One beautiful day in the future, the virus will be conquered, bars and movie theaters will reopen, and we will get to put our masks next to other historical relics like pog slammers and Rubik’s Cubes. We can’t know for sure when that will be, or whether life will return to what we consider normal. We do know, however, that the people who are working from home today will be unable to come back to the office for a while, and may even find themselves with the option to work from home permanently. How should they adjust to meet this challenge?
To begin with, ignore all the advice that says where you work should be a temple or a shrine or some other religious locale that equates Excel spreadsheets with the divine. Instead, think about making it more by making it less: Every object in a home office is potentially a distraction (especially those bobbleheads!). And the fewer distractions there are, the better.
If you’re like many people, this may mean making numerous painful decisions about whether to keep your stuff and how to dispose of it. You may even need to rent a dumpster and do some extreme decluttering to be able to get it all out of your life. Even so, it’s a sacrifice that can pay off in the long run once you’re able to better focus on your work.
Networking events have been shut down one after the other: No more department happy hours, no more company receptions, no more industry award ceremonies. What hasn’t been shut down is our ability to connect with the most important people in our lives, even if we have to do it over Zoom and Snapchat.
At a time when “the personal touch” is now restricted to a six-foot radius, being able to send someone a simple branded item like a tote bag, pen, or coaster carries much more weight than it used to. A small promotional gift allows your name and logo — and, by extension, your reputation and services — to get much closer than you can personally. The practice of networking is evolving, and your networking strategies need to evolve to keep up.
Hopefully, you were already taking time to smell the roses (or the diesel fuel, if that’s your thing) prior to the pandemic. If you weren’t, there’s nobody to stop by your desk now and remind you how important it is to take a break — so it’s the perfect time to start doing it for yourself.
Under stressful conditions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to enjoy the everyday things in life. As just one suggestion, you can drive barefoot when you head to the grocery store, even if they make you put on shoes (and a mask) once you arrive. Remember that there may be a day in the future when you’re limited from doing even the most banal chores — and you might miss them more than you think.
In the next five to 10 years, the landscape of work may change drastically, and it’s possible that everyone will be able to list “remote work expert” on their resumés. We can’t know for sure what job’s we’ll be competing for, or who we’ll be competing against. We can know, however, that the most successful candidates for new jobs will be those who have best learned the lessons of the pandemic: flexibility, initiative, multitasking, and process management.
Think about the areas where you’re doing well in this new normal of work, and think about how to leverage your experience and talents to better respond to new opportunities. This can help you better succeed in the post-pandemic business world.
We all will make choices during the pandemic, both big and small, but we may find that the small choices have greater consequences than the big choices. No matter what choices you face, think about how best to optimize your current situation: at work, doing chores, having fun, in the future. Now is the perfect time to build a home office, build a brand, and build a sense of purpose about yourself and your future.