“Don't wish me happiness. I don't expect to be happy all the time...it's gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all.” ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea
Everyone wants to be happy - at work, in life, as citizens of a nation, and as humans. But this is not a blog post about happiness. This is a post about how to practically cope with the suffering, inconveniences, and uncertainty that we are all living through due to Covid-19.
Below is a list of the best practices I have found for remote working professionals to adopt while dealing with Covid. I hope that items on this list will help restore some joy and sanity to your life.
Talk about shared passions or do an activity together.
Connecting with a stranger through a screen is hard! Counter the “looking glass effect” by finding something personal and mutually enjoyable to talk about or creating something tangible together. Eat a virtual lunch and reminisce about missing sports. Play an online game. Code together. Right now informal is the new norm; it's ok to relax and just be humans hanging out.
Offer socialization options but avoid making them mandatory.
Loneliness is a real problem that should not be ignored, but not everyone is experiencing a social void in their lives right now. Introverts are actually pretty content, and people who don’t like office parties during non-Covid times really don’t want to go to virtual cocktail hours. For those working from home, spending more time with family members or roommates can be exhausting, especially if you don’t like who you live with. Be sensitive to the fact that not everyone needs or wants to be gratuitously social.
Be trauma-informed in all of your communication.
Don’t ask someone “How are you doing?” unless you prepared for an honest answer. If you need to, find and use an alternative greeting, like “Good to see you”. This is important because pretending everything is fine when it is not is emotionally dishonest. We are all suffering (or at the very least inconvenienced) and it makes life easier if we just acknowledge it. Being disingenuous makes things worse, not better.
Dress up for work anyway.
You will feel better mentally and be more professionally engaged if you are wearing pants on the Zoom call.
Don’t be afraid to be unique and funny.
Recently, our CEO started a virtual pairing session off with some Metallica and headbanging. That may not be your personality, but being loud or memorable in a good way is beneficial right now. It helps you stand out professionally, builds personal connection, and provides a break from video chat monotony for others. Keep a personally meaningful tchotchke on your desk for people to comment on. Wear eye-catching ties or t-shirts. One of my librarian friends hides themed Easter Eggs on her personal bookshelf in her video chat background. Humor is a powerful coping mechanism so use it to your advantage. When all else fails, tell Dad jokes.
Be conscientious about practicing social graces.
Be extra patient. Be on time to meetings. Mute your mic on video calls. Tip your essential workers more than you normally would. Be as generous and polite as you can be. We are all doing the best we can, and at the end of the day, we all want to be and feel safe.
Assume good intentions.
This is especially important if a coworker annoys or frustrates you. You probably don’t know your coworker’s personal life circumstances, so choose to be kind. This one applies all the time, but is more important than ever during a pandemic because people may not be operating at their normal capacities.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
It is discouraging to think about all the things we can’t do right now because of Covid. Acknowledge feelings of loss and disappointment, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, look for ways to turn setbacks into opportunities for growth. When everything is going wrong, begin by asking “What is going right, right now?”. Starting from a place of affirming the positive rather than lamenting the negative is empowering: its a mindset that generates and sustains hope.
Choose to be innovative.
Times are tumultuous, which means that now is the best time to get your creative juice flowing. How can you solve industry problems and leverage Covid related changes to your advantage? In adapting how you do business as usual, you may just discover a better way of doing business that becomes permanent. Forced disruption is unpleasant, but it is better to evolve than to become an outdated dinosaur. Find ways to be forward thinking in your industry.
Choose to be hopeful.
Covid disrupted people’s lives this year, but it couldn’t cancel Spring. The flowers were still blooming, whether you noticed them or not. There are good things still happening in the world. Go look for them proactively! Don’t pretend the negatives aren’t there, but choose to focus on the positives.
We hope you found these tips useful but this list is by no means exhaustive. We’d love to hear from you about how you are innovating and coping professionally during these challenging times. Find us on Twitter @binarynoggin and use the hashtag #remoteworksurvivaltips to join the conversation.
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