Many of us feel challenged in these unprecedented times. Sharing our workspace with family members, maybe homeschooling, not being able to meet with our colleagues in person, and staying up-to-date with what’s going on in the entire world can rapidly take a toll on our productivity. But it can also affect our commitment to driving our careers, which just doesn’t seem to be a priority to self or others right now.
Yes, we may save time on the commute. But in the past, once we were in the office or workplace, it was usually all about work. Not now! For many, getting to work starts with transforming a kitchen or dinner table into a desk and putting up a sign that says “do not disturb” (for those who can read it, which clearly doesn’t apply to most toddlers or pets).
Even though most people may not literally clock in and out at an office, their work schedule once started when they arrived at the building and end when they’d leave it, apart from occasional after-hours phone calls or emails. Now that they work from home, the limits between work and play have become blurry. Some may feel like they have to be online from early to late because they work with people in different time zones and they don’t change locations once their schedule is done. But even on those longer days, less has been accomplished than before…because there are just too many interruptions and distractions. It can be truly taxing!
Although we are connected online for long periods of time, we feel disconnected. Humans are social beings. Some of us live alone, and we miss the human touch and in-person interaction. This can have a negative influence on our state of mind. It can make us sad or even depressed. And I have yet to see depressed employees who are highly engaged and productive! It’s just not how we function.
So how then can we stay in high spirits, excited about our own success and that of our teams, and on top of our careers? Let me share some tips that I learned as an entrepreneur who spends a good portion of her time working from home.
Manage Blurry Schedules to Include Self-Care
First and foremost is self-care. Kicking our day off with a solid morning routine to set ourselves up for a successful and satisfying day is now more critical than ever before, whether it’s with meditation, exercise, journaling, a healthy breakfast or, circumstances permitting, a combination of all of the above.
Planning our day before it starts or the evening before can help us be more organized and disciplined. This includes scheduling time for meals, stretch and workout breaks. Take a walk outside, a quick focus-sharpening activity like deep breathing or a mini-meditation. Maybe some of those calls can be made in the park, or you can pack your lunch salad into a box and enjoy it on a bench. A change of scenery, sunshine, and fresh air can make for a significantly better day.
Commit to Staying Visible
Remember, your work includes your responsibility for your own career. It may take a little more effort and time to stay connected with the decisionmakers or to build a brand-new network if you just started a new job. So how do you stay top-of-mind with those who have a say in your career?
One way is to set up regular meetings. It’s often preferable to have weekly or bi-weekly 15-minute check-ins rather than a lengthy monthly call. Come to the meetings prepared so they are never perceived as a waste of time and you walk away from them with what you came for. Whenever possible, make it a video call. Remember: the human factor is key, and seeing each other makes a difference.
In times like these it can feel awkward to follow up about a career-related topic, especially when our manager, mentor, sponsor, or networking partner doesn’t reply right away. We shy away from repeated follow-up because we feel that it’s somehow not appropriate to “bother” them. The fact is, leadership roles still include the responsibility to lead. Yes, we are all dealing with a lot. But just like you, they may be even busier than before, meaning it could have slipped their mind to email you back. Following up is not only okay, it’s critical so you can advocate for yourself, make your work known, speak up about your career needs, and be chosen for special opportunities or high-profile projects.
Turn Your Career into Your Business and Distinguish Yourself as a Leader
A lot about working from home is similar to entrepreneurship: starting our days with a powerful routine, determining our work schedule, planning our day, and repeated follow-up despite silence on the receiving end. And yes, it can feel lonely to work from home.
So maybe it’s time to treat your job like a business, to make a mindset shift away from coping with a crisis to using it as an opportunity. What if you could identify ways to distinguish yourself as a leader who has figured out how to navigate through adversity? What if you could become a role model of virtual leadership? Can you raise your own engagement and then teach others in your team to do the same? What’s a talent you never had to use before but that could make all the difference now if you developed it fully? Situations we perceive as adverse often result in a lack of enthusiasm and eventually in anxiety. But there is an opportunity in any situation, or as some say: Never waste a good crisis! So… what if you could turn this anxiety into excitement?
Don’t wait. Start now! There is no better moment to get your positive momentum back.
Regina Huber, CEO & Founder of Transform Your Performance