Many of us have probably experienced a season of working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic broke early last year, and the multiple resources about how to thrive in such a situation all over the internet are a testament to that.
I am one of the people who has worked from home since last year. I was working with 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation (4040), a youth-led non-profit organization, that supports children in vulnerable communities in Uganda, to improve their learning outcomes.
In July 2021, I started my Atlas Corps Fellowship. Yaaaaaaaay! 😊
Due to the start of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda, I am currently serving remotely as the U.S Embassy closed along with other operations in the country when a 42-day lockdown was announced in June 2021.
I have since got my visa, so I am definitely looking forward to serving in person. As I prepare for my travel, I am still serving remotely and thought I could share some of the things that have worked for me during this season, and that I will continue to use as needed.
I hope that these tips will work for you or help you explore alternatives that you hadn’t considered, or implemented, until now.
Make use of your program contact and host organization supervisor: My Atlas Corps program contact, Hanna, has been amazing. So amazing, that I rarely have any questions that she hasn’t already answered. Be sure to diligently read the communication from your program contact because 9.5 times out of 10, whatever you need is somewhere in there. In the event that you have unanswered questions, reach out to them because they are there to support you and will help you navigate the situation. My supervisor, Nicole, at my host organization, Advocates For Youth, has also been supportive towards helping me settle in, and this has gone a long way in setting me up to deliver my best.
Make use of tools to supplement your effectiveness: If you know me, you know that computing time zones gives me a headache – someone is in GMT+3, I am in UTC+5, and GMT is UTC-8, so that means the meeting is at [(UTC-8)+3]+5 for me. Don’t even bother computing that because I just made it up, and there is a good chance that it is incorrect, so many apologies to my High school Maths teacher. The point is that this is confusing for me, so I simply downloaded an app that automatically converts into my time zone without any headaches. It might seem ‘simple’ but if it is a headache for you, find a way around it. I also use Calendly, which is not only helpful for time zones but also takes out the back-and-forth nightmare of scheduling who is available when which is a dance that can take 2 – 5 business days. I save a lot of time on that front. You can also use productivity tools like Trello, Asana, Notion, the list is endless, to help keep track of your tasks.
Check them out and find what works best for you.
It does seem like another task you need to do but believe me, dragging that task from the ‘ongoing’ column to the ‘completed’ column is very satisfying and makes the extra effort worth it.
Communication is key: We have definitely heard this several times, but it REALLY is the key. Are you facing an electricity shutdown? Is the internet impossible? Your program contact and supervisor should know about this, and everything else that could impact your service. Generally, it is better to err on the side of caution, and as a resident of your home country, you already know most of the issues that come up regularly. Inform anyone who needs to know about any potential situations so that expectations are managed, should they occur.
Be willing to extend yourself: If you regularly find yourself in certain situations, be willing to extend yourself (within reason, of course). For example, if your current internet plan has failed you for 1 – 2 weeks, you should consider looking for a new internet provider or getting a new plan, because ultimately, it serves you most to have a good connection. Hopefully, it won’t take too many tries (and resources) to find a sweet spot, but it is better than staying on the same plan that isn’t serving you. Time zones are bound to create situations where it might be too early or too late for you, so do take the time to assess what is important for you to be present, and make the exception depending on your results.
Account for rest and other activities: This is actually a big one for remote service, because it is very easy to focus more on your service than on taking out time to breathe, rest, and basically chill. Ensure that your calendars are synched so that you know exactly what you are doing and when you are doing it. Be sure to also include ‘busy’ slots if you are using a shared calendar so that you are not perpetually free for meetings or engagements. These could be as simple as snack or lunch breaks or a grocery shopping trip so that you are able to live a holistic experience that caters to a wide array of your needs.
These have worked tremendously for me, and I hope that you will find something for you as well.
Please share which ones you can relate to, or any others that are working well for you.
Happy Remote Working!