One of the biggest challenges of teleworking concerns schedules and boundaries. While some folks have adapted well to working from home, others would say they are failing.
Let’s start with college students. As I talked with faculty and students weekly during the last half of the spring semester, one of the recurring themes was the inability for many students to create a schedule for themselves.
It was especially difficult if the course had become asynchronous—it was not meeting at its regular time. Instead, faculty were posting videos of lectures and expecting students to watch the lectures and take quizzes or complete assignments to indicate they were “attending class,” albeit virtually. Some students, without the structure their face-to-face class schedule provided, were struggling to re-create their schedules at home.
Why is that? Well, when in their lives have they ever had to do such a thing? Some have struggled to adapt to their newfound “free time.”
Faculty have encouraged students to create a schedule for each course. They should block out hours of each day to work on classes and stick to the schedule. Pretend COVID-19 had never happened and “go to class” as they did during face-to-face classes, whether the class meets online at a regular time or not. This will not only help the students do well in the class, it should reduce their stress levels, too. People tend to like routines.
What about the adults who have begun teleworking? Some of them are grappling with similar issues. While adults typically have more of a structure to their work day, learning to set boundaries is still important.
Because we’re always at home and that computer or smartphone is just inches away, we probably should have some rules for teleworking. First, create a workspace. Go to it each morning and begin work. At the end of the day, leave it until the next day. Turn off the computer. Don’t run to check it before you head for bed. Decide to work during work hours, and spend time with your family or on your hobbies after work. Don’t blur the lines.
Ditto for your smartphone. Just because you’re not sitting in front of your computer doesn’t mean that you aren’t sneaking a look at your phone throughout the evening. Decide not to respond to emails you receive after a certain time each evening. And the same goes for weekends. Let your colleagues know that you need time to recharge your batteries from all of those Zoom meetings, and that after 6 on Fridays you’re not responding.
You must model this behavior for people to get it. If you say you won’t respond, but then respond on Saturday afternoon, your actions are speaking louder than your words and you can expect to hear from your colleagues throughout the weekend. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
As an optimist, I see great growth opportunities for many of us during this pandemic. We are learning what is important and what’s not. Your mental health and sanity is as important as your physical well being, so use this time to better compartmentalize your life. Work time is work time and personal time belongs to you. Create a schedule and set boundaries that work for you. Use all of your time wisely.