Two key things you need to survive working from home during a global pandemic

April 10, 2020

While some blogs focus on how to set-up a home office or what time management tool to use to increase productivity, the need to carry on like it is business-as-usual can be counter-productive in this unprecedented time. As many of our bookkeepers do work from home, we can assure you, working in a time of a global pandemic is very different from working from home during non-pandemic times.

So how can you get through this period of uncertainty and upheaval? By adjusting your expectations and prioritising your mental health.

1. Adjust your expectations

Australian businesses have shown incredible resilience and innovation in the way they have reacted to the consequences of COVID-19. But thinking you can replicate your typical work environment from your dining table is not realistic.
While not everyone has the luxury of relocating to home-based work, if you have been able to pick up sticks and take your laptop home, you will need to adjust your output expectations. Why? Well, you’re trying to work in the middle of a global event that is taking lives, livelihoods and taking away one of our vital needs – our physical connection to others.
Add to this unprecedented level of chaos, uncertainty & isolation, additional complications, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Your family obligations (anyone trying to work while simultaneously homeschooling kids can attest, it’s impossible), having to learn new technologies and adapt your skills (running a meeting in person is very different to running one on Zoom) all play a part in creating a stressful environment. We can not expect to be at our A-game best.

The solution: Adjust your expectations. You can not deliver everything you usually can. You can not get back to everyone as promptly as you usually would. You will not be able to find answers to problems as quickly as you once did.
So, shorten your to-do list. As experienced freelancers will tell you, overestimating the time it takes you to do a task is the most significant adjustment to solo working life. Acknowledging your time-optimism and taking a moment at the end of the day to realise what you’re capable of is key.
Communication is essential to this new level of output. Talk to your clients and explain what you can get done. If you have staff to manage, you can support your team by checking in with their wellbeing, and asking what they need help with. You need to communicate clearly and show empathy; after all, we’re all in this together, and very few people are unaffected by this pandemic.

Things need to adapt, and it’s OK to change how you work.

2. Prioritise your mental health

Even if you aren’t on the frontline of fighting COVID-19, or you’ve managed to maintain your livelihood, chances are your mental health is taking a beating.  Just as your social feed and news bulletins are flooded with campaigns for tolerance and kindness, you need to make sure you are kind to yourself as well as the person next to you at the supermarket. 

While you adjust to the new working normal, take advice from Beyond Blue and “try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated workspace.”
Get fresh air, keep your social connections up by talking to family, friends and co-workers, and allow yourself to feel sad/upset, these are unprecedented times and our collective mental state is reflecting that.

As a small business owner, it’s essential to seek support and prioritise your mental health. And it’s just as important to get support for your business too. As tempting as it might be to hide away, it’s important that you don’t ignore some of the tough stuff. Talk to your bookkeeper about your financial situation/cash flow troubles. They are there to help you. Hiding from your problems will manifest into anxiety, so don’t shy away from your P&L sheet. Be sure you have someone riding this wave with you, someone who can help access government help and keep you on your feet, ready to get back to it once we are all allowed out again.

It’s also important to acknowledge that most of us wouldn’t have had the resources to do anything differently, even if we’d known this was coming. No one was prepared for this as we have never seen this level of global economic shutdown before. So don’t beat yourself up about not having a big enough buffer, or losing the expansion you were working towards. 

Everyone’s in this together, all we can do is be kind, support each other as much as we can and remember the adage, this too shall pass.

working from home

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