As I first observed in 2013 in "Do You Live Your Life in Color?":
We have all encountered individuals in our professional lives who are living their lives in black and white. While I am sure they love their families and enjoy their personal lives, in their professional lives, they are literally and figuratively just punching the clock. I have always struggled to understand how anyone can spend such a substantial percentage of their adult life going through the motions in the workplace — simply watching the clock until the workday ends. But I see it around me with frightening regularity.
Those are the professionals about whom I worry the most as we transition to sheltering/working from home. Gone for the time being is the ease of normal social interaction with work colleagues throughout the workday. For those who live their lives in black and white, I fear there will be more black than white from prolonged isolation in a makeshift home office.
A recent Psychology Today article, "Homebound and Happy: Keeping Your Spirits Up in Quarantine," shares research from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic a few years ago:
Specifically, the researchers discovered reports of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and depression in 28.9% and 31.2% of respondents, respectively. They also noted that longer periods of time in quarantine were linked with a higher incidence of PTSD symptoms. People who had either direct exposure or acquaintance with someone who had a SARS diagnosis were also linked with PTSD and depressive symptoms.
So, what can we do to keep our outlook and spirits high during the coming weeks while we are working from home? For me, part of the answer lies in the advice I have offered over the years for living a life in color.
Are you embracing the experience? As I noted in the past, those who live their lives in color are passionate about their work. The passion isn't about where they work, it's about the results they generate and the value they add. In all likelihood, your company or organization has never needed for you to excel more than in the face of this pandemic. Embrace the opportunities you are being given. It will make these weeks pass much faster.
Are you growing and learning? I've honestly never been a big proponent of working from home. I came from a generation that believed in a very traditional workplace. So, these past few weeks have been a learning experience for me. I am learning about the nuances of technology that facilitate working from home. I've been researching how to best organize my home office, and how to create a more inviting background when using Zoom technology.
Are you maintaining a healthy routine? A lot of articles are being written on the need to maintain a healthy routine and happy disposition when sheltering at home. The same should be true about the structure of your workday. Make sure you carve out time for breaks and lunch. Don't pack your virtual work calendar to the point that you are physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day. Set specific work hours and stick to them. When the office is a few feet from where you sleep, it's easy to lose your work-life balance.
Are you maintaining your relationships with colleagues? One of the features that makes the traditional office attractive to many is the opportunity to network and socialize with colleagues. Working from home puts a physical barrier between each of you, but it need not completely disrupt socialization. Find time to socialize remotely. I recently heard about a team working remotely that took the time for a voluntary virtual social hour at the end of the day.
Are you prioritizing time for self-improvement? Working from home can add time for productivity during your workday. If you normally spent an hour a day commuting to and from work, repurpose that time for professional self-improvement. Use it to read, research, or even study for a professional certification. When this is all over, and the world is a different place, be ready to compete on a completely different level.
Admittedly, some of my suggestions are personal preferences. They may not be right for you. The point is that we should embrace this experience, and emerge from it stronger professionally and personally than we were before.
I welcome your ideas on sheltering at home in color.