Now that many of us are working from home, or might have to soon, freelancers can teach everyone a thing or two about managing time, emotions and the internet, while we sip coffee all day in our pyjamas (or not).
Coronavirus has brought the world to its knees. Every sector, from banking to aviation, is closing down offices due to the potential health hazards that crowded places can turn into. With nearly 6500 deaths worldwide, and more than 114 countries badly affected, working from cubicles is no longer a viable option.
Many employees are being asked to work from home, and few know how to make this huge transition smoothly. Freelancers have been far ahead of the curve when it comes to working from home, so here are a few helpful tips from freelancers to regular office-goers.
First of all, understand that nothing is more important than health. Yes, relaxing at a time like this when you are swamped with office work, childcare and house-work may seem counter-intuitive, but if you relax, everyone around you will relax.
Don’t try to run a perfect household or a perfect work-life balance, just good enough efforts will do.
The first few days will be tough, but you can relax by beginning to say no to a lot of unessential things. Right now everyone is more open to listening, make sure you speak up, softly yet firmly. Also, prioritise sleep.
Get digitally disciplined
Freelancers know that it is super important to create discipline if you don’t want to be swallowed by the black hole of digital distraction. But especially now, with all the constant news around Coronavirus, slow down on the videos, gifs, memes, especially the panic inducing ones.
Coronavirus calls for a little digital distancing, not just social distancing. If possible, avoid office WhatsApp groups and keep communication on mail and phone calls.
WhatsApp messages can keep going constantly and consume a lot of your time, while on mail people are succinct and to the point. Similarly, on a call you can use your hands to multi-task.
The world is not only going through an economic recession, but also a social recession due to coronavirus and the only way out is efficient, balanced communication. Ask your employers as many questions as you want in one go. Learn to ‘multi-ask’, be it asking for help or clarity. Write down pointers for all that you need to say. It saves time.
Establish boundaries and structures
Let people know that you won’t be available after scheduled work hours and be polite yet firm about it. After work hours, have fun with family. Lots of it. Video document the fun, so loved ones can re-watch it and feel connected to you, while you are busy with work in another room. If you’re staying alone, talk on the phone with your friends and dial down isolation. Also, since domestic helps will also find it difficult to leave their homes, communicate with family members to keep the house clean and do cleaning on a rotational basis. Each day pick up just one room or area to clean well.
A little song or dance routine
Since too much touch is out of question, start your day by doing physical activities together with family. Ask them to choose a song for you every day and then dance on it together.
Moms, if you give kids attention early in the morning, they will let you work in peace later on.
We take the time to feed our kids physically every morning, but we often forget to feed them emotionally. Same goes for your partners, in-laws and parents. You will be surprised by how little people need if you give them voluntarily.
‘Emotional Closeness’ is essential in times of ‘Social Distance’.
Take it from the girls
If you are wondering where to get your emotional nourishment from in such difficult times, well, what are girlfriends for? Reserve your evenings to talk to your female friends and iron out your small worries with them. At the beginning of the conversation let them know whether you just want to think aloud with them, vent or are looking for a solution. Even 10 minutes of clear conversation is enough to feel light. Start being your own friend too and be kind to yourself.
Also, if you ever feel overwhelmed, there are many people online who have opened their DMs (on both Twitter and Instagram) so you can talk to them and ease your worries. Find them, talk to them. The Kool Kanya Community is opening up on the 23rd March, where you can find other women professionals to connect with.
Dress semi-formally. Yes, even at home
Don’t go from your power-suits (or whatever your office dress code is) straight to your pyjamas. Dress well for at least the first hour of your work (Because well begun is half done).
And always start your work at the same time everyday.
Dress too formal and you will not be able to enjoy the ease of working from home, dress too casual and your work discipline might get affected. What works for me is a casual, comfortable lower half (skirt) and a formal top or blouse. Mothers, the kids also take you seriously when you are dressed semi-formally. ‘If’ you want, make your kids also wear school uniform for the first hour of your work. That is when the maximum work gets done.
Streamline your work
Communicate with your team right at the beginning of your work day about the goal for your day, communicate clearly about what you expect from each one. Cut some slack to your subordinates if you are the boss, and stand up for yourself if you are the subordinate and are being made to overwork.
Coronavirus is making us prioritise and realise the things most important to us: ourselves.
Like the announcement on airplanes, you first have to wear your own oxygen mask if you want to help your kids, similarly don’t forget to take care of yourself first. But don’t go to the other extreme either. I read somewhere that one should neither be so worried about coronavirus that they end up panicking (because constant panicking lowers immunity), nor be so dismissive as to not bother at all. Similarly don’t take yourself too seriously or too casually. As with your semi formal dress, take yourself somewhat seriously. And see your efficiency skyrocket.