Three Strategies for Teleworking

The Coronavirus has made its presence known, and we’re all doing our part by social distancing and teleworking to make sure we keep it under control and contained. But if you’ve never teleworked before or aren’t used to it, it can be a significant adjustment.  That being the case, here are 3 things you can do right now to make teleworking more palatable, and maybe even enjoyable for yourself!

I. Create Physical Separation

One thing most people don’t think about is where to do work. You do your work in the living room while you’re watching TV, or on the dining table where you eat dinner, or in bed. A little known fact is that creating physical separation between where you actually do work and where you live your life and spend quality alone or family time is a huge contributor to stress levels. 

Your brain associates places with stress as much as it does the actual actions that happen in them. Creating that separation tells your brain, “It’s time to work” in your working space and, “It’s time to relax” in your other space.If you can create a physical location in your home where you either do all or a significant majority of your work, you will be less stressed while spending time in other parts of the home. 

II. Schedule and Observe Breaks

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to get caught up in work and end up working longer, more continuous hours.  It’s comfortable, you may be in your pajamas, and you can make yourself tea or coffee whenever you want and eat lunch while you do your work, right? Sure, but that will add significantly to your stress levels. 

Set specific times to take breaks, whether it’s to take a walk by yourself or with your dog, or whether it’s just to step away from the computer and get a break from the screen. This will create mental breaks that your mind needs throughout the day in order to keep working. Also make sure to not eat in front of your computer because then you’re not really taking a break from work at all.

III. Create a “Mindfulness Commute”

The last suggestion is a less obvious one because most people don’t think of their commute as being “a break” from anything. Many of us deal with traffic or frustrations while we’re commuting to work, but what you may not realize is that the time you spend commuting to work is time away from work, generally.  So create a “mindfulness commute” to work. It doesn’t have to be anywhere near as long as your regular commute; it just has to be long enough for you to create separation between your home life and your work life. You can even just walk from your bedroom to your office area and say to yourself, “time to go to work” before you engage in a breathing exercise.  Even if you have a small home and your work space is just a small corner of your apartment, you can still take a few minutes to yourself to breathe and mentally prepare to begin work. When you break for lunch or when you’ve finished work for the day, take another few minutes to mentally bring yourself back down from the day to relax and be home again.

Putting It All Together

I know it can be tempting to just jump in and start working from home from wherever you normally sit at home without giving it too much thought. The problem with this is that when you get used to that, you won’t have any place to really find solace away from work.  Eventually, you will integrate work into every physical space you inhabit, and that won’t be healthy. Instead, make sure to create the physical and mental space between your home life and your work life, and you will find that the stress becomes easier to manage.

Dhru Beeharilal, GUAA Career Coaching Partner

Taking Back the Narrative

“Everything can be taken from a [person] but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

– Viktor Frankl

Our situation with COVID-19 is one that can fill the most calm and steady of us with fear and uncertainty. What will happen to me, my family, my community? My job? Those most vulnerable? Because we biologically need and feed off of connection with others, we’re also affected by the thoughts, emotions, energy and narratives of other human beings and our collective narrative. Emotional contagion is a powerful phenomena. 

We look to our communities to help make sense of world events, but at times, we can be more drawn into fear, reactivity and stress that ultimately doesn’t help us. The inverse is also true: we can be calmed down by our communities and not all fear is negative. 

And yet, in a time when we feel like we have very few choices and the world is deciding how we live, we do still have a choice in the story we tell ourselves. We can choose where and on what we put our attention; how we interpret the data and information coming in. 

Here’s a method to get centered, to reflect and begin to rewrite the story you’re in right now:

  1. First, check in with yourself. Find a place to sit and be still for a few minutes. Step outside into the natural world if you can. Take a few deep breaths. Lengthen your inhales and your exhales. Notice where you’re connected to your chair, the floor or the ground outside. Starting at the top of your head, scan down through your body. Without judging, what do you notice? Where do you notice it? You can place a hand over your heart and your gut to check in with both parts of your body. What is your body trying to tell you?
  2. Second, take a few minutes to reflect on how you are currently feeling and reacting. I feel…what (emotion)? In light of that, what is it that I need right now? Listen to the answer, whether it be a feeling, a word or phrase, or even an image that comes up. Consider writing it down so you can pull it out of your brain to more effectively process it.
  3. Third, take a step back. What’s the story you’re living in right now? If you’re having trouble imagining that, think of how you would simplify the elements to share it as a headline. What role are you playing in that narrative (victim, hero, frustrated bystander)? What’s your aspiration for changing that? What changes about your behavior if you can stand in that narrative and look at the world that way? What are some small ways that you can create that new narrative? Example: Instead of feeling obligated to respond to my phone, I can silence my notifications and take the morning off from reading texts or material that amplifies my stress. 

I’m well aware that we can’t erase the world’s events right now with a little thinking. However, we can take ownership of where we do have the most power: our freedom to tell the story our way.

GUAA Career Coaching Partner Miranda Holder