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April 21, 2020

At Home – During a Crisis – Trying to Work

working-from-home-with-kids

by Brooke Burt, creative strategist

As we continue down the COVID-19 road together, this dynamic situation continues to cause us to implement changes throughout our lives, including how we work. Once the exception, working from home has now become the norm. For most who are accustomed to going in to an office setting daily, being suddenly thrust in to a virtual work setting can seem disorienting.

At Forum, we were initially set up to work from home, since our first “office” was literally Katie’s kitchen table. Prior to COVID-19, we used our office space for meetings with the team, to brainstorm and share a workspace together, and for client meetings. Trust us, we love getting together, and we miss the companionship of being able to sit side-by-side as a team. But the bulk of our work continued to be done at home. With that being said, the Forum team has some advice for those of you who are trying to adjust to your new normal.

Set a routine

Several team members mentioned setting a routine as an important element to their #wfh day. Callie said, “Set boundaries around work hours and get dressed—everyday. People greatly underestimate the power of putting on clothes.” Erin echoed that statement by saying, “When you get up in the morning, still create a routine where you actually go to work. Get dressed (even if it means putting on sweats) and be at your desk at a designated time.” Which leads me to our next tip…

Create a space

Having a physical space to do your work everyday can be helpful in not only keeping you on task but also in keeping work and home life separate, since one can easily blend in to the other. Kathryn stated, “Give yourself the corner office—one with windows. And invest in a good chair.” If you don’t have a physical room where you can be, set up your work space at a table. And to maintain a healthy space between working brain and resting brain, as comfortable as it is, try not to work in your bed. As Erin stated, “Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you should always be working.”

Timing is everything

Matt was quick to mention that it’s easy to get overwhelmed or distracted with household chores staring at you from your work-at-home space. But, if you focus on work for a designated period of time, and then have another designated time for chores, you will be healthier later when you don’t feel overwhelmed with either. Or maybe you can function well with a short break in the morning, a break for lunch, and a short afternoon break, during which time you might be able to squeeze in a chore or two. But remember, the world won’t quit turning if you have dirty dishes in your sink.

Mind your mental health

We all manage work and mental health differently. It’s important that you take time to assess what helps you maintain a healthy perspective, and it’s personal to each individual. For Callie, setting a positive tone for her day means creating a reasonable list of “must-dos” each morning. She expanded on that idea by saying, “I like having ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ tasks. That way, if I make it through the ‘primary’ tasks, I feel productive. Plus, it makes a more manageable ‘to-do’ list. There is always more that can be done, which can be paralyzing. So make a reasonable ‘to-do’ list and work your way through it. Less ‘to-do’s’ can actually lead to greater productivity.”

For our resident musician Nick, it’s no surprise that his outlet is music. He says, “Since I’ve always been musically inclined, listening to music helps me to stay focused and motivated. It’s a little more difficult with the kids at home to stay focused, but they’ve learned a great deal in independent learning. We encourage them to take one task at a time, do their best to do it on their own, and come to us for questions. Sometimes that’s a 2 second response and other times a 2-hour discussion on DNA and traits –but that’s ok. It’s our current reality, and I personally enjoy getting a little science lesson every now and again. Thus far, that’s worked fairly well.”

And Vitamin D is the key for Elizabeth. “Take some time to go outside,” she explains. “If it is on your lunch break or just taking a few minutes to breathe. Vitamin D does wonders for me!”

And finally—allow yourself some grace

We’ve heard it said before, but it bears repeating: These times are not normal. There is no play book on how to deal with working from home in a time like this. Callie mentioned seeing something that says “You aren’t working from home; You are at your home during a crisis, trying to work.” So even if you normally work from home, it’s still not the same. And the entire Forum team recognizes the blessing we have in getting to work from home, while others go in to healthcare settings or grocery stores or the seat of a delivery truck, as essential workers every day. We are grateful to and thankful for those workers who are continuing to move us toward a better, safer, healthier world. But one thing we will say in all this is to practice grace—for yourself and for others. We are all learning how to navigate this world together, while apart, and our hope is that we will come out even stronger, kinder and more grace-filled on the other side of this.

So remember, whatever your #wfh situation, know you’re not in this alone, even if it may seem that way from your kitchen table or home office or living room couch. And when you go to rest your head at night after a day of Zoom meetings and conference calls, maybe these words fill your head and heart as you seek some peace:

“It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.”