Teleworking with COVID-19

My older son flew from Madrid, Spain to Washington, D.C. on Friday morning, just in time to miss the beginning of the European travel ban. We decided that our family of five would self-quarantine with him to safeguard vulnerable individuals in our community.

Luckily, my husband and I are both telework-ready. House rules are in place designed to keep us from turning feral – like exercise and shower daily, prioritize internet use for working family members, and no complaining!

Telework started in earnest yesterday. I approached it with a breezy attitude. I got this! I had teleworked for 15 years from Spain, building and supervising teams, and staying connected with my colleagues in Washington over many years. I was the pro-est of pros!

It turns out…not so much! By the end of the day, I had spent 10 hours in the same spot, unmoving except for one 15-minute break to wolf down lunch. Even worse, after that intense working session, I felt like I had been more interrupted than usual, with no time to focus. I was also a bucket of stress…so I did the most natural thing – I yelled at my kids!

This will not do! I realized that my former strategies for effective telework are not going to meet the needs of the COVID-19 situation. It was apparent, after just one day, that the stress of this situation and social isolation can become overwhelming if not managed effectively.

I – we – need to pay attention to information about how to telework effectively, avoid burn out, reduce stress, and increase connections. Today is a better day! By mid-morning, I had already:

  • Gotten up and exercised first thing with an online video and set an hourly alarm to climb two flights of stairs.
  • Scheduled and eaten breakfast and scheduled a daily lunch break.
  • Had my first “virtual coffee break” with a colleague who is also under quarantine, and it was wonderful to take a few minutes to just chat. I’ll be scheduling virtual coffees regularly!
  • While I used to love working in my jammies, I realized that not being able to turn on the video really interfered with my ability to connect with people – reading facial expressions and visual cues are important! I’ll be business casual from the waist up from today forward.
  • Set up daily video check-ins with staff and virtual team meetings to stay connected.
  • Right now, it’s important to be available for urgent and time-sensitive issues, but once things settle down, I’ll be putting aside some do-not-interrupt time each day to focus on completing deliverables.
  • Finally, I’m making a commitment to myself and to my colleagues to prioritize not only teleworking efficiently but also teleworking healthfully.

Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected!

This blog also appeared on LinkedIn on March 17, 2020.


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