This situation sucks.
My heart goes out to all of those affected by this terrible pandemic across the globe. With our lives flipped upside-down for the foreseeable future, I thought I'd shed some insight into what's going on in my neck of the woods, how I'm managing, and hopefully provide some solace to others out there in saying:
You absolutely aren't alone in what you are dealing with.
Normal Remote Work This is Not
Many folks reading this may be experiencing working remotely for the first time in their careers. It can be a huge adjustment. It can be scary. You might feel isolated, especially if you are extroverted or a social butterfly. You may struggle to feel like you are getting anything done - and that's okay.
As someone that has been working fully remote for several years I can easily say this is not what normal, fully remote work is like.
It's truly a struggle to balance everything at a time like this. The constant stream of bad news flowing in, numbers that are out of a horror movie that continue to skyrocket, and no real end in sight. It can be hard to focus on solving work-related problems when personal life problems and legitimate emergencies are all around you.
I want you to know that you aren't alone - this is hard, unknown territory that we are all wandering through together.
What's Life Like?
My spouse and I are both still working full-time, with me as a software engineer and her being a university professor. Both typical jobs that offer a ton of flexibility, and you'd think that this whole pandemic wouldn't affect us too severely... but I also have two children.
With both my kids being home, the difficulty level gets cranked up to near unbearable levels. Neither of the kids are old enough to be totally independent with one being two and the other being four. The four-year old still has school-work to do, homework to do (and turn in), and between both of them - they need things to do throughout the day.
Each day is an insane grind of work, family time, being a teacher, being a parent, and just trying to feel some semblance of productivity in any of those areas during the day.
A few things that I've found that have helped me get by include:
- Strive for Normalcy - Structure is so important, especially if you have kids. Try to get them on a schedule that mimics life before the pandemic. Wake up, eat breakfast, do some activities with them, play outside, etc. It can be hard, they'll ask why they can't "play with their friends" or why they aren't going to school. It's tough.
- Tag Team - If you have a partner (again most of my challenges revolve around having kids), you two have to lean on each other. You may have important work obligations as may your partner. Communicate those to one another and prioritize as much as you can.
- Find Time Where You Can - Having a set schedule can be important, but it's not always realistic. Kids fall, chaos ensues, Wi-Fi goes out, you need food, etc. So find time where and when you can. I've found myself working odd hours, nights, during naps to try to feel as productive as I can with the situation around me.
- Set Realistic Goals - It's hard to try and expect that you'll be just as productive as your usual non-global crisis self - you likely won't. Try and set smaller, realistic goals for yourself that you can reach within a day or week to help check that "I Feel Productive" box mentally.
This isn't easy, but you'll get through it.
Not Holding It Together
You might feel like you are going to break or might not be able to handle it. As I sit here typing this, know that I've felt the same way. My wife has felt the same way. My friends, co-workers, and countless others feel that way - you aren't alone.
If you are struggling to keep your head above water - talk to someone. If you aren't feeling productive at work, reach out to your manager, director, HR, or someone.
Work together to figure out a different schedule during these crazy times and don't feel guilty about it - it's very likely the person you are talking to is going through the same situation.
If you are working remotely, as most folks are now, take some time each day to hit those social goals with your co-workers. Talk about your crazy days, exchange the horror stories, and hopefully find comfort to know that you aren't alone in all this - because you aren't.