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Was your workplace turned on its head last year? According to a Stanford article, 42% of Americans transitioned to work-from-home status as a result of the COVID-19 protocols, while 26% of the U.S. labor force continued working as essential workers. The remaining American professionals were either furloughed or chose to put their careers on hold to transition into more of a caregiving role.
What has a workplace shift like this forced all of us to redefine? Let’s explore.
There’s nothing quite like a seconds-long commute to your desk, right? But it’s likely the perks of working from home (not often you can rock sweatpants while talking quarterly projections!) have worn away and the realities of work-from-home life have sunk in. Arguably, the biggest “issue” American workers have had to confront is the strength (or maybe non-existence) of their boundaries.
Work and life aren’t supposed to co-exist for extended periods of time, unless you made the choice to be a remote worker pre-pandemic. Mentally, it’s difficult to switch from personal life to professional life when you cross the threshold of your home office. Add in the distractions of school-age children learning virtually, your spouse also working from home and possibly jostling for office space with you, and being around for all the random events that typically happen at your house when you’re at the office (hello, lawn service noises!), and it’s a genuine miracle you are able to get any quality work in while you’re “on the clock.”
Boundaries have the potential to swoop in and save your workday, but only if you take the time to set them (and yourself) up for success. Here are some things to consider:
- Schedule a regular time to come up with your task list for your day. (Maybe repurpose the time you would have been commuting?)
- Give yourself space each day to breathe. Your stress sources are at an all-time high right now, so don’t expect to be able to just “go with the flow” like you used to. It’s OK to not feel OK.
- Don’t throw away all of your traditional workplace routines. Try to get up at the same time in the morning, continue to make time for fitness, and actually take a lunch break!
- Designate an actual office space. If you have a home office already, treat it exactly like how you would your usual office. If you don’t have a whole room for an office, take the time to design and organize a “work space” you and everyone in your home will recognize as the place you put on your “professional” hat.
Stay Social (Safely)
Do you miss face-to-face meetings? Find yourself wishing you had a break room to sit in with your co-workers and discuss a random article someone found in their email that morning? It’s OK to grieve these personal connections you likely took for granted or even considered mundane. As humans, we want to grow and develop relationships and connections with other humans. We just might add “outside of our house” to that now. (Not that we don’t love you, family!)
Find ways to still connect with your peers. We all have Zoom fatigue now, but it is still a great way to stay in touch. Take one hour a week with your fellow “work-from-homers” and have a Zoom meeting with no work talk allowed. See what you can learn about your fellow teammates!
If you live near any of your office mates, ask if they would be comfortable with meeting up at a local park or outdoor restaurant for a collective lunch hour. Not only will taking a lunch help you feel more normal, getting a change of scenery will help clear your mind and connecting with those with whom you work will foster a tighter work bond for everyone.
If you’re looking for an even deeper connection, find a 4word Community Group meeting to attend. Nearly all of our Community Groups are still virtual and open to anyone to attend. Meet other professionals just like you, all over the country!
It might be a hard notion to believe, but there will come a day when going back to work will be an option. “Workplace reentry” might also mean starting an all-new position or career, if you lost your job or chose to stay home as a caregiver. How do you keep yourself “reentry ready?”
- Don’t slack on structure – Keep a routine to your day during the week, just like you would have had before.
- Use any extra time in your day to learn – Now is the perfect time to sign up for a webinar, online class, or personal development coaching. Not sure where to start? The 4word Mentor Program is an entirely virtual mentorship option connecting mentees with mentors who will not only help you grow professionally but personally and spiritually, too. Click here for more information!
- Use freelancing or side hustles to grow new skills or keep yourself sharp – Remote work is such an expected work environment right now, which means many companies are open to working with freelancers or contractors. Even if you’ve never dabbled in “side hustles,” finding one can help broaden your network, keep your professional muscles toned, and bring in some income for you and your family. (If you’re still working, make sure your company has OK’d freelancing or contracting outside of your organization.)
Take a moment and think about everything you’ve gone through in the last twelve months. Be proud of yourself! Nothing about the professional world right now is normal or easy, and you’re still here. Before you implement any of the advice shared above, celebrate your accomplishments over the past year (nothing is too small to celebrate!) and give yourself the freedom and space to accept your redefined workplace.