By Deanna Tomaselli
PRSA Pittsburgh Young Professionals Co-Chair
Take a walk every day. Have a dedicated workspace. Keep your usual hours. We’ve read blog post after blog post lately on work-from-home tips. And while I will offer a few tips of mine that I recently shared on PRSA Pittsburgh’s Screen to Screen series, what I won’t offer is sugar-coated, regurgitated “rules” to follow.
Because as someone eloquently put it on social media: You’re not working from home; you’re at home trying to work during a global pandemic. Here are some tips to maintain your sanity.
Keep Your Commute Time
While I don’t encourage you to go for a drive for 30 minutes in the morning and at night, you do have an extra hour (give or take) theoretically. I’ve been using mine to either 1) sleep longer some mornings or 2) plan my meals/groceries. My coworker mentioned she’s been getting more sleep than ever right now, which is amazing! It may be tough for some to get good sleep juggling this new life, along with anxiety over things we can’t control, but if you can sleep, do it. There is no shame in sleeping until 8 a.m. or even 9 a.m. on a Wednesday, if you don’t have a meeting first-thing. Other mornings, it feels good to get up early to work out, meditate, or just drink coffee. It’s all about balance.
On the other hand, grocery shopping is now officially the Hunger Games, and I prefer to online shop, which takes calculated strategy to plan out groceries and meals in advance. So, I also use that early-morning time to plan. Regardless of what you do with it, use this time wisely.
Do Some Chores During the Work Day
A lot of articles and posts tell you NOT to do things around the house during the day, but I disagree (to a point). It’s very easy to throw in a load of laundry, then take a break later to fold it. I’ve been sitting in on quite a few webinars, so I’ll listening in while folding laundry at the same time.
I don’t think it’s wise to do major things like mop the floors or vacuum your entire house or apartment during the day. But, easy tasks like running your robot vacuum or the dishwasher, throwing dinner into the Crock-Pot, or spraying Lysol on the doorknob or remote for the tenth time are all ways to maximize the day and allow you to check things off your personal list to create less stress.
Listen to Audio Books, Podcasts and Instagram Live streams
Recent data shows that podcast listenership is down, and audience growth dropped by about 15% through most of March. This makes sense because we’re not commuting, a time when many people listen to podcasts.
But I am still making an effort to listen to some of my favorite podcasts like Office Ladies and Business Casual. I do this while making dinner, walking the dog or organizing. We’re all cleaning our drawers and closets right now, so why not throw on Jessica Simpson’s Open Book (recommended on Audible and then listen to the podcast about it) and make your experience more enjoyable?
There are also plenty of Instagram Live streams and other video series that don’t really require looking at the screen, so I’ve been listening in to many of those. My two current favorites are Miley Cyrus’ Bright Minded and John Krasinski’s Some Good News.
Take Advantage of Free Online Resources
There are SO many free things online right now at our fingertips. First, shout out to PRSA Pittsburgh for utilizing Instagram Live and showcasing board members on the bi-weekly “Screen To Screen” series. PRSA National also has numerous webinars and assistance for crisis communications on its website.
Many fitness studios are offering free trials and classes. Use this time to upskill, learning something to better yourself career-wise (this list from PR Daily is a great resource). And there’s no shame in taking advantage of free TV. If you haven’t watched The Sopranos yet, now is your chance. Seriously, go watch it.
Also, now is still a great time to network. I had virtual coffee with a new contact a couple of weeks ago and it was nice to connect that way. Fast Company has more tips. And Social Media Today has a great list of must-have tools and apps for remote working.
This tip is usually on most lists, but it’s important. Recently, a fellow member of a Facebook group I am a part of commented about missing a client’s call. Within five minutes, the client called her boss to complain, but she was just out taking a quick walk at lunch. Really? Thankfully, I do not work for anyone like that, but some might. Setting boundaries is key right now with coworkers and bosses.
If you use a platform to communicate with co-workers like Slack or Teams, set an away message if you’re going to be gone from your computer for longer than 30 minutes during the day. If you are taking advantage of flex time – as my company has so graciously offered – make sure to communicate when you’re using it. Let clients and outside contacts know, too. You don’t have to go crazy, but just communicate. And keep within your hours. It’s so easy to work late at home (I am typing this blog post at 9:45 p.m., for instance), but give yourself a break. Right now, we’re lucky to have pretty good weather in Pittsburgh, so go outside when the work day ends and sit on your porch or grass al fresco. Use that time to check in with friends and family or even better, leave your screens inside.
A final note on this: Set boundaries with whomever is living in your house, too. That means spouses, roommates, children, etc. Let them know when your working hours are and stick to those. Also, shout out to all the working parents right now. I do NOT know how you are managing and my hat is off to you.
Keep the Good Vibes Rolling
Music is a staple in my day. Having a great playlist can keep your energy up, or soothe you. I shared a few in my recent monthly newsletter (shameless plug!). I also like to light a candle or diffuse essential oils during the day to keep it zen. Having fresh flowers is also a nice option. Order yourself some from a local shop.
I also have donated to a few local people doing great things for healthcare workers and food for those in need, and that makes me feel better about making a small difference. Of course, ordering food from local favorites also shows support. What I Ate, the Pittsburgh foodie Instagram account, is encouraging everyone to take selfies with their takeout or delivery, then tag them and use the hashtag #PGHtakeoutselfie to help get the word out.
My favorite email newsletter, Morning Brew, also just launched a new newsletter called The Essentials. It’s a guide to staying active, healthy and happy while quarantined, and drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the evening. Something we all need.
Some mornings, I wake up and work out, drink hot water with lemon, shower and do my hair and makeup. Other days, I roll out of bed late with greasy hair and plop down at my laptop in my PJs and struggle to focus. While I do think getting ready and having a routine are both keys to feeling better – and I encourage you to do that most days, I also encourage being lazy and not getting out of sweatpants sometimes. It’s a weird time, and we’re allowed!
I also continue to remind myself to be thankful that I have a job and a house and food on my table, and for that I am truly grateful. So give yourself a break, keep things in perspective and stay positive. We’ve got this!
Deanna Tomaselli is an Associate Vice President at Red Havas and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights, career learnings, and life in the ‘Burgh at PRettyinPgh.com.