There’s a difference between working at home because you want to and working at home because you have to.
Working at home was an appealing privilege to many, but can now produce feelings of Cabin Fever on steroids.
When your kids become your office mates, new challenges arise.
Home Schooling, working, and doing family life every day in your home may be fun for a week, but “until further notice” can be overwhelming.
Where I live outside the city of Atlanta, we’ve just received a “Stay at Home” directive. That’s different than “I get to work at home.” It’s psychological when you don’t have options; you can feel trapped, and your perspective changes. That impacts your attitude.
For most high energy leaders who have great drive for the mission of the church, this is a crazy-making formula.
And what about the parents who are now homeschooling? Is it a crash course in education or survival?
Thriving in close quarters is a challenging situation for just two-three days, now we need to learn how to do it for weeks at a time.
Thriving in close quarters requires three basics:
1) Extra Grace
We were not designed for isolation, and we were not designed for indefinitely sustained close quarters. This difficult season brings with it extra friction and frustration.
When it comes to grace, my best advice is contained in these three words, “Let it go.” Let the small offenses go.
Give the benefit of the doubt and let all the little things go, and most of the big things too.
When someone in your family is getting on your nerves, let it go, and trust they will extend the same grace to you.
Things are changing daily.
Your ability to be flexible and adapt is essential.
Most churches are making plans on a one-week or two-week basis and must be ready to change in a moment.
It’s true that you need a new routine. I wrote about that in my previous post. The point of flexibility is not to forsake or give up on a new routine, but to be prepared to be flexible within that routine.
That includes your kids too. They are just as stressed, in their world, as you are. Teaching your kids about flexibility will help.
3) Honest communication
Honest communication will help you get through this crisis more than anything else, except for prayer.
Prayer is always the foundation for good communication.
It’s important to tell your family members and close colleagues how you feel, but don’t expect them to always bow to how you feel. Your goal is understanding, not compliance.
Allow their measure of grace to determine their response to how you feel.
Don’t keep score, just set a good example, and extend grace.
5 Practical tips to working at home:
1) Establish your new work routine.
In the previous post, I just mentioned, the new routine is your home and overall life routine.
This point specifically addresses your new work routine.
You probably can set your work schedule at your discretion, but once you set it, stick to it. (Yes, flex when you must, but not because you are constantly distracted.)
Distractions are the chief enemy of successfully working at home. You can’t eliminate all of them, so focus on solutions to the most significant ones.
Focus is key.
If your schedule is 7:30am to 4:30pm with a lunch break, stick to it. You’ll end up with more time for your family!
When you work at home, don’t add extra hours. Don’t start late. Don’t mow the grass when you break for lunch. Your body needs time to breathe within a consistent rhythm of work.
2) Dress the part
Someone recently said to me: “It’s important to change from your night pajamas to your work pajamas.” That’s pretty funny, but there’s a smart point here.
You never went to work in your pajamas before. Why?
Our minds connect with social norms in terms of how we dress. That’s why you don’t wear the same thing to a wedding that you wear to the beach.
You can, but people don’t.
No one is suggesting that you dress up to work at home, it’s more like “casual Friday” every day.
The point is how you think and function at work. It makes a difference.
3) Pay attention to your personality type.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? That reality shows up more when you work at home.
When working at home, introverts may lean into the cherished peace and quiet and risk unintended isolation. Extroverts may miss the personal interaction and create distractions just to talk to someone.
The first step is, to be honest regarding how you feel about working at home. Perhaps you’ve been after your boss to let you work at home a couple of days a week, and now that you are, you don’t like it as much as you thought.
Own how you feel about it, but again, don’t make others own your feelings.
Perhaps your personality craves structure, and now you feel like you are floating on your own. Or maybe you love spontaneous collaboration, and that seems to be gone.
Don’t dismiss your personality; take time to intentionally come up with creative solutions to help your unique wiring thrive.
Pace yourself. You may be a high-drive activator type, or you may be a process thinker type. Each needs their own attention to pacing.
If you are an activator, you may need a system to help you catch your breath. If you are a processor, you may need some prompts to keep your pace moving.
These are just a few examples to get you started thinking about how to compensate for the lack of your normal work environment.
4) Set up your workspace.
This may be a challenge for you if your living space is limited. But if there is any way possible to set up even the smallest dedicated area, do it.
The couch is not a good choice. (It’s likely, you never worked 40-50 hours a week on a couch before, so it’s probably not a good idea to start now.)
Like the previous point on dress, it’s not about a rigid rule. There are no clothes police or workspace inspectors. It’s about helping you function at your best.
5) Embrace video conferencing.
I’ll admit I don’t prefer Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or the many other options. I like to talk with people in person.
People’s expressions, side chatter, and the smell of a cup of coffee matter to me. Hey, I’m a boomer, but I’ve adapted.
You may love teleworking; if so, you’re good to go!
But if you find it more sterile than warm, I encourage you to focus on the positives.
- It’s efficient. Most meetings are shorter.
- You can include people from anywhere in the country.
- You can take advantage of different times that work for everyone.
- It makes you change out of your work pajamas.
There is no easy or magic solution, but I hope these thoughts help you be as productive as you want to be, and also truly enjoy both your work and family.