There were days, not that long ago, where you had an office. And a home. In one you worked, in the other, you lived, and the boundaries were clear. Correct?
Well, no. Truth to be told: if you are an employee in the tech industry, the Work-Life balance issue is not a new struggle in your life.
Why do I recall on these long-long time ago days, 14 days ago?
To remind you what you already know: what has changed is not the work, neither the home. Nor the challenge. Your job is mainly the same. Your goals are primarily the same. Your focus and mental state, however, have changed.
What has changed during these crazy Covid-19 days is the framing of the challenges.
And now, after we identified the problem, we can dive in and get things solved.
Stay with me. — No zoom meetings in the background and no laundry to fold on your laps. Step #1 of getting things in order is to focus. And we focus on you.
As you know, challenges are a subjective definition of a situation and are a result of two components: investment/cost and opportunity/gain.
The current challenge of working from home and the feelings that result from it can be segmented into 4 primary states, all are a combination of:
How big is the input? (The level of how hard you feel your work is or, how high is the investment/cost) and,
How big is the output? (The level of how high you think your production is, how high is the opportunity/gain).
Remember, these are subjective by default. This exact cost that is now hard on you would have been a breeze if a bonus check was coming at its end or if you were promised a promotion.
But it’s not. It’s challenging. Because you can’t identify a correlation between the cost level and the gain level. And you are facing a new feeling, another kind of stress you are not used to dealing with.
There are four quadrants to your feelings right now. Where do you stand now?
I work much, and I get much done
I work much, and I don’t get much done
I don’t work much, and I don’t get much done
I don’t work hard, and I get much done
(spoiler alert: this is a unicorn and should be admitted to tests)
I work much, and I get much done:
You are basically OK. You might get burned in two weeks’ time. But you am OK for now. Don’t be mistaken: you may be OK, but you are not fine.
We will talk about this feeling in the next post.
I work hard, and I don’t get much done:
This is a widespread feeling out there these days and will be the focus of this post.
I don’t work hard, and I don’t get much done:
Although it may sound like a fun, vacation-like time, the people who feel this way feel different. This feeling has an after taste of I-am-left-out, they-don’t-need-me-anymore kind of stress and usually come with a threat of being fired or knowing that the business is about to close down. We will discuss this feeling and what to do with that in the 3rd part of this post.
I don’t work hard, and I get much done:
What can I say? Good for You! You don’t need my advice, and I should take some classes from you. Good job!
So in this post, we will discuss how most of us feel: you work hard, and you get much done.
So, how does it feel to work hard? And what can you do about it?
No boundaries. Everything is mixed up.
You get up and sit in front of the computer, just to hear your partner having their work meetings in the other room. You make your kids’ lunch while reading emails from your boss and yay! — The washing machine just made its ‘I am done, Stop everything you do and take care of your laundry’ sound.
But hey, these tasks were there when you worked from the office. Nothing is new. What has changed? The time and setting of Office and Home were better defined before.
Everyone is expected to work around everyone’s constraints
These days, it’s somehow OK to be late to a meeting if your kid needed something or your mama just called. And although this shared communal feeling is lovely, it’s a recipe for madness.
Meetings that start late, people who come unprepared to meetings, work that is not delivered on time, all have reasons. But it also causes an endless loop of delays and eliminates your chances for some off-time.
And although the reasoning for this ultra communal effort is spending more time with the family, as you are now working from home, it makes you close your work computer at 11 pm, half baked and entirely done.
Too much chit-chat.
No, I don’t call to stop any socializing in the virtual workplace. But if you keep spending 10 minutes on each call, asking how’s everyone coping with the situation, you end up “paying” with an extra hour a day at work. Do the math.
On these Covid-19 days, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to invest much in your friends, colleagues, and professional community. But set separate times for that. At Product League, we set designated times for product management mentoring sessions. We don’t mix them with work time. So should you.
So what should you do?
- Set definite Work-time and Home-time. You can download the template from here. Note: the planner is editable and you can edit it directly from your computer. Use another file every day to make sure you track it all.
For each part of your day, write down five tasks/interests that you focus on and three cases of exceptions.
For example, if you on your Work-time and you happen to have small kids at home, you can set the exceptions to be tasks like setting food.
And here is where planning and being specific is coming handy; if you set the exception of setting food, you know you have to make (vs. set) the food on your Home-time. So you do make sure to keep everyone’s nutrition in place, but don’t find yourself preparing meals while reading emails.
2. Get your goals in order. Make sure that these five things that have to happen today do happen. Especially in a time like this, you can’t make it if the goal is not as clear as possible. Yours? Max surviving chance, min burn out rate and throughout all, maintaining a feeling of focus and achievement at work.
3. Set clear expectations of time availability. Talk about this openly or if you are a team leader, drive this talk yourself and let everyone know that you want to assure you all to stay insane. Have an open discussion where you get everyone to feel like their private life, and work-life balance is essential, and this is why order and balance should remain.
4. Get to the point. During the first days, it made sense to keep asking everyone how they feel. Now, a moment before everyone is feeling tired, save the repeating questions, and give them some extra time to focus and rest.
Remember: this is your time to invest in yourself.
I.e: this is your time to invest in your mindset, in your processes and in all the building blocks that create your day-to-day.
If (and you will) beat this Covid-19 and its effect on you down, just imagine how more productive will be your days when this sh&t will be over.
Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel, already?
Comment and let us know what quadrant best represents your feeling at the end of a WFH day.