Back in January, I was asked to scribble some thoughts for the Networker about working from home and managing a remote team. I procrastinated long enough that the entire world has changed in the meantime! I just finished recording a podcast with Apra International folks about managing a remote team (coming soon!), but had a few additional thoughts that I’m hoping are helpful for living a newly remote life:
- Take the time to set up your space. If you’re tripping over cables or your desk isn’t where you want it, take an hour or two and get organized. On my second week fully at home, I realized I wanted to be able to see out a window from my desk. I had to move bookshelves and a piano, find longer ethernet cables, etc. But taking an hour to get organized has made every hour since then easier and more pleasant.
- Your mental energy is going to be spent in totally different ways now. I used to worry each morning about remembering to pack a lunch, and if I really needed that umbrella, and was today a good day to take the bus or did I need the car? Now, mental energy is spent adapting your normal work processes to this virtual environment. You need to learn VPN, and change how you do gift processing, and you have to schedule all the check-ins you used to just do informally, and ten thousand other things! It can be exhausting to make that mental switch and it’s okay to not be superhuman right now.
- If you find work is starting to blur into your home life, figure out your boundaries. I try to be mindful about ending my work day, so I’ve started watching the 5:00 news. It gives me a set time to “commute” from the office to the living room each day. I also try to be very deliberate about not sending emails to my staff after 5:00, so I’ll often draft things and sit on them until the next morning so as not to interrupt their evenings. Turning off email, Slack or Skype notifications on my computer and phone after hours has been a huge relief as well.
- Invite the kids! My team started a weekly Zoom happy hour where any family members are welcome. Sometimes we get a violin recital from a 4-year old, or we watch some cat antics, or I learn all about Daniel Tiger. Other days, we just sit around with our glasses of wine talking about Tiger King. It brings a few moments of fun and relaxation at the end of a long day and it’s a nice opportunity to interact with colleagues and meet their families.
- Treat yourself with care and compassion. I hope you all do this every day anyway, but it is particularly important at this time. People are carrying a lot of fear, anxiety, health issues, financial challenges, and new stressors. These issues are real, and everyone handles them uniquely. Self-care looks different for everyone (in my case, it involves a lot of red wine and some gardening), so explore what works for you. Tell your manager if you need a day off or if a project is just too much right now. If your company benefits include an EAP plan, you can often access free mental health, financial, or legal counseling.
- And finally, you can always include some new friends in your next Zoom call to brighten spirits!
Janna Lee is an Apra-MN board member and is the Associate Director of Philanthropy Operations at The Trust for Public Land. Her organization has 30+ offices around the country, and the Operations team is spread out across six office and 4 time zones, with many staff working from home occasionally. She is grateful to not be handling childcare or homeschooling right now, and applauds all of you who are!