If you are among the many who will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, whether you are in behavioral health or another field, you are probably wondering how this will all look. What will it be like to not see another soul all day? To not be able to grab a quick working lunch with a co-worker or jump into an impromptu meeting about something that just came up? The Atlantic calls it “…a Huge, Stressful Experiment in Working From Home” (Thompson, 2020). How we all handle this change – albeit temporary for most of us – may well define the future of the world of work.
For behavioral health providers, the people they provide services to in recovery from substance use, mental health, and other behavioral health disorders will need alternative ways of recovery support. According to an article in Addiction Professional, Under Coronavirus Threat, Patient Connection Will Take on Different Form, as people everywhere are struggling to cope with the new “normal” of life, those in recovery need support services more than ever. There have been reports of AA, SMART Recovery, and other support meetings not being held because of the risk of contagion. In addition to changing the rules of group meetings, organizations are moving swiftly to provide technological alternatives, such as hosting online groups, telephone therapy sessions, text, and email options. These can all be excellent ways of maintaining a sense of connection during a situation where feeling disconnected is all too common, and they can all be accomplished from home (Enos, 2020).
Tips for Working from Home
For anyone fortunate enough to have work that CAN be done at home, employees are headed there in droves to accomplish “social distancing” and “self-quarantining” to “flatten the curve” at the request of growing numbers of employers – all due to COVID-19. How remote working goes in the time of COVID-19 may change the workplace irrevocably, potentially adding to the current 32.6 percent of full-time workers who are already paid to work from home, or possibly convincing many that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In the meantime, here are some of the best tips for doing your job from home:
- Set yourself up for success. If you don’t have an office at home, set up a desk or workspace dedicated to your job. Not only does it give you a place to put the “tools of your trade”, it also creates a boundary between where you live and where you work. That is important when you work from home. Having what you need to do your work in one well-organized place can help with discipline regarding work hours, including starting and stopping times, lunch hours and breaks.
- Use current technology. Make sure you have the computer, internet connection, distance technology, and support you need ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to learn new technologies or ask for help.
- Set rules at home. Communicate your work hours to your family and others who may come to your home during those hours. Let them know up front what you can and cannot do for them during those hours. One way of coping with being in the same space with family members during the day is to use breaks and lunches to be available. Make a habit of sitting down for lunch or having breakfast together prior to going to your workspace. Find out what will work for you and your loved ones by discussing issues such as who takes care of the dogs and kids and what noise level you require with them ahead of time and as new issues arise.
- Keep a regular schedule. Behave as though you are going to work up to the point where you would normally get into your car. Shower, dress, and put on cologne and makeup or whatever you usually do prior to leaving for work. So, what if you won’t see anyone? This is for you and no one else. This is your “uniform” for the day and even if you only have telephone meetings where nobody can see you, you will feel and sound more professional.
- Get organized. Follow your usual office work schedule to maintain continuity. If you write first thing in the morning when you are fresh or only check emails twice a day, continue to do that. If you don’t schedule tasks for certain times of the day, then consider beginning now. An online calendar such as Google makes this easy. Remember the adage: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
- Communicate. Maintain your usual ways of connecting with people at work. If you have regular meetings with your team, continue to meet using Zoom or Facetime. If you use the Google chat feature, continue to use it. If not, consider giving it a try. Communicating more than you normally would – at least for a period of time – may help you and others determine how much and what forms of communication work best. Don’t be afraid to call. Many email or chat misunderstandings can be avoided by simply picking up the telephone. And remember that texting tends to be very informal, so consider that when you are tempted to use it for work-related communications.
- Avoid social media (if it isn’t part of your job). One way to make this easier is to log out of all social media accounts on your computer. And don’t save your login information. If you do this on your phone too, this will make you log in every single time, giving you time to think twice before you do it and make a conscious decision to do so. This and other tips can be found at FaSTCoMPANY.
- Be accountable. Ways of being held accountable in an office setting may not be replicated at home. For instance, if you meet your boss in the hallway at work, they may ask “How’s the outreach project going?” If you are not in the office those interactions may not happen, but you can create them with a quick daily email to let others know what you are working on for the day. If that is too much then create a “weekly update” for a particular day of the week and send it in an email. In addition to relaying your expectations of yourself to others, it will keep you on their radar screen.
- Take your breaks. You might do different things at home than you would at work, such as putting on a load of laundry or taking a brief walk with your dog, but what you do isn’t as important as getting up, moving around, and giving your mind a rest. For meals, consider preparing them the night before so you don’t waste breaks cooking and have to wolf down your food.
- Avoid Isolation. If you are an introvert, having others around when you work is something that you might have had trouble coping with, and if you are an extrovert you may have more trouble working from home because being around your “team” sparks creativity. The key is to communicate your needs to those with whom you work, and just as importantly, listen to others to find out what they need. Just remember that with the use of modern technology there is almost nothing you can’t do remotely that you did in the office setting.
- Stay focused and avoid procrastination. At home it is easy to find things that beg to take you away from your work. We are all familiar with the “water cooler” and “break room” people. At home the kitchen is just around the corner and the tv is in the next room (hopefully). The laundry room beckons with a ghostly voice “just one load…it’ll only take a minute…” and if cookies sound good and you don’t have any you might think you can get a lot of work done between batches (at 10-12 minutes at 375, think again).
- Keep informed. Keeping abreast of the latest developments of this pandemic is important, but limit news to only credible sources and refrain from repeatedly checking throughout the day. Doing so will only increase worry, anxiety and stress.
- Watch your language. Be aware of what you are saying and how it can impact your attitude and that of others. If every conversation or other communication finds you bringing up coronavirus and the latest news about numbers of people infected, what is being done about it, and how it is impacting you, consider giving it a break. This may need to be a conscious effort. If others are doing the same thing you may consider simply telling them you are weary of the topic and ask for it to be off-limits for a while. You can do the same on social media by muting friends or taking a social media break.
- Take care of yourself. Both physical and mental self-care are very important during times when additional anxiety and stress are to be expected. This is one of those times. You will find ten – yes, ten – blog posts in the topic category of “Self Care” in the Catalyst Blog.
- Be grateful and be positive. In a world (really, the entire world is in this with you!) where so many have it so much worse, be grateful. We are better off than those who have jobs that can only be done out in the virus-filled world that demands their physical presence to do their jobs, such as healthcare workers, police, fire workers, construction, sales, and factory workers, to name a few. We are better off than those who are ill or who can’t work for whatever reason. Attitude is everything, and being grateful can make a difference: “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” – Willie Nelson
- Be of service to others. One way to make meaning of this challenging situation is to find ways to serve those less fortunate. Some suggestions might be to grocery shop or pick up prescriptions for those who have no one to help them or send cards to elderly who can’t have visitors in senior care facilities (Enos, 2020).
References and Resources
Thompson, D. (2020, March 13). The coronavirus is creating a huge, stressful experiment in working from home. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-creating-huge-stressful-experiment-working-home/607945/
Related Web Links
Tips About Working from Home
Nevada Information Sources
University of Nevada Reno Resources
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