Logging onto your laptop from your kitchen table has become the new normal, and while working from home pre- COVID had its perks (including increased productivity and a greater sense of happiness), there are undeniable challenges brought on by telecommuting during a pandemic. From Zoom fatigue and loneliness to juggling real-time parenting /homeschooling responsibilities (all the while working full time), we all have a lot on our plates. The last thing we need is excess drama or unnecessary work thrown at us.
So, what can you do to protect yourself, your team and your colleagues? Take inventory of your habits and behavior and see if you’re creating more stress for yourself and others than you need to.
Today, we are highlighting 7 ways to make working from home working from hell. Read on to see what they are.
1 | You treat all emails as “urgent”.
Picture this scenario. You’re sitting at your computer, working on a time-sensitive project when you get an email notification, and see your boss’s name. Do you A) finish what you are doing and respond when you have time or B) stop mid-project, quickly skim the email and respond as though your job depends on it? If it’s the latter, you’re not alone. A survey by Nuffield Health found that 36% of respondents felt pressured to respond quickly to emails and forgo breaks due to their colleagues and managers not being able to see them working at their desks. If you’re working through lunch and rushing to respond in real-time, slow down.
Though we live in a world that values speed, anyone who has been sent an email full of typos, misinformation or an empty acknowledgement of receipt knows that fast doesn’t always coincide with impressive.
Do this instead: Set clear expectations with your team. For example, emails will be responded to by the end of the business day and everyone will pick up the phone if something is truly urgent). Then, set aside 15 minutes every hour or every other hour to look at your inbox. Go to a quiet space and slowly read the emails, taking any notes if you need to.
Then, compile any information you will need to formulate a clear and thoughtful response. If it’s important, sit on it for 10 minutes and come back and look at it once more. This approach may seem excessive at first, but it will save you time, embarrassment and an annoying and chaotic email chain in the long run.
2 | You ask for too many meetings.
Lockdown has stolen the buzz that comes with face-to-face time with colleagues and teams, and there is something to be said for the benefits of video conferencing. That said, it’s important to remember that your colleagues and employees have other calls, meetings, and work to do, which means you’re not the only person who is asking them to hop online. More importantly, overuse of visual platforms can cause Zoom Fatigue, a generic term used to describe the physical and mental exhaustion one feels from too many video chats.
Do this instead: Don’t assume everyone is happy (or has time) to jump on a video call. Respect everyone’s workload by setting a specific time for a catch -up, and if you’re a manager, be mindful of how many calls you’re asking people to join. Look at calendars and try to avoid being the reason someone is on the phone for 7 hours on a Monday afternoon.
3 | You’re Unclear.
Unclear directives are frustrating both and out of an office, but thanks to an inability to hop into a meeting room or walk over to someone’s desk, they become nearly unbearable when working from home.
Do this instead: Take the time to create a one-sheet for the other party with clear and actionable items for the other party. Include who is expected to do what, when you need it done by, how you want it done, why it’s important, and a list of what they will need to get it done (i.e., files, contacts, the information they have not been privy to). Finally, links are always appreciated where possible.
4 | You create unnecessary work for people.
Using the above as an example: imagine your colleague Samantha asks you to put together a presentation for a client on a project you know little about. She wants you to use graphics that are hidden in some weirdly labelled file and to cold call a person in sales you have never met. You get this email at 3:00 PM, and she wants it by tomorrow morning. You need to be offline at 6:00 PM because you and your partner are both working from home, they have a call, and you have an infant that needs to eat on schedule. How do you feel?
Do this instead: There’s a big difference between passing the buck and setting up someone for success, and it comes down to being willing to do your part. If you’re asking someone to do something (even if it is “their job”), providing, them with a proper handover is a sign of your professionalism and leadership skills. Make sure to introduce people who have never met in a quick email, send links to files (or at least the name and location of them), and any pertinent information in one clear and concise email. This will save time, ease frustration, and keep teams running smoothly – all of which will help to create a better final product.
5 | You don’t stay in your lane.
There’s something to be said about team members who are willing to jump in and do whatever it takes to succeed. It’s commendable when the head of sales jumps in to help the event manager with the final touches before a webinar, or the production assistant sends over photos to the content director to use in the next newsletter. What’s not helpful is when people start stepping into each other’s roles, giving an excess of unsolicited advice or aggressively questioning strategies in an area where they lack expertise. When this happens, the whole company loses, either by way of output or turnover.
Do this instead: If you are interested in knowing more about a colleagues point-of-view or strategy, ask friendly, curious, and open-ended questions that show your interest and the value you have of their expertise.
If you’re interested in collaborating, be transparent about it and ask them if you can support them in some way. The social media manager would likely appreciate you sending photos over to post on the company platform. What they would not appreciate is you uploading them yourself, tagging photos you have taken incorrectly, or challenging their strategy in front of their boss in the weekly meeting.
6 | You don’t watch your tone.
Face-to-face communication allows us to rely on dozens of non-verbal cues whereas emails and texts are often left to interpretation. This can lead to a slew of misinterpretations, and worse, hurt feelings, damaged relationships and stagnated productivity.
Do this instead: Consider the words you use and the way you use them, and always err on the side of caution and common sense. Using statements such as “per my last email” are always read as aggressive and throwing in multiple exclamation points will make you look like an excited puppy. Find the balance in politeness and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Instead of saying “We need this ASAP” say, “I know this has been a challenge to get out quickly, but we are in the final stretch. We need it by noon today to land the account. How can I help ensure that we meet that deadline?”
7 | You aren’t empathetic.
While it is true that work still needs to be done, it’s not business as usual. Colleagues, team members and customers are all navigating through a deadly pandemic and are dealing with the day-to-day stressors that come with that. As mentioned above, many could have heightened levels of anxiety and depression, be worried about a sick loved one, mourning the loss of a friend or relative or dealing with a slew of other stressors. Finally, be careful of asking them to work on weekends thinking they can do it because they are at home. Many people use their weekends to spend time with their families or decompress and the assumption they should hand over their only free time sends a clear message that you don’t care about them or their mental health.
Do this instead: A simple-yet-sincere check-in will go a long way. Ask others how they are doing and if they need support in some way. Often just acknowledging the difficulties of the time is enough to comfort others and keep them going. We all need a reminder that we are in this together and empathy, understanding and kindness are never unappreciated. Additionally, if someone needs a mental health day, give it to them without any passive aggression or making them feel guilty. While we all need to get on with it, some of us need to shut down in order to do that sometimes (and that’s OK).