Work-life in times of COVID-19: Expert tips on working from home, productively while keeping your sanity intact

Image credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work and socialise – a number of things that we took for granted such as spending time outdoors, commuting to work or even stepping outside to shop have suddenly been taken away.

In his address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the country’s 1.3 billion strong population, barring those providing essential services, to stay home until April 15, in a bid to contain the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. For most people, this 21-day quarantine period has brought with it a new set of challenges – of working remotely and efficiently, coordinating with a team and meeting deadlines without having any domestic house help and with restless children who have been cooped up inside the house.

This transition from working in an office to managing work at home can be quite daunting. For those without their families living with them, this period can get quite lonely, and for those with children at home - quite overwhelming. People who are used to working from home may find it easier, but there is the added challenge of managing all household work and kids.

In a bid to make this change smoother, FlexiBees, an organisation that aims to create a flexible work ecosystem so that women can get back into the workforce on whichever format they wish to – part-time, from home, or full-time, and at their own time - has done a dipstick with women who they have placed and used it to compile a toolkit for the larger community. Shreya Prakash, co-founder, FlexiBees shares tips on working from home, managing multiple areas, being productive and maintaining health and sanity, while at it.

Plan your days:

While planning for your day, set your daily goals and check if you have achieved them. Ensure that you figure in your work-slots, break-slots, family time, etc. This will help you track productivity better than just counting the number of hours you have put in. Enlist your family members to help with home and childcare tasks. Plan your child’s day as well as it will help them transition into the current scenario better – a happier them will translate into a happier you.  You can also expand your own day within reason, by either waking up earlier or staying up a bit longer, in order to complete your tasks.

It would also help to plan weekly meals and keep them light. You can always prepare in advance, freeze and repeat in order to save time. You also should share the responsibility of making food with your spouse and other family members.

Communication is key:

Speak to family members and your kids about the changed situation. List what your and their responsibilities are in the current scenario, listen to your children’s concerns and repeat this process with your work associates so that they are comfortable with you working with your children around. As a woman, it would also help to avoid taking on all the responsibility of household work – speak to your husband about how you wish to divide the responsibilities as both of you are in the same boat now. 

If you are used to working from home, but your partner is not, you can make the transition easier by coaching them, as you have an edge over them in terms of being able to compartmentalise and be self-motivated, and understand that with this freedom comes accountability.

Communication is key at work too - ensure that you are visible and heard, and that your work is seen by sending regular updates on your progress.

Make time for yourself

In such trying times, we often tend to overlook the mental strain that all this puts on us. Do not be too hard on yourself or worry over small things. It is perfectly ok to clean on alternate days, cook a meal that lasts through lunch and dinner, and get back to work if your child just slams your computer in the middle of a call -  most of the world is going through what you are, anyway.

Make time for yourself, and find something that gives you joy – read or reread your favourite book, watch something on Netflix, hang out virtually with friends and family or just sit back and have that cup of coffee.

Even outside of the quarantine, the flexibility of being able to work from home has its benefits and is something that people should consider. Shreya explains. “For those who either by choice or a constraint have around 4-5 hours in the day when they can work in a focused manner - typically the hours their children are in school - being able to work from home can transform their lives, and allow them to have a career. Even for those who do not want to or are unable to work from home every day of the week, having the flexibility to do so when needed is crucial, be it to attend a PTA or to a sick child.” Flexible working is beneficial for businesses, as well.

Ultimately, coronavirus or otherwise, it helps to remember the positive side to all this – the time you get to spend with family. With the absence of commuting and the physical and mental exhaustion that comes from travelling for long hours, there is time to be used as one wishes.