Reflections of one year of working virtually in the pandemic, an OT perspective

A year into the pandemic, thousands of normally “in-person” workers continue to work remotely. PYD staff transitioned to working remotely in March of 2020 and remains working in a virtual capacity. Lindsay Alperin, Career Readiness Program Director at PYD, is an Occupational Therapist (OT) who shares below some reflections and tips from her perspective as an OT working at PYD during this time.

As an OT, we define “occupation” as our daily activities. This could be anything from activities of daily living, work, school, play, sleep, or much more. For many of us, our “daily occupations” have been impacted by the pandemic. While we may not be able to do things the way we used to or would prefer, we can look for different ways to engage in our meaningful occupations despite the circumstances we are facing or figure out alternatives that are still meaningful. With that in mind, below are some reflections and tips on working from home or going to school after one year of working remotely due to the pandemic.

1. Find ways to restore meaningful or important parts of your day that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Many of our routines and schedules have been altered in various ways. Consider options for how to incorporate components of your day that are important to you and your wellbeing. For example, quiet time during a commute could be replaced by a walk, meditation, yoga, or phone call with a friend at the start or end of your day.

2. Drink water.
This may sound like a silly one, but it is very important. Remember to stay hydrated throughout the day. You could put a sticky note on your laptop reminding you to go get some water or get a fun new water bottle. Whatever motivates you to stay hydrated.

3. Incorporate movement into your day.
If you are no longer commuting, or not leaving home as much as you used to, that naturally means less movement. Therefore, incorporate movement when you can, whatever that means to you. This could be a walk, run, standing breaks, standing or walking during meetings when possible, virtual exercise class, yoga, gentle stretching, playing with a pet, or anything that gets you moving.

4. Stay in touch with others.
With less in person social interaction, that likely means less informal conversations or check ins with colleagues, classmates, friends, or family. Some ways to recreate these opportunities that are missed from not passing each other in the hallway or lunchroom could be having meetings with no formal agenda or scheduling time to virtually eat lunch together.

5. Stick to your routines.
Consistency in your routine will lead to improved self-care, wellbeing, and productivity in your day. Some suggestions include get dressed and ready for the day (even if you aren’t leaving home), take a break and eat lunch, and identify your working hours and then sign off for the day (don’t continually check your work or school email) when they are completed.

6. Designate a separate “work from home” space.
It is recommended to distinguish the space where you work while at home. This can be a challenge given space constraints and home set up. However, it could be as simple as keeping a box (bag, laundry basket, etc.) of all your work or school supplies that you take out when working and put away at the end of the day. Or it could be a specific space in your home where you only work. Find what works for you and your own situation.

Unscheduled remote work and decreased social isolation caused by the pandemic has created challenging work environments for many. Being mindful of the changes and creating new ways to engage with others – and ourselves – can help alleviate some of the challenges until in-person at the office or classroom becomes the norm again.