To help stop the spread of COVID-19, many people are practicing social distancing to help protect others—especially the most vulnerable in our communities. But even though we are physically apart, in the Adlerian spirit, we are still working together for the health and wellness of all.
For those who can work from home during this time, Michelle Dennis, Ph.D., MATD, Chair of the Leadership and Applied Psychology Department in the Online Campus, shares advice from her team.
As concerns regarding the transmission of the novel coronavirus mount daily, many of us, who are able, are being asked to adjust rapidly to working in a new way. Adler University has a long history of teaching and supporting graduate students and community-based work virtually. Here are some tips from me and my Online Campus colleagues on how to maintain good mental health and productivity while working from home.
Keep Technology Close
As a long-time remote worker, I have found that keeping all required and supplemental technology close is imperative. Access to one’s cell phone while working on a computer helps to avoid missed work calls. Ensure that printers and scanners are nearby and check your ink supply. Although this equipment is not used all the time, the time it takes to set up the necessary equipment if the need arises will certainly impact your schedule.
Schedule Movement Breaks
When working remotely, you will often experience fewer interruptions, which means you may stay in the same working space, in the same position, for extended periods of time. Taking the time to move is imperative, and relatively easy—and it can help improve motivation, comfort, and productivity.
I set reminders on my phone, prompting myself to take 10-minute breaks every two to three hours, depending my meeting schedule. During these scheduled movement breaks, I typically do yoga. Other ideas include running up and down one’s steps, checking the mail, or making some coffee or tea. To ensure that the break is brief, set a timer to remind yourself to go back to work. If this proves challenging, introduce a reward for returning to your desk, such as a piece of gum or candy.
Place Reminders in Visible Areas
Among other things, my home office includes a large dry-erase board. At the start of each day, I write down the tasks I plan to complete on my board and can enjoy the satisfaction of erasing them, one at a time, as they are completed. Further, I send myself calendar invitations for important due dates. The invitations pop up on my desktop, prompting me to ensure that I am focused on meeting my deadlines.
James Halbert, Ph.D., Director for the Master of Arts in Psychology and Master of Arts in Psychology: Specialization in Military Psychology programs, offers advice for making sure that important emails are not missed:
“I have learned staying organized is key, especially when communicating digitally. Sorting through emails can be a daunting task. I recommend creating folders in your inbox to channel the ones that need the most attention. For me, I have a “to do” folder. All the emails that need immediate attention go in this email folder through-out my workday. Before I end my day, I always make sure those emails are taken care of, or that I have a scheduled time on my calendar to complete these items. You can also create a favorite sender list, that will automatically capture all emails from specified senders, such as your team members. All other emails will be handled on a case-by-case basis. This will prioritize your work and help you be more efficient.”
Add Comfort Sparingly
Comfort can be provided in a home office, in many forms. For instance, a supportive chair can help to avoid muscle aches when sitting for extended periods. Fuzzy slippers can be worn to soothe tired feet.
Comfort should be administered in a measured manner, however, as it can contribute to reduced focus. For example, placing a soft blanket around one’s shoulders can contribute to sleepiness. Soothing music can help us to relax but does not contribute to productivity for all. I find that certain types of music make it easier for me to stay productive, while others make me want to exercise, relax, or call a friend. As I write this piece, I am listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and the music is producing a sense of motivation.
Personalize for Stress-Relief
Marianne Cabrera, Ph.D., Director of Organizational Leadership Programs, shares guidance on the importance of personalizing your home-based work space. “In addition to having the basics, I think it’s really important to have a designated workspace that is also conducive to how you work. Do you work better with background noise? Make sure you have a radio nearby. Do you need natural light to feel energized and ready to go? Situate your desk near a window. I will sometimes need a little boost, so having water and a healthy snack near me helps me keep going!”
Personally, I find that soothing smells motivate me while providing stress relief, so I burn candles in my home office. I also run a fan, on low-speed, finding that the back-ground noise keeps me focused.
Adapt for Unexpected Colleagues
In some instances, it becomes necessary to adjust one’s home office to accommodate the needs of children, when unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic close schools. I am grateful to have care for my children during this time of uncertainty, but recognize that many parents do not.
Donna DiMatteo-Gibson, Ph.D., Director of Industrial and Organizational Psychology programs, provides insight into the challenges which are faced by individuals working at home while simultaneously providing care for school-aged children. “Not only do we have to get used to having children at home while working, we also have to adjust our schedule for work-life management to include homeschooling.” Collaborative relationships with colleagues make it possible to balance work and life. She recommends staying connected to peers and supervisors, and communicating needs as an effective way to implement balance.
As events unfold, one thing is certain: individuals can be productive while working at home. The careful application of best practices makes productivity possible in nearly all settings. This allows us to continue to follow our Adlerian values of social interest, pluralism, courage, excellence, and pragmatism, working together—albeit physically apart—to promote community health and well-being.