It is not new anymore, but it is still putting us under all sorts of pressure: COVID-19 pandemic forced a huge sector of the workforce to stay at home and work from the confines of their home. It is a time of change; the keyword is social distancing! For long we used to chase the far-fetched dream of a balance between work and life and muse about the possible solutions that would grant us a little peace of mind to ward off the over stress and its fall outs. Now our struggle has evolved; we no longer carry our work and its issues back home; our work has become our home, literally.
If balance is out of the equation, what can substitute it? Harmony, the new aspiration is work-life harmony. The indefinite work-from-home period doesn’t have to be distressing. Yes it is challenging, but with a tweak here and there we will not just survive, but thrive. Here is a blessing we may not have opened our eyes to: there is plenty of time on our hands now, with shopping and all errands scratched from our schedule and relocated to our apps. So, it is us, our loved ones, our gadgets and apps, our kitchen, and the sky. How do we bring all that together for optimum results?
First: the Set Up
Yes all of it is your home, but no, you cannot work from just each and every corner. Find your favorite light-bathed spot and arrange your work station there. Adorn your desk with elements from nature, a blooming indoor plant, anything emblematic of the outdoors nature you have grown accustomed to on your daily drive to work. This little addition is reinvigorating.
Again, welcome the natural light into your work area. Your mind and senses will grasp the rhythm of the day and help you maintain something in the proximity of the 8-hour workday.
Were you still at office, your desk won’t be loaded with awkward stuff that doesn’t belong there. The rule applies at home: those empty plates and your comb don’t belong here. De-clutter!
Second: the Schedule
You are still committed to your work, and so are your colleagues. Maybe you can’t have that water cooler conversation and share the morning tea with updates, but some have moved their morning team routine to messaging apps. A few minutes suffice; and once they are over, it is time to roll up your sleeves for your regular tasks.
We already alluded to the 9 to 5 time-frame. Working from home should not tempt you to slack off. Your tasks await you, and so do your colleagues, clients, managers, and add to them family members. Each of them expects you to exhibit the same enthusiasm, energy, and commitment to your respective roles. So, give work its hours and save your family your times together. This is tricky: with kids, siblings, and parents in the background, with the kitchen and house chores staring at you all day long, you have to resolutely block the background noise and stay focused. Occupy the kids with useful activities; assign a specific hour for the chores; and follow your schedule religiously. The interruptions are nonstop, but you can win over with a little understanding and solid organization. The possibilities here are plenty; explore what suits your environment.
Third: the Technology
Technology is our ally; it is the boat and oars: if we manage it smartly, we can sail swiftly amidst the high waves of change. With social distancing, technology is all that we have for communication. We will be sharing important files, holding urgent and regular meetings, reporting to the CEOs, and even celebrating with our team over the internet. Face to face is screen to screen now. Plenty of apps are out there to serve these purposes, but not all of them are perfect for the job. In this critical moment in time, technology is the pillar of our productivity, so, we have to ensure that the apps we employ are conducive to this productivity.
We cannot cover communication apps one by one, but we can underline the challenges that we must be aware of before we rely on this or that tool.
· Privacy: When you want to connect, social networking apps jump to mind. However, the social media darlings feed on our personal information. Social networking sites eavesdrop on our whispers, and then bombard us with sponsored ads. No privacy here, and no focusing.
· Security: Cyber-security threats evolve in keeping with the advancements in technology. So far no conclusive remedy has been reached for a 100% secured communication. Surely we are thankful to end-to-end encryption, but the tech-savvy know that some apps store the decryption keys on servers. As such, our communications remain vulnerable, not to mention the continuous phishing and scam attacks. Fully secure file and message sharing continue to be an unfulfilled dream!
· Control and focus: Your messaging apps are a miniature of your current life. You have a massive influx of messages from your coworkers, friends, family members, and kids, let alone unsolicited advertisers. How about the notifications that are updated by the second? Who to mute and who to keep active? Too much adjustments to make. If you wish to define the blurred lines, you will have to set up separate accounts. Why can’t an app shoulder that burden on our behalf and draw a line between the personal and the professional?
The world is changing, and will further do. While the stay-at-home reality is getting on our nerves, it will unfold latent potentials we never knew we possessed. Human beings are resilient and teachable. But what about technology? Can it rise to the emerging challenges with our increasing dependence on apps? We sure hope so!