Working at Home at the Time of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As a freelancer, working at home isn’t a new concept. It has its perks like no morning traffic, no dress code, no childcare expenses, and working at my pace (except for deadlines), taking several breaks throughout the day, and flexibility. However, it’s not as glamorous or necessarily easy as those lifestyle bloggers and MLM huns try to tell you. Check this out to learn about those individuals called MLM huns. As a new mom, I get plenty of recruiting messages about joining an opportunity that’d supposedly change my life with Younique, Monat, Lularoe, and what not. From a marketing perspective, they are trying to sell this fantasy of a certain lifestyle of a blogger, social media guru, instagram celebrity. But sadly, they don’t realize that not everyone gives a fuck about that kind of fantasy life. I prefer to live in reality. I prefer to read a good book to escape into another world or watch my guilty pleasure, The Bold Type. Damn it, I only wish my life as an editor was as glamorous as portrayed in those TV shows :::sarcasm:::. I still enjoy parties, cocktails, and fun people.

Along with the perks, a freelancer’s job is still a job with challenges like any other job. Deadlines are a normal part of life in publishing or communications. As opposed to an in-house position where there’s a manager to manage my work, accounting to handle taxes and the money-related, marketing and sales to get clients, administrative staff to take care of daily matters—all the tasks are on me. I have to organize the daily operations, manage my time and workload, brand and market myself to prospective clients, bill and invoice, taxes, and of course editing the manuscripts. Time management, ability to multitask, manage different projects, marketing and sales skills are necessary in addition to being a skilled editor. Not trying to discourage anyone but that’s the reality. Joining organizations like EFA and ACES helped me in getting better at managing my freelance business. I enjoy what I do, but I still have my bad days.

Now that there’s COVID-19, I can continue as if it’s business as usual unlike other jobs, right? Not so fast. Uncertainty, everyone in the house, disruptions can have it’s emotional toll. At first, we were all overwhelmed. Can we wear masks? Should we disinfect groceries? How do we explain to our son on the autism spectrum that we cannot go out to Chuck E Cheese’s or explain the coronavirus situation in a way he understands? As things settled into place, we were able to figuring out things like schooling our son, watching our toddler, playing, and for me to get work done. I’m also thankful for technology today. We’re able to homeschool through online lessons, follow workout videos online, Zoom meetings and chats, and Netflix. Imagine living in a pandemic in another era. Sometimes, I had a hard time focusing on work. I’m figuring out how to be productive with my writing and editing during a pandemic:

SCHEDULING and EXPECTATIONS. It is impossible to work, parent, manage a household, and homeschool the kids. Enlist help from spouse or family. If you’re a single parent, it’s tough without support to do it all. I discovered a few things that I find helpful.

  • Set weekly goals but let go of some expectations. Extend deadlines. Re-prioritize. This applies to all people, regardless of lifestyle. We are all going through stressful times. Resist the mindset that productivity correlates to your self-worth. You may or may not write the book, finish a certification, or hit an impressive goal. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Be realistic with goals. If you could not reach your weekly goals, it’s time to re-evaluate and adjust the goals if necessary.
  • When are you the most productive? Use that time to complete difficult tasks. The benefit of freelancing is not having a traditional 9 to 5 schedule. You can work while your spouse is homeschooling the kids in the afternoon, after you put your kids to bed, or earlier before they wake up.
  • Schedule free times or workout times. I flat out refuse to work on weekends. Nothing freelance-related including answering emails. I’m not an ER doctor and the emails can wait over the weekend. Otherwise, I’d simply burnout.
  • Schedule an “Exec Day” for planning, goal setting, and evaluating your business. I’m now re-evaluating my marketing and use of social media. I want to use social media marketing in a way that makes sense and not for the sake of it. Having a separate day for that and doing administrative tasks help.
  • Zoom calls are much more exhausting than you think. Take breaks between calls. I find myself more productive with breaks rather than taking calls continuously.
  • It’s OK if there is some noise in the background as long as it isn’t disruptive. My kids are in the corner playing with their toys or TV at a reasonable volume while I’m at a distance where I can keep and eye on them and take the phone call. And, I will NOT be apologetic about it. I have people calling me from cafes, breakroom, airports with background noise. I have a life. If they have a problem with it, their problem NOT mine!

SETTING BOUNDARIES. Vital to avoid burnout. 

  • Don’t have to answer emails right away. Get back to clients in 24-48 hours instead of at the same day.
  • Set a time to answer emails. I admit this is something I need to do. Rather than being on your phone the whole day, set aside certain times to reply. Call me old-school but when I’m playing with my kids, my time belongs to them. Quality time is more important than trying to cram everything together. I too have been guilty of this, but it seems many people are forgetting cell phone etiquette.
  • Set aside office hours on your contract and even website so that boundaries and expectations are set with clients. My wedding planner put down her office hours and something along the lines of reaching back in a reasonable time and within 24-48 hours. It’s a gentle reminder especially for people who expect you to be on speed-dial.
  • With yourself, what can you do? What can you not? Be honest with yourself.
  • With family members: open door policy or not, that is the question. Decide what works for you. Communicate with your family, especially kids for tasks that cannot be interrupted. Yet, it’s fine if the kid comes in and peeks at your Zoom call. Who can resist the curiosity and cuteness of a toddler?

WELLNESS. 

  • Take a shower and get dressed instead of working in pajamas. No makeup or professional attire necessary. I wear my most comfortable jeans or leggings and a casual top, blow dry my hair, and do my skincare routine: face wash, toner, serum, moisturizer, eye cream. It makes me feel ready for work. Sometimes I wear makeup on Zoom calls because it makes me feel ready.

    Make sure you check your angles for a Zoom call or don’t forget your pants!

  • Maintain healthy habits. It’s normal to crave food and succumb into emotional eating during times of stress, loneliness, or seeking psychological comfort. Don’t beat yourself up. Order that pizza and enjoy it over a Netflix movie marathon. Watch yourself from spiraling into binge eating or depression. The foods you eat will affect your mood, well-being, and mental health. Eat a balanced diet of carbs, protein, fats. Add vegetables and fruits. Eat cookies, chips, pizza, and other junk food in moderation. Avoid excessive caffeine. I noticed that eating healthy helps me stay alert and feel better about myself. Please don’t fall into fad dieting or any food shaming habits. Those are counterproductive and feed into a negative culture around food.
  • In between completed tasks, do laundry and wash dishes. That keeps you moving.
  • Exercise. Exercise is as celebration of what your body can do. Yet, don’t fall into the “no pain, no gain” mindset. Even a 15 minute yoga session can make a difference. If you’re a runner or into CrossFit, do it. Go on walks. I subscribed to Grokker, which is offering free membership during COVID-19 outbreak. Local exercise instructors in your area are also offering virtual classes through Zoom. If you can support them, please do. Exercise has an effect on your well-being, which affects your work life. You can also join us editors on exercise accountability through #stetwalk on Instagram and Twitter. This is how #stetwalk started.

I hope these tips are helpful. Do you have any other tips useful for those who work at home?

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