One of our partners sent us a fantastic letter about COVID-19 and working from home at the beginning of our national lockdown. Most of this still applies in the current lockdown stage as so many South Africans are still working from home.
COVID-19 Lockdown Survival Guide by Shaun Maitre
We are a part of History, whether we like it or not. Our country and much of the world has been brought to a standstill by a virus unknown to us three months ago and we are now in lockdown, something which has never occurred in the history of South Africa.
However, we need to keep on working, as best as we can, to keep things going. Once the doors are opened and we are let out, we need an economy that is still alive and jobs that have continued to exist.
So, what is my role?
I need to adapt quickly to the situation to be as effective as possible from my remote work place and try to draw as many positives from the situation as possible, for my own good, for the survival of the Company I work for, and for the good of those who are forced to spend 21 unbroken days in my presence.
TIPS ON WORKING FROM HOME
I have had the privilege of working from home on and off for a number of years and have done so with babies in the house and later with young adults – each situation we find ourselves in has its unique challenges but there are certain practices we HAVE to enforce if we are to remain productive.
- Choose your work space carefully
- Discuss and agree with family and protect it from intrusion from family members
- If it is in a family area, be considerate – keep it tidy and pack away properly after work if necessary
- Set firm boundaries
- Make it clear that your work time is your worktime and that your time and space is not to be disturbed any more than if you were at the office
- Be firm about this from the start but be kind. It takes time for the family to get used to having you at home.
- Finish your work time at the agreed time and move straight into some family time (it’s your way of thanking them for respecting your space)
- Establish a strict routine
- Get up, Dress up, Show up!
- Set a start time and finish time
- Even if you had a terrible night – start work on time
- Dress comfortably following a normal morning routine – never start work in your PJ’s! (Maybe begin wearing your office clothes until a routine established)
- Plan your work for the day.
- Prioritise tasks – get the tough ones out of the way early on
- Wrap up for the day on time and don’t go back to your desk during family time unless there is something urgent that has arisen (as you would do in normal practice)
- Less than 8 hours work to do?
- Don’t just waste time at your desk because you feel guilty that you don’t have 8 hours of work today. Be productive.
- Working a “split shift” can be effective. A few hours in the morning and a couple in the late afternoon to wrap up.
- Use spare time to sort out filing – electronic and paper
- Get personal tasks done (tax returns, bank communications etc.)
- Look for work (don’t wait to be asked) – contact your department head / manager / colleagues and see where you can help
- Schedule breaks
- Have tea / lunch with the family – don’t overrun these.
- If you feel you need a nap during your lunch break – then do it (but stick to one hour maximum otherwise your whole schedule is a mess)
- Stay in touch
- Communicate with your department regularly
- Let those who need to know, understand what you are doing and coordinate tasks around one another (You are still part of a team!)
- Arrange regular Skype calls to discuss work (plans and challenges) – Book a time that suits everybody
- Understand what your colleagues are busy with and how you fit into the bigger picture
- Communicate with your HOD / Manager etc. to ensure they are kept in the loop – don’t wait for them to call you
- Review your achievements
- At the end of the day critically appraise your productivity
- Note where you dropped the ball and plan better tomorrow
- Pat yourself on the back for real achievements
- Make a note of everything not completed as a start to tomorrow’s planning
- Get up, Dress up, Show up!
TIPS ON STAYING SANE (or making delicious lemonade out of this unusually sour lemon!)
I know it is tough out there. I know many of us are worried – how to cope with lower income, will our jobs survive this shutdown, what if I (or a family member get sick)?
Fear is our No. 1 Enemy. Fear that is allowed to control our thoughts can immobilize us into inaction, which creates more anxiety as I know I should be doing something, so become more afraid ….. and a viscous cycle is in place that becomes harder to break each day.
How to fight Fear
- Focus on the things you can control
- Plan your finances – lockdown is a great way of not spending
- Plan your work routine and stick to it – rely on routine, not feelings.
- Get your household chores out of the way early in the morning (make your bed!) You will already feel you have taken back some control
- Set yourself household / garden projects and plan and stick to the time you will give to these (involve your family)
- Stay healthy
- The “no time for exercise” excuse has disappeared. Find a space to exercise – there are great workouts on the internet
- Make this part of your routine
- Start easily (15 – 20 minutes) and build up (Set a new goal each week)
- Involve your spouse / kids / pets. Make it fun and laugh!
- Eat regular, healthy but smaller meals. Stick to mealtimes
- If you cheated today – do better tomorrow. DON’T GIVE UP!
- Make time for self-growth exercises
- Set aside a specific amount of time at the same time each day (begin with 10 – 15 minutes)
Take time to listen to Ted Talks, read an inspirational book etc. – jot down the few things that jump out at you.
- Create a space for ME TIME to meditate on these in silence (I find early morning the best with a cup of coffee)
- Meditation, contemplation, prayer – It WILL feel weird at first and you WILL be bombarded by the most random of thoughts. This is fine – it is your brain’s way of letting go and you are actually starting to unwind
- PERSEVERE – don’t have preconceived ideas, just go with it daily (this may be the best thing you have ever learned in your life as you discover the source of your inner strength)
- Share something you found helpful with your family, friends and work colleagues
- Begin with those at home – tell them how you feel, ask them how they feel. Listen and hear them!
- Stay in touch with friends and loved ones – reach out and listen to their problems
- Write somebody a letter – it’s been years since they’ve had one and this will help them through this time
It is up to each of us to decide how we will manage our own Lockdown
Will we drift through the time meaninglessly or will we use this as a time to reconnect at a deeper level with our loved ones?
Are we going to be a burden for them or will we help them carry their burdens?
Will we moan about the inconvenience or see this as a unique opportunity to work in the comfort of home, grow ourselves and encourage our colleagues?
Yes, it is really about CHOICE.
No one controls YOUR ATTITUDE but YOU!
We will get through this! Recovery will happen
When that time comes, people will be working full time again – When they do, we must be ready and better positioned than ever before to knock the socks off our competition
Good luck, stay healthy, and I look forward to having a cup of coffee with you “on the other side”!
Shaun Maitre is an independent consultant to Go Four IT(Pty) Ltd. He works with a small professional team to assist Business Owners to find the space required to focus on their core business by creating a stable platform from which to develop new strategies for exponential growth.