates, pets, spouses, and/or kids involved. This can increase the complexity of everything — working from home, getting your work done while dealing with kids, roommates, pets, and family members.

All difficult situations, not to mention the current COVID-19 pandemic, require new coping skills. Make sure to treat working remotely the same as working in the office. Take time to arrive, breaks, and time to shut it down. Reserve some time to cook and pick up take-out food.

Remember to take breaks especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or can’t focus. A lot of people are taking a phone call from work or family members during walks. A break to breathe, maybe meditate, or walk, which can really help you de-stress. The most important thing is to acknowledge what you need and make sure to do what will help you to cope.

▪️ Play Online Games via Virtual Conference

Like a lot of other people, I have been playing Animal Crossing, and I’ve been having so much fun. For those who don’t enjoy playing video games much, but want to play a game that doesn’t require a lot of time, I’d recommend playing some games via Google Hangouts with friends and family.

If you’re looking for a draw and guess game, there’s Skribblio. Jackbox Games is giving away Drawful 2 for 3 weeks so check that out. If you don’t want to play games with others, Monument Valley II is free on Google Play and Apple Store. There’s also Scrabble on Google Play and Apple Store.

▪️ Do Whatever You Need to Do

What you need might be different from what I need or what your friends and family think, that’s ok. Remember that when you’re feeling discouraged and not as motivated as usual. Everything is alright.

It’s ok not to be ok. We’ll get over this, but it might be harder than we were all expecting, and it will definitely take more time. So try to do your best every day. Create a routine and respect your body and needs as much as you can. ❤

Suggestions for things you can think about during this time:

  • HBO will be streaming 500 hours of free programming including full seasons of The Sopranos, Silicon Valley, and a bunch of movies.
  • Watch virtual concerts, there’s a bunch of artists doing virtual shows and also YouTube, Instagram and Twitch lives.
  • Be part of the COVID-19 Global Hackathon, building software solutions that drive social impact.
  • LinkedIn Learning courses have a free 30-day trial. In this post I suggest some Product Management courses that are a good start if you’re transitioning to Product Management.
  • Make origami following YouTube tutorials.
  • There’s also YouTube Learning with a ton of interesting videos.

👋 Feel Free to Clap and Share your Thoughts!

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Thaisa Fernandes

Written by

Problem solver and perfectionist in recovery willing to stretch myself and risk making mistakes to achieve innovative solutions and validate my learnings

PM101

PM101

Sharing Product and Program Management content.

Thaisa Fernandes

Written by

Problem solver and perfectionist in recovery willing to stretch myself and risk making mistakes to achieve innovative solutions and validate my learnings

PM101

PM101

Sharing Product and Program Management content.

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