April 2020 | Suzanne Howe, CMO | ASPM-SanDiego
For most of us, working from home has enriched our daily routines. No stressful commutes crowding our mornings and evenings. No rushing to daycare and getting homework done in time to throw a decent meal together to have an hour or two left before sleepwalking to bed. It’s been pure productive bliss, both for staff and for our customers.
The template for managing a remote workforce at ASPM was already begun before the Coronavirus pandemic after valued ASPM personnel relocated. Our CINC and cloud-based technological transitions in 2019 provided our staff and clients with more efficient reporting mechanisms – both visually and auditorily, creating greater staff productivity in task performance.
This forward-thinking strategy brought ASPM in sync with the latest technological trend and moved us ahead of our competition. The pandemic has validated our ability to work effectively from home and has revealed the many benefits this opportunity provides our staff and customers in health and safety alone. To mention just one of these, a recent study by U.C. Davis reflects a 50 percent reduction in automobile crashes in California since the shut-down began on March 20th, a savings of $40 million dollars a day – or $1 billion dollars during the period, to date.
The CDC is now predicting a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall as the virus continues to mutate into several different strains. The CDC expects the cases of infection and death rates may be higher than what we have experienced thus far. More concerning is that about the time COVID-19 is winding down and places are reopened, we will begin entering the 2020-21 regular flu season. In order to protect the health of our staff, customers, and vendors, ASPM will continue to serve clientele through a remote workforce for the foreseeable future.
How to do it right
As we each settle into a work-from-home routine, staying focused and finding a routine that works can be challenging. We expect staff to be more productive working from home. Senior management has implemented new accountability and reporting mechanisms for their divisions, and continue to develop innovative methods to improve these processes.
We are all in this together for the long haul, and the bonds of team members are as strong as ever. While we want to ensure we’re all able to enjoy the flexibility and freedom of having more control over our workday, we understand the pitfalls and challenges working from home can create, especially from social isolation.
We have devised a “top five tips” on how to still get work done and stay in good shape physically and mentally:
1 Stick with your routines
Try to maintain a sense of normalcy by following set routines that work for you already. If you get up at 6 a.m., keep getting up around that time. If you normally eat at a certain time, keep eating then. If you exercise at a certain time of day, do that the same, too. Anything you can keep the same, try your best to do it. Decisions will be easier if you don’t tempt yourself every night with watching late night shows instead of going to bed.
If we abandon all our routines it can lead to apathy and a lapse in work productivity. If we find ourselves home all the time without showering or dressing — this is probably not a good sign, especially if we’re on videoconferences that require us to be seen.
2 Set your work hours
While working remotely, we might feel there’s a lack of structure in our workday — that we’re not really on or off a regular ‘workday clock.’ This added flexibility can impact productivity without our realizing it. It’s akin to having a mindless snack here or there that can add pounds to our waistlines during the week — so too, adding personal tasks into our work hours can result in lost work productivity. We can end up barely working, working too much, or develop work hours that are out of sync with our company’s working hours when we need to be available for team members.
Set hours for when you’re going to work and not work. Stick with these as much as possible, and ensure those at home with you afford you the time and space to maintain your routine.
3 Create a workspace
You may already have a home office, or you may have to juggle access to a workspace around the needs of others at home. If you’re in the latter category, pick a working space and form a ritual around it. Whether it’s a kitchen table or a sofa or a desk, try to claim your territory and make it your space. Connect your chargers there, have work materials on hand, and park your electronics there.
Develop the attitude that in your workspace, you’re working. Control of our workspace helps us separate our work and home activities. Maintain this mindset by doing other activities – such as eating lunch, reading a novel, or chatting with friends, in other living spaces.
4 Keep work and nonwork activities separate
While working at home, many of us try to multi-task work and nonwork chores and activities.
In organizing a schedule, we have to shoot for balance. It’s tempting to squeeze our chores in throughout the workday, run our errands, and catch up on phone calls during the time we should be working. But it’s critical to define what we will — and will not do — during work hours.
That said, nonwork activities can still be done before work, during breaks, and during lunch. Throw a load of laundry in the washer before work and put it in the dryer on your break, or run errands during lunch. Personal calls can be made then, too, just as we would if we were at the office. Blurring the lines between work and nonwork can cause us to burn out and feel that we lack control over our homelife and the ability to meet our work objectives.
We’ve got more time back each day now by not having to commute to and from work. It’s important to remember how much we all need structure in our daily lives to achieve a sense of balance and well-being.
5 Remember to have a social life
While the pandemic has resulted in fewer opportunities for social interaction, it’s more important than ever before to connect with other people in order to stay happy, healthy, productive, and sane.
Some of us thrive in and take comfort in isolation, but for others it can lead to a feeling of social disconnect in even the most sensible of us. Make sure you connect with others every day. Whether this involves virtual meetings, chatting on the phone, or texting friends, or even taking a neighborhood walk or drive — just seeing other people moving around can help us not feel alone during everything that’s going on. You might even consider adopting a pet to keep you company. The best possible way to stay calm and mentally healthy while sheltering in place is to support one another and try to hold onto our sense of humor.
We have a unique opportunity while working from home to take the best possible care of ourselves by eating healthy and getting some type of exercise, by being as productive as possible, by connecting with others and getting quality sleep, and finding something every day to laugh about.
When the pandemic ends and our communities reopen, the isolation some of us may feel now will be replaced by our being able to enjoy active social lives once again. With our work-from-home structure fully integrated by then, we’ll all have the very best of both worlds.