Under Lockdown

5 Tips to "Keeping Sane"

An emergency state in Romania is easier to describe as a lockdown, as you can go out for a few reasons (i.e. helping elders, buying groceries for the household, etc.) with a written declaration explaining your reason, but you were encouraged not to, or at least not go out too often. 

So with a required emergency state declared on March 18th, 2020 we headed to our homes to embrace a new trend that has been knocking on the industry doors for a while – The holy grail as some like to call it – the opportunity to work from home.

Since someone from my household traveled outside Romania and returned on March 10th, I entered a self-imposed isolation period. Straight from my regular #wfh days. Why is this worth mentioning? Because that meant I had a week ahead of staying in, and that most everything remained in the office I was using  – even my ginger tree. At that point in time, I was a possible carrier so I decided to stay in and did not go out at all – for any reason. A few times I had some groceries delivered in order to survive. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it wasn’t  hat bad.

After a few days and before the offices were mandated closed, I threw in the towel and a colleague brought me a monitor from work to be able to see my screen better – insert here the running joke that the first part of my last name (Chior) translates as “the blind one” – so I finally was in close proximity to someone from the outside world. The first few days, though, I imposed a routine to make the isolation feel like a boot camp – wake up, work, eat, work more, exercise, read, etc. Since most people were still going to work, I thought that I would make use of the time gained from my lack of commute and take advantage of it as if it were a 30 hour workday.  Oh boy, was I wrong! I think it is worth mentioning that I did work from home before, from our client, Mozilla’s offices, from the airport or even on the road while traveling, but being 100 percent remote was definitely something new to me.

My routine ended up looking like this: wake up, change out of PJs into something cozy and casual, put minimal makeup on, (it already felt as if I were going somewhere – even if only to the desk!) and started the coffee-making process. While brewing, I would start up the laptop and check my day at a glance. My lunch break was at the same table as my work desk because it was cold outside. It even snowed in the first two weeks, but after a month or so, I embraced the balcony as my new personal restaurant! Another chunk of work and then my “corporate” routine ended, closing my laptop. I would switch to my personal computer, and either watch a series, follow a workshop, talk with family and friends, or do some volunteer work. 

After much time under quarantine, I’ve developed my top five tips to keeping sane:

  • Have a start and stop routine for work time. I start the day by dressing in “work clothes,” putting on makeup, and making coffee. As soon as the last one is done, I sit at the desk and I’m on. At the end of the day, I close my work laptop and that is the sign that my workday has ended. Even if I had other calls – with family and friends – I would switch to take those from my personal laptop or phone. This free time is also a good opportunity to set your availability in the calendar. 
  • Take breaks and get up from the computer. Even if it means sitting out on the balcony for 5-10 minutes, or in the kitchen to make tea, it is beneficial to recharge and move the body a bit. 
  • Keep video on.  I know many might not be able to have a proper haircut… I think my gray hair was never so distinct. But we’re all social humans, we empathize with a smile or a sad face, we read facial expressions and we can definitely make someone’s day better if we show them we are there for them.
  • Prioritize tasks. As we are overloaded with notifications, having all our communication, work, and social time online is definitely not easy to handle. List your most important tasks for the day and tackle those first. In the office, many would remember a task when they saw a colleague – now, write that down. 
  • Over-communicate. No, I’m not saying to create noise. Just to be sure you communicate clearly and listen actively in your meetings. Playback what you hear from others, deblur the information with clarification questions. Showcase your work so they can also match what they hear with what they see. 

My expectations of productivity outside of work during lockdown was definitely not as productive as I wanted or thought I would be. I did not read 10 books, but ended up reading two! I did not workout daily but did manage to squeeze it in around two times per week. I did, however, Zoom chat with friends and I also enjoyed slowing down and spending evenings relaxing. I watched British Theater and created some drawings – with some even ending up as Easter cards. I had happy hours and birthday parties and got to connect in a whole new way. This is what  #livingfromhome felt like for two months and it became a routine that I have immensely enjoyed and become accustomed to.