In mid-March, just as most Californians were being placed under shelter-in-place orders for the first time, I remember a collective feeling across many recent graduates: freefall. Like many others, the realization that I had to find work during a pandemic hit me like a train. What did this mean for me and my career? What were my options? What did workplace expectations now look like?
Going to the office and learning firsthand from my environment proved immensely useful in the beginning stages of my current job. Since I was 10 years old, my mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints. Without her immunosuppressant drugs, her pain levels were unmanageable. For someone like my mother, getting COVID meant something entirely different– something potentially life-threatening. I so vividly remember feeling anxious, distracted, and almost guilty simply for being outside. However, a sense of relief washed over me as I returned to the comfort and safety of my home when switching to remote working. During this pandemic, I have found a deep and profound sense of appreciation for those putting themselves at risk every day doing essential work, and for those who stayed at home to continue to flatten curve. Everyday, the work I do is driven by two things. One is the drive to keep me and my loved ones healthy. And two, the drive to continue the work–the important work that we feel called to do when we are finding our footing in the world.
This is an unprecedented time. It seems to me that nobody, no millennial working right now, could say, "I did it right, I did it perfectly”. But what I can say is that working from home has been immensely gratifying. Since I started working remotely, there are days where I start working to the sound of birds chipping or to the sight of fresh dew collecting on the glass pane. This quiet, serene spot by a window has been a haven that has ultimately allowed me to feel more invigorated, more productive and less stressed.
And evidence shows that I am not the only one. According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, there are several benefits of working from home. Overall, we saw a 13% performance increase, of which about 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick-days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction and experienced less turnover. Working from home–while deeply rewarding–is still a delicate balancing act. Here are a few tips from my own experience to make sure you set yourself up for success.
- Take a Shower and Get Dressed: Implement a morning routine daily–one that allows you to put your best foot forward. Not only will this naturally transition your mind and body into work mode, it will also become an opportunity to express yourself–even if it’s just within the confines of your own home. I find that a little tinted moisturizer, concealer or tinted lip balm does wonders in this regard.
- Setup Dedicated Office Space: This is crucial to working remote. Keeping a dedicated “office” space that is free of clutter keeps you (and anyone else video conferencing with you!) free of distractions.
- Keep an Agenda: An agenda with all your meetings, tasks and responsibilities for the day is a sure way to keep accountable to yourself and others. It allows you to organize your priorities, avoid stress and stay disciplined in how you budget your time.
- Express your needs: If you find that working from home is more difficult for you, chances are you probably aren’t expressing your needs effectively. Ask yourself what you need to get your job done more efficiently. More likely than not, your boss will never say no to obtaining the tools to succeed. And your team will thank you for it.
- Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! If working remotely has taught me anything, it is that communicating constantly with your higher ups and team is the only way to stay cohesive and purposeful in the work you do every day. Even if you think they won’t care. Even if you think they are busy to notice. The responsibility to communicate is yours and yours alone.