Adjusting To Remote Work – How To Make The Most Of The Time You Once Spent Commuting
Adjusting to remote work is a necessity. Prior to the spring of 2020, those of us who commuted to work accepted the travel ritual as part of the weekday grind. Depending on the mode of transportation, our options to make the most of our time were mostly limited to listening to podcasts, audiobooks or music, reading or, for the train or bus commuters, catching up on emails on our phones.
When workforce leaders sent their teams home with their laptops, most workers struggled with the abrupt transition. Adjusting to remote work was a necessity.
Several of my coaching clients had to rapidly find a makeshift space in their homes where they could work.That, along with finding childcare arrangements and the uncertainty of how long this would last added to people’s stress levels.
Adjusting to Remote Work for Parents
Stacy, a creative worker in Los Angeles, commuted 90 minutes each way. She and her husband, who was also sent home, have two young children.
“We were told yesterday that we would need to take our laptops and personal effects and start working from home,” she said back in March 2020. “They told us,’we don’t know when you’ll be coming back.”
Single People Struggle, too
Timothy, on the other hand, worked at a well-known software company and also had a roughly 90-minute commute to the office. Now at home, he battled the temptation to flip open his laptop at 6:30 am, the time he would normally leave for the office. Timothy lives alone, so he has more flexibility to do what he wants with the extra time, making adjusting to remote work less stressful.
Another coachee (I’ll call her Nina) also felt the jolt of the sudden upheaval. Unlike Stacey, she has no other people she is responsible for, but unlike Timothy, she lives with a roommate.
Making the Adjustment
Working with these three represents a slice of my clientele during those critical days in 2020. Initially, they all had to reorient themselves to the new reality, adjusting to remote work. Rather than longing for the way things were, we found ways to look at their situation more positively.
While each person’s experience was unique, here are some common themes and the techniques discussed to make the most of a potentially negative situation.
We came up with three broad categories of ways my clients could adjust to remote work and make the most of the time they once spent commuting.
Analyzing the new reality
What you lose:
When you flip your laptop open when your 90-minute commute used to start, that’s an hour-and-a-half donation of your time to your company. If you’re still on after your former evening commute, there goes three hours of your day. That works out to a 15 hour donation of your personal time back to your organization. What is that in dollar terms?
What you can gain:
You’re still working and your company is still compensating you for it, even while you’re still adjusting to remote work. With no commuting costs, your company just gave you the gifts of more time and more money!
Defining New Boundaries
One of the biggest issues is delineating the boundaries between work and your personal life. Thinking of boundaries more literally means considering how land is delineated by property owners. Often, it’s some sort of fence.
First, think of the metaphorical ground you wish to protect. Is it the line between your work and personal hours? What sort of fence would you build to protect it? Is there an opening? A passcode for certain people to enter at certain times?
Contemplating the space you want to protect and how to protect it is a worthwhile exercise. While adjusting to remote work at home, these boundaries can be tougher to define.
Finding new habits
Remind yourself of things you used to enjoy that you felt you had no time for.
Nina used to enjoy sewing. A sewing machine had sat in the corner of her spare room for years. She decided to remove the cover and get to work on some projects.
Learn a Language
Timothy is a second-generation Korean. He spoke the language some, but not enough to communicate comfortably. Timothy decided to find a Korean course online and sharpen to enhance his speaking ability in Korean. He also wanted to make exercise more of a priority, even if it’s just a walk on the trails near his home.
While adjusting to remote work, he realized there are huge benefits to walking just 30 minutes a day. He also focused on his career more, with a goal of becoming promoted.
Stacey took some time finding the proper care for her children. Luckily, her husband’s parents lived nearby and were more than happy to help out. Once Stacey overcame that important hurdle and began working from home, she also decided to focus on a career promotion for herself.
All three overcame the transition of adjusting to remote work very quickly. Nina completed some sewing projects and Timothy and Stacey focused on their careers, both getting promoted before our coaching sessions ended. Timothy enrolled in a Korean class online and got out for walks, initially, three days a week.
They successfully converted a seemingly negative situation into one that worked for each of them. While I haven’t spoken to any of them in three years, if they’re like my clients who are working from home now, they’re likely thriving.
You Will Succeed, Too
Most people were able to see the gift of time they could use to benefit themselves in various ways: bodily, through exercise, mentally, through learning a language or reviving an old hobby or professional development, through focusing on their careers.
No one said adjusting to remote work would be easy, but once you’ve found ways to make the most of the time you once spent commuting, you’ll actually embrace your new reailty.
Brent Roy, PCC, CPLC, CMC, is a certified executive, career and personal development coach. I work with men and women who want to increase their confidence and boost their executive presence to prepare them for promotion or a new career. For more ways I can help, please reach out!
(I wrote this original article for YourTango. It was published there on Apr. 20, 2023 as “Adjusting To Remote Work — How To Make The Most Of Your Time.“