COVID-19 has halted business as usual. Around the globe business travel has come to a grinding halt as governments warn against non-essential travel, both domestic and international; borders are closed; and employers are encouraged to support remote working so team members can self-isolate in an attempt to the stem the spread of the virus.
South Africa is still a few weeks behind Europe in terms of COVID-19’s trajectory, and we hope with the correct measures in place the country will be able to ‘flatten the curve’. Realistically, most people who can (and we know there are millions who can’t) will need to work from home for the foreseeable future. But how do you survive this ‘new normal’ – and emerge stronger on the other side?
Flight Centre’s Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller, has put together 5 tips for working from home in what are extraordinary times.
- Prioritise your health and mental well-being
First things first, you need to look after your health. You can do this by:
- Following the standard, basic hygiene practices, for example, washing your hands regularly with soap and warm water (and keeping them away from your face); using hand sanitiser when you’re out and about; coughing or sneezing into a tissue (before disposing it in the bin), and disinfecting frequently touched objects or surfaces (including your cell phone).
- Making good nutrition a priority. This doesn’t mean panic buying or hoarding, just ensuring you have a good mix of fruit and vegetables on hand, keeping hydrated and giving your body what it needs to stay strong and healthy. Consider taking Vit D and Zinc to help you fight respiratory diseases.
- Following the guidelines and restrictions laid out by the South African Government.
We all have a role to play when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus, and this means taking care of ourselves and our families, avoiding crowds and self-isolating if we are ill. And don’t forget to unplug from the news for a bit, for the sake of your own mental health.
- Keep on top of your workload
For most people, working from home is going to feel strange in the beginning. You’ll be asked to stay motivated, stay positive, keep on top of things, manage distractions, support friends and family – all while dealing with your own very real (and expected) anxiety and concerns.
Even if you are an old hand at remote work, this is unchartered territory. Desai has gathered the following insights from people who have mastered the art of working from home:
- Develop a routine. Keeping a structure to your day, including scheduled breaks, helps in terms of output and productivity; it doesn’t have to be rigorous, but you need to ditch the pyjamas and turn off the TV. Just one example of a routine to try is the ‘Pomodoro Technique’, a time management system that breaks your workday into 25-minute chunks, separated by five-minute breaks (or pomodoros). Give it a Google, and a whirl.
- Create an effective workspace. Make sure you have a desk and comfortable chair (ergonomics are important, don’t hunch over your laptop if you can help it) in the quietest corner possible. It helps to have coffee on hand, lots of natural light and strong connectivity.
- Get up to speed with your tech. Remote teams rely heavily on platforms like Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams. Make sure you can run these systems – and that the kids aren’t hogging the internet.
- Try and limit time spent on social media. Not only is it a huge distraction, but in times of crisis it can feed your anxiety.
Most importantly, says Desai, is to keep in touch with colleagues and teammates: “Most people will struggle with a sense of isolation. This is not the time to go off-grid. Chat to your team on the phone, share WhatsApp messages, FaceTime or check-in on Slack or Zoom. Not only to keep updated on what’s happening work-wise but for your mental wellbeing. This is a time for more communication – not less.”
Although the first few days of self-quarantine might seem overwhelming, it should settle down, with some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. With many offices working ‘virtually’ for the first time, it might be an exciting period. A time of ‘doing things differently’, exploring innovation and stepping up for your team and clients. Not only prevailing – but creating a new reality.
From a personal perspective, you might find you have time to concentrate on self-development. Whether it is art, books, music or study (all things that spark your creativity), now is the time to learn new skills, advance the ones you have, and add your CV. In short, level-up.
Many courses, for example through LinkedIn Learning and Coursera are absolutely free. And as more and more people find themselves quarantined around the world, so do more and more people make incredible opportunities available to those who may feel ‘stuck’.
Online groups like ‘Sweathead’ are offering free online workshops, podcasts and more. Incredibly, eight Ivy League universities, including Brown, Harvard, Columbia and Yale are offering MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) across computer science, programming, humanities, business, education and others. Good news and wonderful opportunities in a world of uncertainty.
- Clock off
Do remember to take time for yourself. While some people may struggle with self-discipline in the early days of ‘self-quarantine’, others might struggle to put boundaries in place. Just because you are working from home, it doesn’t mean you have to be available 24 hours a day. With anything, balance is key. Refer to point one, and look after yourself.
- Check-in on friends and family
South Africans are resilient, but the prospect of a protracted crisis and prolonged economic ‘slowdown’ is a worry for all. Many people over the age of 65 are concerned about venturing out; families are trying to balance working from home with school closures in place; and smaller, local businesses are under threat.
And yet, we still hear good news stories from around the world. Supermarkets, including in South Africa, implementing dedicated ‘pensioner hours’ so elderly customers can shop without crowds. Local businesses, like barber shops, offering home visits to those in need. Neighbours pitching in to help walk dogs, or do the weekly shop. Remember to check-in on friends and family, maintain personal connections and help where you can. Ideas include:
- Chatting to your neighbours and swapping numbers so you can keep in touch
- Reaching out to elderly neighbours who may need supplies or a lift to the shops
- Offering to walk the family dogs or pick up someone’s prescription
- Swapping books
- Cooking a meal for someone – or baking up a storm
Sooner or later (and we hope sooner), COVID-19 will be a thing of the past. But our world has turned on its axis, and things won’t be quite the same again. If we look after ourselves and each other, focus on work and getting things done, and make sure people know they are not alone, we’ll get through this together.