The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly made working from home a reality for many Calgarians, with no end in sight.
Brittany Harker Martin, an associate professor of leadership, policy and governance at the University of Calgary, has studied remote work and worked from home herself.
For those who are new to this situation, she offers five basic pieces of advice: create a workstation, designate a work-free zone, take scheduled breaks, integrate some physical and creative activities into your routine, and establish a firm quitting time.
“Those five points can really make a big difference,” she said.
Unlike a traditional work environment with defined norms around the ways people behave during their day – when they take breaks, what space is theirs and what space is not – working from home can create confusion and conflict.
“They need to address the fact that it needs to be designed, discussed and negotiated as they go,” said Martin.
Adding to the difficulty, she says, could be children now at home, so she suggests setting up a routine for them to follow that provides some structure and a feeling of psychological safety.
“Circumstances are quite different right now. You’ve got to juggle childcare, you’ve got to process your mental and emotional health around what’s happening, so productivity can drop as a result.” – Michelle Cederberg, productivity consultant and motivational speaker
Juggling work and home life together in one location is challenging, which is why it’s important to include physical and creative time.
“So, while work is signaled as important, home life and this very unique circumstance where we’re all together is also honoured,” she said.
Michelle Cederberg, a productivity consultant and motivational speaker, says at first, people might struggle to adapt to a remote work environment and wonder how to remain productive.
Cederberg suggest people set up a work area, even if it’s the corner of a countertop, and establish a routine for themselves, which includes getting properly dressed for the day.
However, she says people should temper expectations and try not to feel too much pressure to remain as productive at home as they were at the office, because not everyone is going to be able to achieve that.
“Circumstances are quite different right now. You’ve got to juggle childcare, you’ve got to process your mental and emotional health around what’s happening, so productivity can drop as a result,” she said.
She recommends choosing some larger work tasks to accomplish each day, “one or two items on your to-do list. That’s a big start.”
Also, make sure to do the same for your home life. Spend time with your children, go for a walk around the block – anything to do a reset back to your normal home life.
Cederberg says everyone will process the challenges we are all facing differently, whether it’s working from home or simply the extraordinary times we are facing.
So, if someone is really having trouble coping, “reach out, ask for help via whatever circles are available,” she said, which can include your company’s employee assistance services.