Blog / Mar. 23

COVID-19 and Telecommuting: How to Manage Stress and Find Balance During Uncertain Times

Kim Chrzanowski

Editor’s Note: This guest post is provided by Kim Chrzanowski, an Aptos People Team (HR) leader based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. As part of Aptos’ ongoing efforts to best support our colleagues’ health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim recently hosted a virtual training session on ways to manage stress and find optimal work-life balance when telecommuting. She summarizes the advice shared in that session below. 

So…here we are. Many of us are working from home, “social distancing,” “homeschooling”…the list goes on. In the span of a few short weeks, businesses, industries and nations have been transformed. And…here we are.

Many employees can’t work from home – but I am thankful and proud that Aptos has “figured it out” in record time and that my colleagues and I can do so. And so…here we are.

What’s important when entire companies and communities suddenly shift to working from home? And what – quite frankly – isn’t? Those are the questions my colleagues and I have been asking ourselves.

So here’s what I’ve learned from my years as an HR professional, not to mention the countless articles, blogs and Twitter posts and from speaking with others. This scenario is “way different,” and “way fast.” Not only did employees suddenly descend on their “home offices” (and that’s a very tongue-in-cheek phrase), so did their spouses, significant others, roommates and children. Hello! Most people are now home all day, every day. The only ones really happy about this situation are our dogs (our cats, as you would expect, are perplexed and angry).

While there is no way to completely mitigate the uncertainty many of us feel during this pandemic, there are specific actions you can take to set yourself up for success when working from home.

Here are a few things to keep in mind – and ways to feel more in control – as we adjust to our new at-home work environments:

Space. It’s limited in the best of circumstances, but if you can carve out a designated space to work from, you’ll feel more organized. Don’t have a home office, per se? No problem…the basement, a spare room, the playroom, the garage, a corner of the kitchen table – they will do fine.

Tools/technology. It’s important for each of us to dust off our tech tools and put them to use. Don’t like to use video during conference calls? Need to get over that. Some of us don’t relish how we look on the webcam, but it’s a key component when it comes to seeing our colleagues’ faces, watching them laugh or smile, or helping talk through situations “face-to-face” when dealing with a complex or stressful situation. We all need to dig deep, ask questions and try (and fail) to use some new tools that will help us remain connected.

People. At Aptos, we always say our people are our biggest asset. When has this ever been a truer statement? We need to communicate in all ways. My advice to colleagues is to “think about how often you need to communicate with your teams…and then add one to it.” It’s human nature to downplay the importance of this, but there is no such thing as “over communicating” when things are confusing and unknown.

Two important things we all need to keep in mind DAILY…not just here and there:

1. Recognize and manage stress.

  • Sleep – not just getting enough of it, but also regular rise and bed times for ALL household members
  • Limit caffeine – some is OK, but not too much – and not later in the day, as it increases anxiousness without our realizing it
  • Schedule – create one – for work and for family time. Then, be prepared to ditch it if needed…but the sense of order created by a schedule is helpful to all family members
  • Exercise – the most important one – if you weren’t a marathon runner before, you likely won’t be one when businesses return to normal, but the importance of some sort of daily exercise (taking into account any advice by your physician) can’t be overstated

2. Don’t forget to take those 5-10-minute breaks. Don’t fall victim to sitting down in your new spot and not moving for eight hours:

  • Stretch – arms, legs, neck and spine – get the oxygen flowing to your spine
  • Walk – even if it is laps in the hallway, it counts
  • Engage your brain – jigsaw puzzle? Word search? Jenga? Make a rule that every time you refill your water bottle you also place three pieces of the jigsaw puzzle…check out the progress each night
  • Get away from the 24/7 news – find a new podcast or music channel – engage your brain in a meaningful way about something other than the “news”

Flexibility and creativity are key. Some of us are homeschooling kids, working full time, managing pets, and dodging our spouse and their work schedule. On what planet is one equipped for that? No planet. That’s why it’s important to be good to each other and, don’t forget, good to ourselves. Show others kindness; show yourself grace. Say “thank you,” “I appreciate you,” “good job” and “that helped,” as warranted, and often.

Bottom line? We’re all in uncharted waters. We don’t know what this looks like in the future. Control the “controllables” and try and let go of the rest. If you can’t “let go” today because it’s a stressful one, don’t beat yourself up. Get up tomorrow and try it again. Hopefully, it will be a little easier. And as you navigate each day, remember the Aptos Way. Has there ever been a time when a pioneering spirit, sense of community and being authentic have been more important?

I think not.