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Responsibilities May Include

Working from home during and after the pandemic

Tips for grad students on how to be productive as possible while working remotely.

BY STEPHANIE DUPLEY & KRISTA KELLY | JAN 21 2021

We are almost one year into the pandemic (yikes!). As grad students, you likely have dealt with major changes in the way you learn, interact and work.

Work during COVID-19 has endured a major disruption and working from home has become more common. Statistics Canada reported that in October, 2.4 million Canadians who did not normally work from home were working remotely.

Along with this, research shows that CEOs are becoming more comfortable with having their employees work from home. Surveys reveal that many employees want to work from home more now than before the pandemic and would like the option to continue working remotely for the rest of their careers. In the future, it is likely that companies will continue to operate on more of a hybrid model, with employees working from home some days and going into the office on others.

This means that although it might be a challenge, it’s a good idea to start adapting to this new way of working. Here are some tips for working from home that you can implement now and in your future career.

Create a distinct workspace

As appealing as it might seem to conduct your business in front of your TV from the comforts of your couch, preparing a dedicated workstation with proper ergonomics and lighting places all of your work needs at your fingertips for ease of use and puts you in the work mindset. According to David Zweig, professor of organizational behaviour, “Psychologically, this will help us create a divide of sorts between our work and family life and responsibilities.” Many have trouble “turning their work off” at night when working from home but creating a workstation where you can focus during work hours and then leave it behind can help.

Utilize technology effectively

While you likely have become even more comfortable with technology by now, working from home tends to increase your reliance on technology and may require you to utilize new or unfamiliar applications. For many employees, virtual video calls are the norm. Whether using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or another platform, try to get comfortable using it ahead of your first meeting and make sure you still dress and act professionally. Check out what platforms and programs are supported by your university and make use of the technical support provided by your institution for their use.

Don’t dwell on small issues

The quick and unexpected shift to virtual work came with growing pains. While one might come to expect a perfectly professional set-up for a seasoned work-from-home veteran, many of us are still working in makeshift home offices while cramped with family members who would normally be outside of the home as well.

While you want to avoid major blunders, like a cringeworthy background toilet flush because you brought your virtual meeting to the bathroom with you, everyone is doing their best to make this massive transition, so let minor barks from dogs or cries from babies slide at this time.

Organizational psychologist, Laura Hambley, says, “Some of us have a spouse or a partner, some of us have children, pets – and it’s better to be up front about that and to share with others that our work conditions may not be perfect … we need to be kind and patient with one another right now.”

Connect with your colleagues and advisors regularly

Many see their work as a major part of their social world and working from home can seem isolating at times. Check in with your coworkers and advisors and provide regular updates on your productivity to keep everyone informed. Develop a sense of what kind of check-ins are appropriate, including how often and by what means (email, workplace chat rooms, virtual meetings, etc.), and ask your supervisor if you are unsure.

Don’t forget about your health

This is a big one. Stand up, walk around, watch your posture, but most of all, check in on your own mental health. The stress of the pandemic, social isolation, etc. are contributing to mental health challenges in university students. This can make it even more difficult to focus on your work and maintain your motivation.

Be easy on yourself. If you’re not as productive as you were pre-COVID times, that’s okay. Try setting a timer for short bursts of time and energize yourself to focus on a task for just that small period. This can help with getting over the hurdles of starting or completing a task.

Don’t hesitate to get help. Look for supports at your university that can help with easing some of your stress (such as financial assistance, etc.) and access the counselling and support services available. Check out these mental health tips while working from home as well.

This might have benefits

Through all this, remember that you have had to show incredible adaptability and resilience during this time! Though it can be difficult having to adapt, the work-from-home lessons you learn now can help you succeed in the future as remote work becomes more prevalent. Reflecting on your remote work experiences can help you identify what works and what doesn’t, and these lessons can be beneficial for the work you do now and in your future endeavours.

ABOUT STEPHANIE DUPLEY & KRISTA KELLY
Stephanie Dupley is a career advisor for international and graduate students with career development and experiential learning at the University of Windsor. Krista Kelly is a career consultant in the office of career development and experiential learning at the University of Windsor.
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