June 29, 2020

It’s the first Monday of the COVID-19 Reopening Green Phase in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas! This may mean that some of you are back to work in-person while following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some of you are likely still continuing to work from home, and others are still facing unemployment. Any which way, here are some tips to help you manage this Monday!

Tips for Those Returning to Work

  1. Self-Care: Self-care is important for everyone to engage in, but it may fall to the wayside as you get back into the swing of work. Similar to the benefits of boundary setting, engaging in self-care can reduce work burnout and improve quality of life. Ensure that you are making time for yourself every day (even if for just ten minutes) to partake in something that you enjoy doing. Read a chapter of a book, take a bubble bath, listen to your favorite music, go for a walk around the neighborhood, watch an episode of a TV show you like; just do something FOR YOU. We can get so caught up in working, trying to meet our basic needs, and taking care of other people that we forget to give ourselves time to care for just us.
  2. Discuss Health Safety Measures: If your employer has not already provided information regarding the health safety measures that have been put into place, make sure that you ask before returning to the office! Unfortunately there is still the possibility of contracting COVID-19, so keep making your health a priority and ask your employer what actions they are taking to reduce risk! It is important that you feel comfortable and safe in the workplace and do not spend your time at work consumed with concern that your health is going to be compromised. Similarly, make sure that you are prepared for work with the appropriate personal protective equipment (i.e. mask, hand sanitizer)!
  3. Be Flexible: You are probably tired of hearing over and over again that these are “unprecedented times.” Despite the excessive use of the phrase, it is nonetheless true. There are new problems that are often out of our control and everyone is trying to adapt to all of the recent and forthcoming changes. Try to be of the mindset that everyone is doing the best that they can given the current circumstances and, accordingly, try to be as flexible as you can. For instance, if your co-worker has a difficult time finding childcare one day (because of the pandemic), offer to hold your meeting via video teleconferencing instead of in-person for that day. The more flexible everyone is, the less stressful returning to the workplace will be!

Tips for Those Working from Home

  1. Set Boundaries:
    1. It can be easy to work beyond your normal hours when your work is ‘sitting’ right there at home with you. Although it can be tempting to log into your computer, try to set boundaries with yourself and others to limit over-working. Doing so can help reduce burnout and increase overall satisfaction!
    2. Set specific hours for working each day, especially if work allows you to flex your hours beyond the typical 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Make sure that you are allowing yourself the lunch break that you would typically have in the office.
    3. Let others (i.e. co-workers, supervisors, family, etc.) know what your boundaries are. If you are finished working at 5:00 PM every day, tell your co-workers that you will not be responding to work-related calls or emails until 9:00 AM the next work day. Additionally, let those in your household know what time period you need to focus on work and when you will be available for non-work-related engagements.
  2. Take a Break: Sitting in front of the computer for hours on end is not healthy for anyone, physically nor mentally. Give yourself a few minutes each hour to get up and step away from the screen! Walk a lap or two around the house, get some fresh air, go to the fridge and drink a glass of water. If you were in the office, you would probably be moving around here and there to chat with co-workers, go to the restroom, sit in the break-room, etc., so allow yourself those same breaks that you deserve while at home too!
  3. Prepare: Although you do not have to physically leave your home, act as if you are actually going into work anyways. Do your typical morning get-ready routine, get dressed in your normal work clothes, eat a hearty breakfast. This will help you maintain some kind of normalcy and you will be able to keep this routine going when you return to the workplace! Moreover, make a to-do list at the beginning of the day to help you prepare and stay on task throughout the day. Checking items off of the list as you go will help you feel a sense of accomplishment!

Tips for Those Unable to Work

  1. Be Kind to Yourself: Lack of work can be nice sometimes for various reasons, but it can also be difficult, especially for those who are accustomed to working and enjoy working. At a time such as this unprecedented pandemic, it is common to feel like you have lost a sense of purpose, meaning, and direction in life (not that working is life’s purpose, but many people find purpose in their work). While these feelings are valid, please try to be kind to yourself. This worldwide pandemic was completely out of your control and it is okay to be out of work at the moment.
  2. Structure Your Day Ahead of Time: When we do not have structure or routines, we can fall into unhealthy patterns of behavior. For instance, if you don’t have to set your alarm to get up for work, you may sleep until, say, 11:00 AM. By the time you get out of bed, get yourself ready, and have breakfast, you are already at lunchtime. At this point, you may feel like your day is shot and you decide to sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix the rest of the day. While we all deserve a good binge-watch here and there, it’s safe to say that this is probably an unhealthy behavior, if consistent. Instead, if we structure our day ahead of time, we can wake up with purpose, engage in healthier behaviors, and feel a sense of accomplishment by the end of the day.
  3. Do Something New: While this period of unemployment has undoubtedly been stressful, it is likely that most of us may never have this much time away from work again (until retirement). Try to use some of this excess time to your advantage and do something that you have not had the time to do before! Start a new hobby, enroll in some free online classes that you have interest in, fix the broken drawer in the kitchen that you haven’t fixed in three years. If you are able to, allow yourself this time to do the things that you always say you do not have the time to do!

Hang in there everyone! There are only a few more days until the holiday weekend!

Alexis Bracy, M.S.