Coronavirus: Remote working ain't a cakewalk, but here are some dos and don'ts

Remote working or work from home is the new buzzword. With the novel coronavirus compelling people to stay indoors, this could be our new normal for the next one or two quarters.

One of the biggest talk points in the world right now is remote working or 'work from home' (abbreviated to WFH), which became an overnight reality en masse.

We are all out to "flatten the curve" and "break the chain" of COVID-19 transmission. As a result, it is imperative for us to stay indoors and go on with our daily lives to the best of our abilities. But as it turns out, it hasn't been all that smooth.

WFH has sent nearly half the world into a collective meltdown. There are memes, jokes, hashtags, hot takes, and so on. From celebrity entrepreneurs like Sachin Bansal and Kunal Shah to working mothers — everyone is faced with a steep learning curve.

And, rightly so.

Let's get this straight: Remote working ain't a cakewalk. In fact, it is quite often an intensely isolating, stressful, and unrewarding experience — one that can take a toll on your physical and mental well being in the long run. There is no way to sugarcoat this reality.

Image: YS Design

Unfortunately, we have no option but to get used to this new normal, which could very well last one to two quarters if global epidemiologists are to be believed.

So, let's attempt to break down the process of remote working such that it doesn't feel all that overwhelming for those new to it.

The 'dos' of WFH

The first thing to remember about WFH is that it is not a vacation.

One has to curb their leisurely approach at the very outset. And this is how you do it.

  • Set a routine and stick to it
  • Wake up and start your day at a fixed time. It could be 8 am or 10.30 am or 12 noon — whatever rocks your boat, but stick to it.
  • Take a shower, put on clothes. Many remote workers would have you believe that being in pyjamas or without pants is the fashionable thing in WFH, but don't do it if that puts you in the holiday mood.
  • No matter how small, have a calm and isolated workspace. It could be a laptop-desk on your bed or a tiny corner in your living room, but it is critical that you cut yourself off from the daily humdrum even if it is for a few hours.
  • Plug in. Noise-cancelling headphones not only let you drown the noise of the world, but it has been scientifically proven that music helps you concentrate and relax. If you have kids at home, plugging in becomes all that more necessary.
  • Stay connected. You might be working remotely from one stray corner of the world, but it is essential to remember that you're actually a cog in the wheel. Staying connected with the team and being responsive on call, mail, and message, especially during work hours, can make or break your WFH experience.
  • Charge your devices. It is good hygiene to keep your laptops and smartphones charged at all times, especially when you do not have a power backup at home. This is all the more important if you're working out of a city that routinely runs out of electricity or goes through power outages whenever it rains.
  • Take short breaks. This might sound a bit facetious, but it is critical to keep your stress levels in check. While at the workplace, your hours are punctuated by lunch breaks, tea breaks, smoke breaks, and sundry downtime. At home, however, it is not unnatural to lose sense of time and be caught up in a ball of haze. So, take the chai breaks or scroll through your social media feeds when you need to.

The 'don'ts' of WFH

The wise thing to say is everyone finds their own dos and don'ts as they go along.

But a few things need to be taken care of.

  • Avoid heavy meals. One of the most frequently asked questions to remote workers is: How do you manage to not sleep after lunch? The answer lies in what you do not eat. A heavy lunch is bound to make you feel drowsy, compel you to surrender your resolve, and push you towards that comfy bed. Small meals come to the rescue. They keep both your hunger pangs and lethargy at bay.
  • Don't give up on your routine. One of the easiest things to do in life is not be disciplined. Sure, it can be liberating. But WFH isn't a merry-go-round or your path to nirvana. So, you've got to identify a pattern and keep returning to it despite the inevitable occasional slide.
  • Shake off the dejection. Many remote workers go through a persistent feeling of being left out. They crave team bonding sessions, work lunches, brainstorming, ideation, social validation, etc. A lack of it can make them feel mean-spirited and demotivated. The first thing to tell yourself is that it is not abnormal to feel that way and things get better the next day. So, rid yourself of the guilt of dejection.
  • Minimise distractions. When you're outside the confines of a workplace, distraction comes easy. It could be the ring of a doorbell, the sound of traffic, a loud conversation next door, or persistent construction noise if you're in a bustling metropolis. While distractions are unavoidable, the onus of minimising their duration lies entirely on you.
So, get back to work as soon as you can!

(P.S. The above piece is based on learnings from close to 6,500 hours of remote working over 700-odd days in the last two-plus years.)

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)


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