Working from home has become the “new normal” since the reality of the 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Some of you may be experiencing the “freedom” of working from home, and not having to sit in traffic to work daily, while others may be experiencing anxiety sparked by no longer working in your team, not having clarity on direction and limited supervision, having to adapt to the challenges of managing technology, staying productive and juggling family and work responsibilities. Staying home to “flatten the curve” presents challenges for all of us practically and psychologically. Coping with being cooped-up with children, families and partners can pose further challenges that require you to be an expert at adaptability and resilience overnight!
Working from home successfully requires self-sufficiency (such as time-management skills, self-discipline and motivation), communication skills, adaptability and technological skills. As a result of the sudden shift from working at UCT to working from home, it is easy to fall into the trap of less discipline – ditching your daily routine, eating junk food, taking "power naps" or tackling those DIY projects that there’s never time for. However, while still being kind to ourselves under these extraordinary circumstances, it can be helpful to put some strategies in place to assist us – here are a few recommendations suggested by experts:
Operate in a business-like manner. Set aside a separate, dedicated workspace, free from distractions, and customise it with the equipment and connectivity you need to be productive;
Limit and manage disruptions and interruptions. Set down clear boundaries for family and friends and establish a routine.
Keep to your daily routine. Get ready for work as you would on a normal day (don’t work in your pajamas!) and don’t be too comfortable and laid back – this will negatively impact your motivation and productivity. Make a to-do list at the beginning of the day, prioritise the tasks you need to accomplish, and plan your time accordingly.
Stay "in the loop". Working from home, it is easy to miss out on the informal exchange of "passage information" and to feel isolated. Keep up the corridor chat and tea-break conversations with colleagues in a virtual way – by phone, online chat or social media – and make the effort for daily check-ins with teams and co-workers using online work platforms or just a WhatsApp group. Technology makes it possible to stay connected as though we were sitting in our office, rather than at home.
Stay professional and be connected. Use Zoom/ WhatsApp or Teams video-conferencing (set reminders to "show up" on time and remember to mute yourself when not talking), and make sure to be reachable and responsive during working hours.
Maintain your physical and emotional health. Diligent workers are at risk for burnout as the boundaries between work and home blur, and employees may also feel the need to "prove" that they are being trustworthy and productive. Set boundaries for when your workday starts and ends.
Stay healthy. Eat well, exercise regularly, keep to your sleeping routine, limit non-work-related screen time and connect with your family and friends, even if via phone, online chat or social media.
And all that being said – there will be days when things don’t go according to plan – so be flexible and adjust your schedules/ planning to meet your plans accordingly.
We value your part in the team that keeps the Science Faculty going and encourage you to stay connected with each other and us about any concerns or ideas you may have.
Herewith a link to a useful article on the UCT website, Lockdown, how to survive working from home, with input from the Psychology department.
Dean of Science