Working remotely is an increasing trend. It is not simply a result of COVID-19 distancing requirements, although that has forcefully bent the curve upward. The design of the administrative functions of the Christian Churches Pension Plan has enabled the CEO/Administrator to work remotely for years. A few years ago, one friend working with HCA in Nashville, Tennessee negotiated the ability to work from home. Our Pension Plan account manager is now working remotely. What was once a novelty is now common.
Handling employment responsibilities remotely presents different challenges for families and individuals. Some have very young children at home who simply cannot understand why Mommy or Daddy should not be interrupted. Some, even those who have “gig Internet service,” find the speed of their Internet service agonizingly slowed due to congested traffic demands. No two situations are exactly the same.
Still, there are common issues. The workday now does not end at a predetermined time. Cell phones had already lengthened the day, but now work seems to know no end. The tendency is to deal with an issue whenever it comes to mind. When we worked from the office, we often wrote a note or entered a reminder in our calendar to deal with an issue when we reached the office. Now, we are returning emails and text messages on Sunday evening at 8:00 pm!
Today, let’s consider a few ideas that may help us be consistently productive while working from home.
Turn off the phone (or at least be able to ignore it)! This is difficult for me. I am a tech junkie and have been all my life. However, I am not alone! Now that our phones are used for communication, scheduling, entertainment, and even producing an EKG, we never get away from them. On one hand this feels good when someone sends an email or text at a weird time. We think, “I can knock this out quickly, and everyone will be happy.” Being able to handle things immediately seems to help us be more productive, but in reality, it often hinders productivity. Some jobs (not only physicians) require us to be on call when away from work. Eliminating that may not be possible, but hopefully we can arrange to share that responsibility with others.
We need to be able to get away from work. Just as Jesus went to a high mountain apart (Mark 9:2), we need to be able to rest from work. Whenever we get away for a few days, I have been known to take my computer with me (even in the early 1980’s). Do not do that! Last week, I deliberately took a week away from blogging and some days away from the responsibilities of the Pension Plan. Yes, when something urgent arose I was available, but we all need time to sit by quiet waters.
Get dressed! OK…no one can see that you are wearing your college team shorts or you are in your pajama pants while you are on the ZOOM call. It may seem the increased freedom helps us be more productive, but that is only momentarily true. Getting dressed just as we did for the office helps us build routine into our life. De’Von Patterson said, “Humans like knowing what’s going to happen next and that uncertainty can lead to anxiety.” Getting dressed helps our mental preparation to engage work. Clothes for lounging help us mentally unwind and shift into neutral. While we are working, our mind cannot be in park!
There is a difference between background noise and distractions. Yes, this is stating the obvious. The faint noise of kids playing in another room is background noise. The sound of crashing furniture and screams as your son leaps off the sofa, fully convinced he can fly like a cartoon character, is a distraction. The same is true of the electronics we choose while working from home. Some music choices can be ignored in the background. Turning on 60s and 70s music or beach music may have me moving in my seat more than thinking about the task at hand. When we work from home, we also should remember we are invading the space normally occupied by our family. We may need to move to another area of the home where the sounds become background noise.
These are but a few of the many ideas on working from home. What was once a phenomenon will likely be a continuing trend for years to come. People can be just as productive working remotely as they can be in the office. The challenges we face can interrupt that productivity. Interruptions, and the emotions that accompany them, can lead to undesirable consequences. Here is to addressing and overcoming the challenges to working from home!