Working in Social Isolation

Working in Social Isolation

Working in Social Isolation

20th March, 2020

Here at Options we’ve been working from home for several weeks now in order to get ahead of the curve and test our BCP plans. I must admit it came as a shock to the system, particularly for someone who has worked in technical support for five years where it’s crucial to make it into the office. Thus far, I’ve found it an invaluable learning experience as we get to “walk the walk”, placing ourselves in the positions we find our clients in. On top of this, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, trying to eliminate bad habits as soon as they emerge and taking note of the impulsive good habits that have been exercised as a result of this change in lifestyle. Below I’ve outlined some of the things I’ve learnt so far, from tea breaks to lunch time exercise (as you can see from the photo, my hometown in Ireland has no shortage of views, nor do some of the home setups from the Options team highlighted below!)

1. Effective communication
How many of you have signed in and been bombarded with instant messages? We’ve recently switched to Microsoft Teams which has been outstanding for communicating via text and video conferencing. However, one message quickly turns into 50+ and you can find yourself going nowhere fast. Firmwide we’ve always had in place 3 daily calls, covering off all regions globally and allowing people to communicate and sync-up. I’d recommend having this setup between your team members on a smaller scale (possibly weekly) – if it’s not time sensitive it can be added to the agenda for the call.

2. Keep active
It’s no secret that exercise is a great stress reliever. Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken the “2-day rule” approach, whereby I do not allow 2 days in a row to pass without going for a quick run. I track my run in where you can also challenge your colleagues/friends to see who has the quickest times. Overcoming the adversity and going for a run when you really aren’t feeling it can be the turning point in your day.

3. No room for milk
Popping out for a morning coffee was a routine for a few of us in the office, allowing some time to catch up before the day of work begins. Obviously, this isn’t happening right now, however with the kettle being so close I started to consume one too many teas/coffees throughout the day. An effective way to combat this is having mini goals to complete before leaving your desk to carry out the habit – now that number 3 is complete I’m going to make myself a coffee.

4. Where to setup
I made the mistake of setting up in the bedroom to start with and quickly learnt from it. For those of you (like me) that don’t have the luxury of an office at home, I’d recommend getting setup in the room you would visit the least, to have some degree of separation (let’s just say I hope you visit the bathroom often). It also does no harm to move your setup every now and again.

5. Get to know your conferencing system
A quick one but very important, and you’ll thank yourself for it when you’ve forgotten about a meeting and are rushing to join the conference call. You’ll probably find that you’re joining more conference calls now than usual, so being familiar with the system is key and it’s one less thing to worry about when the time comes.

6. Get the balance right
Those of us that are lucky enough to be working from home now are doing so to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which is ultimately looking after our physical health. Our mental health should also come into consideration here, which is why we should prioritise a healthy work/life balance. In the evenings I found it hard to switch off, being stuck at the computer screen for hours longer than I should, and when I eventually signed out, I’d check my emails again over the phone. I’m not saying we should abandon our teams in a time of crisis; however, I’ve adopted the approach that if an email is not time sensitive, I would respond the next day. A lot of us forget that listening is a gift and being the first to respond is not always the smartest approach. The extra few hours allows for the conversation to flow between others, and you can analyse the situation before providing your input.

7. Be flexible
I’ve found that it’s important to be flexible in regards to your routine. For parents out there I can imagine it’s a challenging time to work from home, especially with the school closures. A routine that is too strict will leave you frustrated whenever you can’t maintain it and you’ll lose motivation. I’d advise trying to plan as much as possible but have a few backups in place if you start to notice things changing.
(Note one of the newest Options team members below)

8. #RateMySetup
I must admit, my home setup was not prepared for this. When having the conversation with many colleagues, I was amazed at some of the arrangements and the work that went into them. Therefore, I put together the #RateMySetup challenge internally, so that we could vote the best. Have a look at some of them below… it was also noted that dogs are great listeners when you just need to vent.

9. Music/Podcasts
I guess it’s time to share my (not so prepared setup) below. I’ve found a great way to break up the day is by sticking on some music in the background or playing a podcast to keep the mind ticking over. For me, the TV is too distracting, however that’s probably because I’m a Liverpool fan and had the Barcelona vs Liverpool highlights from last year playing (sorry, it’s a frustrating time to be a Liverpool fan right now).

10. Enjoy the time to yourself
When you’re in the office every day you have a sense of connection with your fellow peers. Working from home removes that to a degree, and you can spend many hours alone (or with your pet). My advice would be to enjoy it. Think of the hectic days, where the end was never in sight and you craved getting home to press the reset button or de-stress.

To end, I feel incredibly fortunate to be working for a company that (a) has always put its people first and (b) gives us the ability to work remotely in times of crisis like these (I know everyone is not so lucky). We have some big personalities within the company, which is down to our method of hiring “People, not Robots” so it’s strange not to be working beside these people on a daily basis. I hope over the next few weeks that some of you can take value from the points above, or if anything, appreciate the little dose of positivity in these dark times.

Liam Fegan, Belfast Support Team Lead

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