Editor – Coexisting with COVID
As people with disabilities, we are used to isolation due to mobility issues and lack of effective transportation. This causes a certain amount of stress and anxiety on its own, but I’ve noticed that when working from home is added to the equation, my stress and anxiety is through the roof.
Editor – Coexisting with COVID
When I worked in an office I had a routine. I woke up at 6:30 am, did my adaptive yoga, showered, ate breakfast and drove to work. Because of my disability (I am a little person with mobility issues) I had to be aware of how much time was needed for each step. At work, a colleague met me in the garage with my scooter and I worked until 5pm at my scaled down desk and chair.
When the pandemic hit, my entire department worked from home and my routine went up for grabs. I slept later and barely got ready in enough time to log onto the computer at 9 am. I became anxious, lonely and unfocused. I knew I had to take matters into my own hands. I researched working from home tips from the Internet, colleagues and friends, and adapted them to having a disability.
Now, as companies emerge from two years of a remote work force, they are reassessing what business as usual will look like. Some are choosing to forego their offices and continue remotely, while others are creating hybrid environments. As people with disabilities, we have to adjust our activities of daily living to whatever plan our companies choose. This can cause stress and anxiety, and it’s good to reassess from time to time how we take care of ourselves physically and mentally.
Whether you are exclusively working from home or going into the office a few days a week, check out my tips for battling stress and staying focused, whether you’re working from home, going to an office, or struggling with anxiety.
Not many of us have a spare room for a home office. You can actually
take any corner of your apartment, condo or house to create your own office space. Just make sure it is as free from distractions as possible. I moved mine out of the bedroom and into the living room so I wasn’t tempted to take naps instead of working! Decorate your desk with favorite mementos such as a rock from your last vacation, a fidget toy or a photo of your dog or cat.
Wake up at the same time each morning and get dressed if possible depending on your PA’s schedule (if you have one). If you typically wear makeup, wear it at home too! You never know if you’ll be asked to join a Zoom or Teams meeting. Plus, you’ll feel more ready to work.
Most in-office jobs give employees two 15-minute breaks. Take them at home too even if it means staying at your desk! Call a friend, watch a YouTube video or simply close your eyes and rest. You’ll come back refreshed.
I was guilty of working through lunch and my co-workers accused me of being “hangry”. Set your lunch time and don’t eat at your desk! Move to a different space in your home as if you were going to the office cafeteria. You’ll be surprised at how a change of scenery can
enhance your digestion and mood.
While working from home most days I’d constantly check personal email, Facebook and Instagram instead of being productive. Don’t even
be tempted to go down the rabbit hole! Set a timer for certain times a day (preferably on breaks) to check personal email.
If things get too stressful try this decompressing trick:
1) Start by looking around you and naming three things you can see
2) Listen. What three sounds do you hear?
3) Move three parts of your body, such as your fingers, toes, or clench and release your shoulders
This trick is easily adaptable to all sorts of disabilities. The goal is to get yourself out of your head by connecting with your senses, whether through sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. Here are some adaptations you can try:
A lot of us have FOMO when working from home. I worried that if my manager didn’t see me, I wouldn’t be considered a valuable member of the team. A once-a-week Teams or Zoom check-in really helped. Ask your manager if this will work for them. Also staying connected with co-workers helps battle loneliness. Send the occasional meme, article or song, take breaks together via Team or Zoom or watch the same film off hours and discuss it together.
I am notorious for thinking “just ten more minutes and I’ll stop working.” Ten minutes turns into an hour and bleeds into the evening. Instead of leaving the office I’m often still there especially when it’s at home! End your day visually by opening a literal compartment, such as a drawer and placing all of your work-related items inside, and clock out. It even helps to call or text a friend and say “I’m finished working today!”
Do you have any other tips for being productive and stress-free while working from home? Please share them at firstname.lastname@example.org.