There isn’t a playbook for working from home in times like these. Balancing your life AND work is even more challenging when your health and the health of those around you depend on you staying home.
Before I begin, I hope this post finds you and your loved ones in good health.
There are plenty of resources describing remote work principles and best practices. There’s no shortage of suggestions for how to be as productive at home as you are in the office, but with one exception—how to handle working from home in times like these. In other words, how to balance life and work from home while managing our mental health and happiness.
I'm a super-extroverted person and one of my biggest fears is to lose my in-person social contacts. I can’t imagine not being able to see my friends or my family. I can’t imagine being unable to go to the mountains for a hike or to ski. I can’t imagine being unable to go outside and ride my motorcycle when the sun is shining.
It’s easy to choose what to do when your only choice is to handle the problem directly in front of you—a situation unfortunately faced by many right now. And many people, such as parents with young children now at home, may find themselves with less time now and not more. But for those of us who find some extra "free" time forced upon us, maybe we can make the most of this unusual moment to get back to some of the things we forget to make time for or put off during normal times, and finally stop saying “I’ll do that later when I have the time.”
Most of the playbooks I read about working remotely suggest mimicking your office environment. Things like having exact working hours and lunch break, dressing up as you would if you were in the office, and having video calls and informal meetings with colleagues. I truly believe all those things are important.
In theory, everything seems to be very easy to do, but in practice, I needed almost a
week to be as productive (and even more) as I would normally be at the office. It just took me a bit of time to change some of my daily habits like drinking coffee in my car while travelling to work and replacing the time I would normally talk with colleagues in the elevator or in the office kitchen.
I wasn’t alone. A colleague of mine said he initially also felt lost by the change of routine.
Embracing the change, step-by-step, I got productive and I’ve started to feel comfortable while working from home.
The thing is, if we want to continue to be efficient, we should make time for rest as well, right? Our brains need to rest. In normal circumstances, I would go to the office gym and train with my colleagues, go for a drink after work or go to theater and of course, go to the mountains in the weekend.
Since we're not able to do these activities during the quarantine because of COVID-19, we should try to find other ways to balance our work and personal life.
I'm a person who tries to find the good things in each situation. So, what are some of the things this unique situation enables me to do?
I have shifted my perspective from “I can’t do the things I love” to “What other things do I love that I now have time for?” Ask yourself what you love to do, but never did because you have prioritized other things. As soon as I asked myself that question a lot of ideas popped up.
For example, one of the things I've wanted to do for some time is to learn Swift. The time is perfect now, isn't it?
I must repair the lights where I park my car and fix the wardrobe in my bedroom. The time has come, hasn't it? My girlfriend benefits most from the last one, I have to admit.
During the past year or two, I've bought some books on alpinism and they are sitting on the shelf, covered with dust. Now I have the time to read them.
I have the opportunity to spend more time with my girlfriend, and we have a big movie list to watch.
I also love cooking, and now I have a great chance to learn how to make Tikka Masala and other Indian dishes. How would I miss that opportunity?
OK, but what about socializing? How does a super-extroverted person get by? The technologies nowadays enable us to meet with a lot more people virtually. I’ve been having video calls with my team and my family. I think that now I’m talking with my parents much more frequently than before.
Two days ago, my girlfriend and I had a “virtual dinner” with friends. It was really fun. Imagine that we were living 15 years ago—would be able to do these back then? See how lucky we are now?
So, why not start doing something completely new? Last week I ordered an entry-level piano and now I have the time to learn to play.
I’m not saying it isn’t hard to stop doing outdoor activities, but in this moment, it’s way more important to start doing the indoor activities you love.
What is your thing? How are you hoping to make the most of your time at home? Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear from you.
Todor Mitev is a principal software engineer on the Telerik team. Over the years he was part of different teams participating in the development of developer tooling, internal business applications and chatbots. In his free time he enjoys high-altitude mountaineering, ski-touring and riding his motorcycle.
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