The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant changes in all our lives. Perhaps one of the more significant shifts has occurred in where and how we work. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey (ATUS), the percent of people working at home nearly doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, rising to 42 percent. Management Strategies observed a similar shift in our workforce as several employees shifted from on-site client support to remote support. As with all significant life changes, there were challenges and opportunities to learn and improve. A few of our employees offer their pandemic lessons learned related to the workplace:
Have a dedicated workspace.
Tyler learned early in the pandemic that having a dedicated workspace at home is essential to productivity. “Your at-home workspace does not have to be an office—it could be a specific seat at a table—just make sure you have dedicated space to work that it is free from distractions. Most importantly, shut down your at-home workspace when you are done for the day. It is important to set clear boundaries between your work and home life, especially when you work from your home.”
Be aware of local norms and protocols.
Jim discovered that although some D.C. metropolitan area neighborhoods are geographically close, norms and protocols, especially related to the COVID-19 pandemic, can change significantly from area to another. “I live and work outside of the D.C. beltway. In June 2021 when Maryland no longer required masks, I learned that masking and distancing norms differed widely by community. So even if I traveled a short distance, I needed to prepare to confirm to the norms of where I was going.”
Make time for conversations.
Brandon discovered that once his work week shifted to fully virtual, he had few opportunities for spontaneous, less formal professional conversations and opportunities to network. “My work week is often booked with Teams meetings and little time for valuable side conversations with colleagues. Whenever possible, I try to plan or attend virtual or even in-person gatherings over lunch to create more opportunities to get to know my coworkers better.
Stick to a schedule.
Even though working from home can allow for more flexibility in your workday, Rachel recommends developing and sticking to a routine so work remains properly prioritized. “From your morning routine to regular work hours, keeping a schedule will help you be more productive, accountable, and prevent burn-out from over work. Just because working from home allows for a more flexible schedule, inconsistent schedules should be the exception, not the norm.”
Take advantage of the flexibility and prioritize mental health.
Annie learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that working from home gives her the ability to manage life in a more efficient and healthy way. “Without having to worry about a stressful commute around the D.C. metropolitan area, I am now more efficient during the workday. I can more effectively juggle critical work deadlines, enjoy more non-work hours during the day, and overall find it easier to maintain my mental health.”
If you suddenly adopted new working habits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can likely relate to many of our team’s lessons learned. If you have any other lessons learned that were especially helpful for you, please leave us a comment on LinkedIn.