Before COVID-19, working from home was not the norm for most employees at Maser. Some may have longed for the chance to sleep in an extra hour or avoid that hectic commute. But no one could have imagined that we would all be forced to work from home for such a long time or the challenges that would come with it. And there have been some challenges, at least for me. As a young professional, I have limited experience with having to do things like work from home on a regular basis.
Figuring out how to mentally separate work time from the rest of my day is proving to be a challenge. When I’m in the office I try to keep my phone away in my purse and not accessible. Now, I need it for video conferencing and to call coworkers. How do I deal with using my phone as a tool for work without succumbing to the distraction of TikToks of my friends dancing with their grandmas in quarantine? I’m also being so much less active, which I’ve heard can affect productivity. How often should I get up and move around?
Even Working From Home, Keep To A Schedule!
I asked Knowledge Manager Karen Delgado to tell me about her experiences working from home. She lives with her family and has a fifth-grade son. Her biggest advice? “Keep to a schedule.”
This will look different for everyone depending on environment and resources, of course. She says her son’s school is mostly done on Google Classroom, but that she is fortunate to have experience as a CCD teacher who just so happens to have a degree in Elementary Education!
“My son starts at 8:00 and does his main subjects by 11:00, when he watches the NJTV Learning Live, which are 5th grade lessons on PBS taught by teachers all over NJ. Then in the afternoon he does his specials. My husband and I are able to work because he knows what he needs to do.”
I know that I used to use my commute time to wake up in the morning, so going right from sleeping to working isn’t an easy transition. I had to create a new routine where I shower and drink some coffee before logging on.
Keep a To-Do List
Her second tip? “Have a ‘To Do’ list written down for work. That will help if you get interrupted by family or other distractions that are more prevalent at home.” She makes sure to have a physical list of what work tasks she wants to accomplish each day. That way, if she needs to stop and help her son with something, she can easily jump back into work without forgetting a task that might have come up before she was interrupted.
Work Clothes = Work Mindset
I also asked Discipline Leader / Director Electrical Engineering Jennifer Dering for her perspective, since everyone is experiencing quarantine and working from home differently.
Like Karen, she is a mom who has some experience with balancing work and motherhood. She is currently working out of her living room, and lives with her two teen boys and husband. However, her husband’s job is essential so he is gone during the day.
Jennifer stressed the importance of routine. “I go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Usually, I wake up at 5 and work till 7, then do a workout at 7. By 8, I get back to work. I have incentive to be dressed and presentable because I choose to use video for every meeting.” I am happy to be in casual clothes as much as possible, so I thought it was interesting that she looks for reasons to get dressed up for work. In fact, during my meetings I am usually wearing comfy shorts and slippers. Maybe I should take her advice and make myself dress up to get into an “I’m working” mindset.
Take Advantage of More Flexible Hours
I asked about her productivity, and she said she doesn’t have a lot of distractions at home and isn’t being interrupted as much as in the office, so she feels more productive than ever.
She also mentioned that the flexibility of work hours and lack of commute has really reduced her stress level. “Because I don’t just work 8-5, I can go for a walk or grab lunch with my sons without guilt. And without the commute stress I already have a better attitude. I’m now working out in that time I used to be spending on my commute.” Not having a commute has been nice for me too, tbh. Most days, I spend the time that used to be my evening commute going for a walk. Having that as a stress-reliever seems to really help for dealing with other new stresses that working from home can cause. Stresses like missing coworkers.
Use Your Technology
I asked if she is also missing the social parts of going into the office, and she said that her team does group check ins and lunch every Friday with games and trivia so that they can still engage with each other on a more social level. That’s such a fun idea!
“We learned using Teams makes working from home and staying connected a lot easier. We even do Teams happy hours with clients,” she noted. Wow, that’s pretty cool! That social aspect of going into the office might be what I miss the most. If you’re one of the people I used to chat with in the kitchen or in the hallway, I MISS YOU. Maybe I need to take a page out of Jen’s book and use more of the technology I have to connect.
Do you have any advice for working from home? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned for the next time I ask, “Am I Doing This Right?”