We are not just adjusting to a new way of working, we are adjusting to a new way of life – one that is rapidly changing.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, more and more people are working from home. In response, there has been a barrage of articles published that offer tips for making remote work a success. While these articles contain valuable information, where they fall flat is that they do not take into account that COVID-19 has transformed how we live. They, therefore, paint an unrealistic picture of what remote work looks like and how to successfully navigate the transition.
A transition to remote work typically includes preparing by preparing a home office space, acquiring the necessary technology, lining up childcare, and mapping out a schedule. And then, once remote work begins, it is possible to connect with people for coffee or dinner, for example, to ward off isolation.
COVID-19 not only eliminated the preparation stage, but it also changed the game. With so many people working remotely, helpful technology such as external monitors, webcams, and headphones, is back-ordered. Schools and daycare centers are closed. Childcare is fraught with challenges. Getting together for coffee or dinner is out.
I have worked remotely and have led remote teams for close to 15 years and I am finding working remotely tough right now. I struggle with working and having my children home. I struggle with supporting them as they try to make sense of their new realities. I struggle with not being able to meet with friends or go to the gym. I also struggle with focusing as I worry about friends and family, and worry about the world we now find ourselves living in.
Remote work in the absence of COVID-19 is different than remote work today. Acknowledging this is important. We need to temper expectations, and we need to give ourselves permission to stop and breathe. We need to extend this permission to others. We need to be empathetic, have flexibility, and we need to be clear that we are not just adjusting to a new way of working, we are adjusting to a new way of life – one that is rapidly changing.
So, read the articles, read the tips, and implement what you can. But recognize that when it comes to working remotely, you may need to adjust or go completely off script based on what is feasible for you right now. Innovate. Give yourself some slack. And schedule time to connect socially virtually. You (and I) will make it work.