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  • Jaki Suter

New Challenges Call for New Solutions



Where are you right now? I’m guessing that you’re not in your office – or at least not at an office that’s located in a bona fide place of business – even though it’s the middle of a work day. We all know why. And none of us knows how long this situation is going to last, how bad it’s going to get, or where our next roll of toilet paper is coming from. So there’s no reason to talk about any of that.


But now that we’re here, a lot of us are suddenly thinking about the million things in our daily lives that we’ve always taken for granted. We’ve discovered an alternative universe that’s forcing us to make some unusual decisions. For example, when is it a good time to take a shower: Before dinner? Tomorrow? Or when do you stop working for the day? Before or after your kids traipse into your “office” for the 40th time today to tell you they’re bored?


Clearly, working from home is no vacation. And the stress is beginning to show. Over the past week – as we saw stock prices plummet and came face-to-face with the reality that the situation isn’t ending anytime soon – I’ve heard a number of people say they’re having a hard time adjusting, while others are suddenly feeling vulnerable about the security of their jobs and have begun eating way too much chocolate.


What to do? Here are some ideas:


Set up a regular place to work. Even if you don’t have a spare room that can serve as an office, you can probably designate some tiny part of your home as your “office.” It can be anything from a corner of your bedroom (not your bed, however) to the end of your kitchen table. In an ideal world, it would be a space that you don’t need to dismantle at the end of the day and set up again the next morning. But if you do need to dismantle your office to make room for tonight’s dinner, at least try to store all your stuff together in one place. A big box or couple of shopping bags will work just fine. It’s like having your very own toy chest!


Stick to “office hours.” As much as possible, try to stick with whatever kind of schedules and routines you follow in the office. Bad habits are incredibly easy to develop and really hard to break – like having a Snickers bar at 3:00 every afternoon. So don’t cave in to that impulse to watch all three hours of the Today Show and tell yourself you’ll just work later to make up for it. Because chances are, you won’t. If you’re normally at your desk by 8:30, then be ready to sit down in your home office space at 8:30. The same thing goes for lunch breaks and signing off for the day. Consistency pays off by reducing stress and helping those around you know when to stay away.


·Get dressed. Your pajamas or that comfy old Dave Matthews t-shirt and sweatpants rank at least five steps below “office casual.” I know you think no one will see you. But when you least expect it, someone is going to ask you to jump on a Zoom meeting (see below). And the chances that you’ll have time to rush off and change into something “appropriate” are way less than 50-50. Besides, it’s been said that most people work better when they’re wearing “real” clothes.


Learn how to use Zoom. In case you haven’t already discovered this, working from home involves attending lots of meetings. So today is the day you’ve run out of excuses for not being in charge of your own technology. It’s not difficult. And you’ll feel so empowered – as long as you have access to Google (or whatever search engine you’re loving right now), you can do this. The same goes for your modem, printer, and any other devices you’ve been avoiding because you’re afraid to touch them.


Stay focused. Okay. Maybe this isn’t an issue for you. My husband, who has long suffered from ADHD, can sit in front of his computer for extraordinarily long periods of time – without even noticing that the seasons are changing It's called hyperfocusing. I, on the other hand, am a notorious fidgeter. I check my email every 10 minutes, get up to refill my iced tea every half hour, and click on a variety of respected news sites every 15 or 20 minutes. And for the most part, I’ve figured out how to make it work for me. I do recognize, however, that I’d get more done if I could just stick to one thing at a time. So when I really need to focus, I close some of the 127 open tabs in my browser and force myself to stay on just one screen for however long it takes to get something done. Right now, for example, I’m totally ignoring my two dogs – who are trying to remind me that it’s only 17 minutes until their dinner time.


Get some air. The biggest downside of working from home is that you’re, well, at home. It means there are no co-workers stopping by your desk to shoot the breeze. No birthday parties, going away parties, company holiday parties – or any other kind of parties. There’s no one to grab lunch with or to compliment you on that new shirt you’ve been dying to show off. It also means there are no physical boundaries between your work life and your home life. And as you’ve probably figured out by this stage in your life, we all need boundaries if we’re going to maintain any semblance of sanity from one day to the next. That’s why it’s important to go out and get some air. Even a 15-minute walk around the block or a quick run to the store for milk (or ice cream) can change your perspective by simply reminding you that you’re not the only human on the planet. Unless you’re under quarantine. And if that’s the case, please stop reading this and get back to the sofa.


One more thing… When all is said and done, there’s no question that things will be different after this is over. Some businesses may not be able to survive the strain this pandemic has caused, and some of you may find yourselves wanting to make a change. I can help you make that change successfully, whether it’s career coaching, resume development or interview prep that you need. You can always reach me at jaki@sutergroup.com for a free consultation. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe.

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