March 19th, life as I knew it, changed. My employer sent my team and I home to officially start the Work From Home process. Two months later, we’re still here and I’m not sure when we will return to office. Throughout these months, I’ve experienced highs and lows. Having to deal with bursts of productivity, then none at all, struggling to keep a sleep routine, having random video calls and meetings, waking up to messages about assignments due the same day and the list goes on. All while, constantly being reminded that the world is in a pandemic. A few Fridays ago, I was having a really off day. The feeling just came out of no where and coincidentally, I found myself hungry. But instead of going right into the kitchen to look for food, I kept saying, “No, Derencia, you have to finish this first before you can eat.” I literally, prioritized my job, before my basic human needs. It was only after speaking with one of my friends and she said, “You’re not simply working from home, you’re working THROUGH a pandemic”, I realized that I had to get myself together.
Since that conversation, I have reevaluated my entire WFH situation and have started to make small changes to keep myself from burn out. Yes, you can still burn out while working at home, this isn’t a vacation. If anything, there is more pressure on us who are still employed to put our absolute best foot forward to not lose our jobs, support ourselves and maybe even our families. Despite the pressure, working from home is not all horrors and nightmares. Remember that this current situation is new to us all and you should always put yourself first. Here’s a few things I’ve learned since working from home.
You have to set boundaries
First things first, if you don’t set any boundaries, be prepared for them to be crossed. I’ve spoken to many persons during this time, who were frustrated with their managers sending “urgent” messages for assignments to be completed outside of regular working hours. I understand that things do come up and urgent matters arise. But everyday, nah I don’t think so. Boundaries have to be set in place. Whether this is clearly stating the times that you are available for work or simply turning off your phone. Your job does not need access to you 24 hours a day.
It is very important to take breaks
I can’t stress this enough. The same way you were entitled to a lunch break at work, you are entitled to that break even though you are home. While your break may look different, because you are going grocery shopping, catching up on a Netflix series or exercising; your break is still your break. Whatever you decide to do with your time, is your prerogative. Please don’t get into the habit of working 8 hours (or even longer) without taking some time for you. That’s a recipe for disaster.
It’s okay if you have to take a Vacation Day
I haven’t taken vacation since my birthday in October. Yes, we’ve had holidays and the weekends off. But sometimes you really need some time off. My employer doesn’t allow vacation time during January to April, so of course, I had vacation booked for May. I was scheduled to attend Broccoli Fest in Washington D.C., but as we all know…Corona. I decided to cancel my vacation since I was going to be home anyways. As quickly as they were cancelled, I realized that was a big mistake. Even though, I was no longer travelling I could still use a break from work. I decided to put in for a vacation day at the end of the month and with the holiday coming up on June 1st, I can’t wait to enjoy my 4 day weekend!
Sometimes you have to switch up your workspace/ routine
If you are anything like me, I’m always craving a change in scenery. Routine can become so boring and even put a halt to your productivity. Initially, I set up a workspace, however found that I was still struggling to keep focus. I found myself moving from the dining room, to the living room and even sometimes the den in an effort to feel motivated. For whatever reason, it worked. If you are finding it difficult to concentrate, try lighting a candle, listening to music or changing your workspace for the day to curb your craving for a new look and feel. It can work wonders.
Remote work may be more acceptable going forward
You may have seen that numerous tech companies have announced that some of their employees will be working from home for the rest of the year. I think that is phenomenal. Having the ability to choose your work environment can be so refreshing. I always thought that I would prefer remote work, and this pandemic has only confirmed that belief. Despite all the challenges and changes I had to overcome, I ultimately do prefer work from home. While, in our Bahamian society the change may not be easily accepted, I do think that employers will eventually see the light. Honestly, when this is all said and done, I’ll definitely be negotiating for 2 days minimum remote work.
What have you learned since work from home? Have you found it easy, breezy, beautiful or a complete mess?