I was heading on a much-needed vacation to visit my mother in Florida for her upcoming birthday. Little did I know that once I got home that our lives, our work, and our world would completely change.
I returned home early due to COVID-19 picking up steam in the United States. Fully decked out in a facemask and gloves, I stepped onto a plane ready for anything with plenty of hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes. The young Girl Scout in me would be proud. “Be Prepared!” would echo through the room during our Troop meetings.
As a young woman, I couldn’t imagine preparing for much beyond my next test or clarinet recital. Today, it feels as if we must be prepared to handle much more than we ever expected. Maybe you’re managing pressing deadlines while collaborating on a team that’s spread across living rooms. Perhaps you’re learning to teach your children using online tools. You may even be tackling the inevitable emotional burden that comes with required extended isolation.
No matter what you are going through, I know we can all make it through this time, even if it is difficult. I hope to share a few tips to carry through your days to make your working life smoother, more productive, and less stressful and to help you feel a little more prepared.
Connections are Key. No, not just your VPN connection! Your connection to other people: your coworkers, your comrades. We spend so much time working alongside one another that it can be hard to have it all ripped away so suddenly. Some suggestions? A simple morning check-in with a fellow associate can go a long way to brighten your day. A call to chat about something other than work might be the break you need, so go ahead and pick up the phone, and indulge in that much-needed laugh.
Communicate More than Usual. Today, everyone works on a distributed team, but thanks to COVID-19, you can’t just turn around and let your teammates know what’s happening like when you all shared a workspace. A couple of things I found that can help:
Communicate openly and often! Putting more detail into your team messages than usual and messaging more often can create smoother communication. Keeping everyone on the same page throughout the week is essential to reducing frustration and preventing a loss in productivity. On the flip side, too little communication can have people stepping on one another’s toes and creating unnecessary issues.
Don’t be shy, ask! If you’re stuck or have a question, don’t be afraid to ask your leader for direction or clarification. We’re all working in an unprecedented way right now, so it’s more important than ever to reach out when you need something. Trust me, your leader will appreciate your engagement, and the critical thinking you apply toward the work you’re doing. Doing this builds both trust and credibility, and organically strengthens your personal brand.
Leverage and Accommodate Time Differences. Even though companies have leveraged distributed team models for years, adjusting to the needs of our global team members has been a new facet now more than ever since COVID-19. For Lifion, where we’re responsible for the development and delivery of our next-gen platform, we span several US and India locations across various time zones and multiple engineering and product teams. It can create a particular challenge but one worth tackling.
My advice? Be flexible and accommodate your fellow associates. Schedule meetings earlier or later in the day to sync with other team members. Leverage communication tools to maintain a connection with one another to share information. Remember to practice compassion and understanding; they’re both free and go a long way to creating a positive work environment. It’s a balancing act, and may not be perfect at first. There may be miscommunications or misunderstandings, but stay the course, and you can find common ground.
Maintain a Schedule. Planning your day will help maintain normalcy at a time where not much feels normal. My goal has been to head to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up a little earlier to jumpstart my day, and have time to enjoy my coffee and breakfast alongside my dogs and fiancé. My workday comes and goes with meetings and projects, and I do my best to enforce a time where I shut down my laptop and sign off for the day. I maintain a timeframe for my working life separate from my personal life even though they currently share the same physical space. Doing this is crucial. Try not to let the lines blur. Prioritize time for yourself to unwind and reset.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to (safely) go outside, close your laptop and get some fresh air! Otherwise, try a brief yoga flow in your living space, play with your kids, or get a head start on dinner. Whatever helps you disconnect and decompress, go for it. Do what helps you stay positive, productive, and healthy. You deserve it!
Sam Ortiz is a Senior Platform Engineer on ADP’s Lifion team responsible for ADP’s next-generation HCM platform.