6 ways to relieve pandemic pressures while social distancing
March 19, 2020
 

With the risks from a pandemic, many are trying to practice successful social distancing or self quarantines, but this can make it harder to keep business as usual. Organizations are quickly getting acquainted with remote work and normal working shifts are no more. As a remote-first company, the Metis Communications team is pretty savvy to remote working, and has adapted to challenges that stem from novel coronavirus restrictions. If you’re wondering how to cope, our team shares six areas that will help you navigate a safe and sane balance.

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Set boundaries for new “coworkers”

School closures bring a whole new challenge. There’s no way to fully prepare for the work distractions that come with simultaneously having all the kids at home. Try to come up with a schedule between you, your partner and workplace that will support everyone. Also, dedicate a space or room in your house that's your own. When you have a conference call, put a sign on the door and give your “new coworkers” a heads up. Be prepared if that video conference might turn into the infamous BBC interview, and if that scares you, take advantage of Zoom Rooms Customized Backgrounds.

My teammate, Melissa Rubbelke recalls, My spouse and I decided we did not want to ‘plug’ the children into a TV or Nintendo Switch all day. So, we loaded their Kindles up with e-books, purchased paint supplies and canvases for arts and crafts, downloaded new music for the trumpet player in the family, and we took advantage of the tons of virtual resources people have put together. ParentMap has a list of great ones for kids of all ages.”

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Establish a routine

When your daily routine is interrupted, it can add stress. Try to start your day the same way you would if you had to get to work at the regular time. Change out of your pajamas and get dressed. If you usually take a lunch break, continue to do so. Do you typically hit the gym after work? Find a workout you can do at home. By keeping a routine, you’ll feel a sense of normal.

Metis team member Kim Caro, said, “Given I have worked remotely for roughly the last two years, I have trained myself to keep a routine. This hasn’t changed much, even since my significant other started working remotely recently, too. The main challenge I’ve faced has been not being able to attend workout classes. So, I've been keeping an eye on my favorite gyms because many are streaming classes on social platforms.”

Schedule office hours -- maintain boundaries

One of the hardest things to do as a fully remote employee is having the discipline to not start working as soon as you get up and long after the sun goes down. Yes, there always will be those long, hectic days. But for the sake of your sanity, not to mention the quality of work, learn when and how to disconnect. 

Are your office hours 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.? Why are you answering emails at 8:30 p.m.? Are they urgent or are you finding it difficult to disconnect? Turn it off. Work can wait. And guess what? It will still be there tomorrow morning. 

“My overwork tends to be more of a morning problem than an evening one, so I plan my workouts in the morning to keep from just diving in. Or, if I have something planned later in the day, my morning walk with my dog is longer - I try to purposefully stay out of the house until about 8 a.m.,” said Caroline Curran.

If you need someone urgently, call or text them. Not every request needs to be immediate. And unlike when you are in a physical office, you choose when to respond when you are remote working, so just communicate this to your team. 

Create extra social interactions

Maintaining connections and human contact is important, as you’ll start to discover when your abode has fewer “coworkers” and you talk to your dog more than a fellow human. When your daily personal interactions are limited by the time allotted for a conference call, there are fewer opportunities to get TV show recommendations or ask a quick question about a side project.  Water cooler chatter bonds teams. 
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“Perhaps to the annoyance of colleagues, I try to have a few more Zoom calls, versus just IMing or emailing. I do this to make sure I am having live interactions with people. This is particularly important for people, like myself, who live alone,” said JaeMi Pennington.

Plan for the future

Without a commute or attending a regularly-scheduled spin class, the days can start to run together. Try to break up your week by planning out professional and personal goals. By setting a few guideposts or milestones to hit, you have more to look forward to in the future and can feel more accomplished each day.

Personally, for self-directed tasks or pet projects that risk languishing in lieu of other team priorities, I'll tap in to reserving a coworker review or accountabili-buddy to keep myself on track and advance something that was on the backburner. And instead of planning a dinner out at a restaurant or going to the theater for a standup set, my husband and I have switched gears to cooking a new recipe from scratch or “scheduling” a comedy special to watch.

Take a break

Breaks during the work day and your off-hours are still important. Get some fresh air, whether it’s for a long walk or a few short minutes out on your porch. Studies show time spent outside can assist digestion, improve blood pressure and heart rate, and tons more. Most importantly, it gives you a minute or two to step back from what you are doing and get revitalized.

Kelly Haddock advised, “Don't stay cooped up all day - even if it is raining. I take the dogs for a walk or check the mailbox. It's a little over a half-mile stroll, so getting there and back is perfect for a short break.”

“You’ve heard the expression, ‘It’s like herding cats?’ I take my cats for walks - and it isn’t easy,” said Marty Querzoli, “There’s a real art to it. Plus, you’ll get your exercise and have a lot of laughs.”

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So pause to video conference a friend. Regularly step outside for fresh air. Pace yourself and appreciate the little things. They mean a lot more than you may think.

Got some ideas of your own? Share them below. If you have questions, get in touch. Even though we’re “remote,” we’re all in this together!

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