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HerMoney Healthline: How To Stay Connected While Working From Home

Rebecca Cohen  |  April 2, 2020

A look at some of Melanie Katzman's best tips for staying connected while working from home during coronavirus and sheltering in place.

While living behind closed doors, shut windows, and 6 feet of distance between you and the next closest person, it’s easy to feel alone. You’re likely mourning the loss of normal socializing, and are wishing you could see that coworker who always annoys you, just because that means you’ll get to see people. Once this is over, we’re never missing a night out again, no matter how tired we are.

But instead of living in the past and craving a social future, there are plenty of things you can do to remain the social butterfly we know you are, all from the comfort of your own home. That’s why we reached out to Melanie Katzman, author of the best-selling book, “Connect First: 52 Simple Ways To Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy At Work,” to ask for her best tips on staying connected. Katzman is also a business psychologist and the founder of Katzman Consulting. Katzman is offering her tips on how we can best stay connected with ourselves and with each other during self-quarantine and stay at home orders. She is not here to wave a magic wand and have all of your best friends appear at your dining room table. Instead, she’s teaching us how to make meaningful moments through communication that make it feel like our besties are with us when we need them. Here’s what she had to say. 

Re-evaluate communication.

It’s time for technology to shine. No longer is being glued to the laptop or smartphone (super) frowned upon. These items are now essential to our communication and, frankly, our survival. If no one is doing it in your life yet, take charge and get connected on the web. There are plenty of ways you can stay in touch with the people you love. “People need to look at how they can use their technology to remain interconnected. Do what you’re used to doing, but do it online. Join a virtual book club, or host a Zoom happy hour with friends,” suggests Katzman.” 

Focus on protecting your mental health.

“Increased anxiety can deteriorate the immune system. Some anxiety can be good in that it keeps us on our toes, but we still need to be able to function. Build in “rituals” to take care of your mental health every day,” Katzman says. Additionally, reach out to your therapist or a mental health professional to talk about how you’re feeling. They can help you create a personalized plan for how you’re going to get through this (which you will.)

Your workday needs to have a beginning and an end.

With your house doubling as your office, coupled with the fact that you are not allowed to leave that home or that office, it is easy to feel like work is taking over your life. But give the job clear boundaries just like you would when you leave your office building. This helps to separate work from life and can help keep a cool head. “With so many “emergency meetings,” we may find ourselves stuck on Zoom all day with twice as much work. Give yourself — and your co-workers — a break by only setting essential meetings. If it doesn’t need to be more than 10-15 minutes, don’t force it to last longer. If not everyone needs to be there, only invite those who are crucial to the conversation,” Katzman recommends. 

Set boundaries in your home.

“Your news cycle also needs a start and end time — having the TV on all day and listening to dire projections isn’t going to do anyone any good. Check in with everyone with whom you’re living and discuss boundaries. Also, discuss which roles you and your roommates or spouse may be performing to keep your home neat, and the fridge stocked,” Katzman says. Physical boundaries help, too. Make your home office a room in which you don’t spend much other time, like your bedroom, the living room, or the kitchen. Only watch the news outside of the bedroom so those negative thoughts and sad realities don’t invade your safe space. Finally, hold a family (or quarantine family) meeting to keep open lines of communication in the home. Family isn’t easy, and being stuck inside together makes it much harder. 

Take a break from technology.

That is, when you’re not Zooming with the squad. “Read a real book, or go outside for a walk (if you legally can). Whenever you can, back away from the screens. When you’re taking that break, try not to talk about coronavirus. Chat about TV or movies, but stay away from anything that might provoke anxiety,” suggests Katzman. Board games and puzzles are great ways to exercise your mind (and pass a lot of time) without staring at a screen, and they are great ways to connect with those around you. Any chance you have to get away from your screens, take it. It’s even harder to do that now than it was before. 

Practice really listening to others.

“Allow people to show you their anxieties and fears. Then practice effective vs. empty reassurance. This is the difference between quieting people by saying “it’ll all be okay,” and really listening to their concerns, then responding with analytical and practical advice,” says Katzman. And then feel free to vent when you need to, too. We are all experiencing such similar realities right now that commiserating with each other has never been easier. Let the emotions flow and allow yourself to cry over something silly, just because you need to. Once you, or your friend, or both of you, calm down, laugh about the fact that you cried over an empty bottle of ketchup. It will help. 

To hear Katzman’s original HerMoney podcast about forming deeper and more meaningful connections at work, listen in here

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