I don’t have to tell you life is different now. None of us will come out of this experience the same. We can’t predict what life will look like days, weeks, or months from now, but in this moment as we’re trying to establish some semblance of normalcy, what does work look like? Below are some tips I have about working during COVID-19.
For one, work won’t be business as usual and I think it’s important we all keep that in mind. It’s unrealistic to believe or try to operate in such a way that promotes that idea. Parents now have to contend with children underfoot, or sharing working space with their partners. Everyone is undergoing some sort of upheaval so the best thing any of us can do is be patient with one another. Everything will likely take longer than it normally does so patience is key here.
It’s also important to practice flexibility. Ideally managers established work goals based on output – meaning the projects themselves and not whether the person spent four hours working uninterrupted. Or whether they worked specifically from 9 to 5. Parents especially might find themselves working in the later evenings and early mornings when their children are asleep because childcare is unavailable. The more employers understand that, the better for all of us. Also, the reality is parents likely won’t get as much work done as their childless colleagues. It doesn’t feel fair, but when is life ever fair? We work with what we’ve got and do the best we can.
Wikimedia CEO Katherine Maher put it best in a Medium piece: “It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect someone to be fully present, eight hours a day, when they have a three-year-old with crayons drawing on the wall, or an elderly parent who needs help navigating the stairs. We all have loved ones who need care, groceries that need purchasing, doctor’s appointments to keep, neighbors who need a phone call. And you know what? We trust our colleagues. People will work when they can, and when they can’t, we trust they’ll be right.”
Push it Back
If you can push a project back, push it back! Whittle priorities and projects down to the most crucial, the most pressing. Now is not the time to be ambitious and pretend the only difference with work is the location. Use this time to slow down, not speed up.
Americans especially are on the goal-oriented and workaholic side. I’ve seen several memes about how Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity during a quarantine, as if the same could be or should be true for all us. There’s an expectation during this period we’ll be our most productive, our most creative, indulging all our hobbies. “After this quarantine I’ll be in the best shape of my life because I’ll have so much time to work out!” Or “I’ll write the next great American novel in my free time!” I applaud the sentiment, and yes, it might be true for some people, but for many of us, we’re just trying to get by. During stressful times, it’s important to lower the bar, not raise it.
The last thing I’ll say about this topic is to be gentle with yourself and others right now. We’re all feeling lots of feeling and in a period of high stress. This is one of the few times when everyone across the globe is in a similar situation. That calls for understanding and kindness because we’re all navigating something new. We’re not alone here and gentleness will go a long way.
What are your tips for working during COVID-19? Tell me in the comments below.