From an interview with Sonia Sidhu, Product Lead at Arrive
Working from home (WFH) – the new norm for many people – comes with its own particular set of challenges and stresses. All this social distancing can make people feel isolated – especially if they are accustomed to working as part of a vibrant and energetic team – like Arrive. We’re all working from home to curtail the spread of COVID- 19, and doing our best to stay connected as we figure out how to make working from home work best. We’re learning from each other. In our first article of this series, Arrive Tech Lead, Siang Khor offered valuable insights on, making WFH work with structure and routine.
Sonia Sidhu, Product Lead at Arrive, helps shape the product roadmap for our Arrive connections app. The app allows newcomers to build their Canadian network, meet relevant, like-minded people, and connect with Arrive Ambassadors, who will help guide them on their journey..
We asked Sonia to share her approach to managing work, staying connected and being well while WFH. This is Sonia’s story.
I’m kind of used to working from home. I’m no expert in this, but there are a few things that I’ve found that help. My alarm goes off (I’m not going to lie – I’ve been known to hit the snooze button once or twice), and the day begins. I’ll usually get up and do a couple of things to get ready, as though I was going to leave the house: make my bed, make some coffee, and if there’s time and it’s a good day, I’ll try to go for a little walk, but if not, I’ll usually set up at my desk. Here are my 3 tips to working from home:
1. Make a dedicated space for work in your home
I’m lucky to have a good desk situation at home. I think it’s really important to kind of draw the line between life – which is your home, your personal space – and work. I think a desk set up is a really great way to set that boundary. In my apartment, there are quite a few windows. So I have my desk situated in a space where I can see outside. That natural light and that association of my desk near the window says this is work time now. It’s a really great connection for me.
To be productive, I try to keep the desk pretty minimalistic – not too much clutter, but a couple of plants on the desk can brighten your day. I always make sure to have a hot cup of coffee, my notebook and journal ready – computers and devices all charged; I dive into work around 9:00.
The first thing, now that the whole company is working from home, is we do a Product Team “stand up” meeting. (It’s called a stand up because under normal circumstances, the meeting is done standing up to keep it short and to the point.) Everyone talks about the top items for the day, the top things completed, and if anyone has tasks or things that they’re looking to work through or need feedback on we can discuss. It’s a really great way to kind of kick me off on the to-do list.
If there’s anything that’s sparked from that conversation, I’ll bake it into my list of to-do’s either that day or the rest of the week. And then back to the calendar for filling out the rest of the day.
In general, the morning is usually tackling any sort of product requirements that we’re working on, whether it be new features or new aspects that we’re trying to add to the Arrive experience. I try to do that in the morning and leave some time to chat with our design team and our dev team in case I need their support with anything.
Lunchtime kind of varies depending on the day. Sometimes, especially in recent circumstances, I’ve tried to either schedule a lunch date, if you will, with a friend over a video call or also try to get in a walk if I didn’t do so earlier in the morning. And, on really ambitious days, maybe try to do some sort of a lunchtime workout or quick circuit.
Individual trainers and local studios are offering free live workout sessions on Instagram. Or you can find a workout that works for you on Youtube. Working out is not an everyday thing for me, but I’m trying to do it a couple of times a week if I can.
After that, in general, we have a lot of calls, and a lot of meetings at Arrive. I try to include a little bit of time here and there throughout the day to write in my journal for 10 or 15 minutes, whether it be related to projects, the things I want to accomplish that day, or just a general kind of stream of consciousness.
2. When you’re off work, try to really be off work
To make sure I wrap up the work day, I try to add a block for myself at the time I’d normally get up, grab my stuff, pack my bag, and walk out of the office – around 5:30 or 6:00. I’ll say, “Okay, you know what? I have to stop working at this exact moment because a friend is calling,” or I committed to going on a walk. Or I’m going to start cooking something and watching some sort of a recipe video or whatever it may be. I’m trying to emulate as much of what I would do in normal circumstances. I think most people can relate with this.
Depending on the day, sometimes if you do have some time in the evening, and you’re fiddling around on your computer, you can fall into the trap of checking Slack or emails, working on some lingering items, and that does happen for me as well. Adding some sort of external block helps draw the line between work and life.
To keep myself accountable to that, I have a couple of good friends who I call my accountability buddies. We will check in with each other every day and say, “Hey, how’s your day going? Are you taking breaks from work?” That is usually a good reminder for me. I am a very social person, and I realized that “Wow, so much of my time is spent with other people.” It’s spent doing something social, and so I try to maintain those connections, even in this environment.
During this COVID crisis, we’re all missing the communities we’re used to connecting with or the spaces that we’re used to being in. Recognizing that everyone’s in the same boat helps. I like to reach out to people and make sure I have some sort of connection every day. I know there’s times where we’re just looking to talk to someone or whatever it may be. And so add those moments in, if you can.
“Add some variation to the structure of your day and add something interesting in your day to keep things exciting.”
3. Be kind to yourself
As you’re looking to fill out your schedule, maybe see this as an opportunity to start chipping away at an online course that you’ve wanted to work on or a side project you’ve been thinking about. Maybe start working on that fitness goal or a hobby of yours, whether it be cooking or painting. Read a little more, or look at opportunities to volunteer or offer remote support for different initiatives happening right now. Pick one or two things that you’d want to focus on for the month and try to build those into your day.
There may be a day or two where you don’t stick to the schedule, and things aren’t going the way that you intended them to go. Maybe you just had a bad day – or maybe the day went right out the window. You have to shake those days off and say, “You know what? Tomorrow’s another opportunity.”
In times like this, it’s important to be kind to others and to be kind to yourself. This is such a challenging circumstance for all of us. You can still add structure to your day, but give yourself some space and take everything in stride.
If you’re not working, take this time at home to improve your skills.
The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and related social distancing have caused disruption in the workplace and the job market: Remote working arrangements, reduced hours, layoffs and hiring being put on hold.
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