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Overcoming Work-from-Home Challenges: 5 Tips from Nitsch Employees

During these unprecedented times, it’s important to stay anchored and connected. At Nitsch, one of our long-standing values is a commitment to building better communities through our work and behavior. As many of our employees have suddenly transitioned to working from home, we’ve encouraged them to adjust to this new work from home (#wfh) reality in a way that maintains a connection with coworkers, clients, and loved ones; balances productivity with work-life balance; and prioritizes self-care at the same time! Two weeks ago we kicked off a Self-Care Spring Challenge, a virtual wellness initiative encouraging employees to complete different self-care tasks daily, to give guidance on how to best balance these values.

We thought the best way to share some of the lessons we’ve learned through this adjustment was to show how #wfh might look a little different for everyone, but we’re still all in this together! We asked for some tips, tricks, and thoughts and feelings from Nitsch employees to share how to stay happy, healthy, and connected while we practice physical distancing.

The Challenge: Saying goodbye to your office with its open space and perfect computer set-up.
The Tip: Don’t underestimate the value of creating the perfect at-home workspace.

four-pane image showing different at-home desk set-ups

It’s hard to adjust to working in a new environment, but a good way to re-focus is by re-organizing and creating a specific work area. Nitsch employees (clockwise from top left to bottom right) Project Engineer Anna Murphy, Senior Project Designer Chanel Jackson, Vice President and Principal Sandra Brock, and Marketing Manager Anna Luciano shared their new desk set-ups to give us all some ideas on how to get comfortable and become more productive.

two-pane image showing employees working on their laptops while sitting outdoorsAnother way to counter that at-home lack of productivity is by mixing it up and getting outside. Director of Client Services Gary Pease shares his advice of “focusing on one thing at a time” from the comfy environment of his backyard (on right). Marketing Coordinator MaKayla Allen takes a similar approach by setting up outside to get some sun for part of the workday (on left). With many studies showing that sunlight increases serotonin levels, this has the added benefit of helping people find a better mood!

If neither of these tips work, you can always follow the example of Director of Civil Engineering Aaron Gallagher, who shared how he and his wife are handling “work-place” disputes, saying, “Kara and I have made up an imaginary co-worker named Fred that we blame everything on so we’re not yelling at each other for leaving dirty dishes around our work space or other annoying co-worker things.”

The Challenge: Losing that wake-up, commute, day-at-the-office structure.
The Tip: Create a new routine that includes fresh air and exercise, fun, and work-life balance!

A silver lining to the new #wfh situation is that we got back the time we previously used to commute, and we have the opportunity of finding new ways to spend it! It’s a perfect chance to design your own new routine. Some ways the Nitsch team has been maintaining structure:

Senior Marketing Coordinator Virginia Steigerwald, who is quarantined at home with her fiancé, explains: “We’ve found it super important to stick to your usual work-day time schedule. For instance, we still wake up at the same times we typically would if we were going into the office. This helps maintain a familiar flow to our mornings so we’re not trying to adjust to a whole new schedule of who gets to use the bathroom when, etc. Also opening up the windows and getting some fresh air is a MUST.”

Senior Project Designer Chanel Jackson stresses the importance of getting your morning started, saying: “One of the joys of working from home is getting up early to catch some of the sunlight while I read emails and drink my coffee. It’s a slow, mellow way to start the morning and allows me to gather my thoughts before I jump straight into the day.”

Administrative Assistant Kate McSwain shares how she and her nieces have put things together (left below): “We each have our own places on the couch and our daily schedule/work board with all we are supposed to do is in the background on the windowsill! We have a regular routine that includes a walk in the morning before work, a lunch break, and a longer walk/run or ‘P.E.’ class in the afternoon.”

two-pane image showing a young girl working on a couch with a schedule written on a whiteboard, and an employee walking with his wife pushing a dog in a stroller Rebuilding a routine is a great way to feel in control during such unprecedented times! It’s also a great way to build in some exercise, like Senior Project Manager Dave Conway, who is making sure to get in a daily walk with his family and their pup (right below).

When making a routine, consider establishing guidelines that help you maintain work-life balance and avoid burnout. A good way to do this is to structure a routine of self-care activities based on your imagined daily work schedule. Senior Project Designer Suny Bhagat shares how he is embracing working from home as “a blessing in disguise” and keeping balance through filling in the gaps of time that were formerly spent commuting, saying: “Working from home is a great opportunity to use the time normally lost to commuting to do some things I normally wouldn’t be able to. One of the things is doing an online course about the Science of Well Being which has a lot of the similar goals as our virtual health challenge. Things like meditating, exercising, writing things we’re grateful for each day. A great way to build a routine that I can hopefully maintain once the World is back to normal. Definitely miss the office, but don’t mind a little extra free time each day.”

The Challenge: Missing your coworkers and all those daily chats.
The Tip: Embrace your “new coworkers” – and their many quirks! And make sure to still connect with your physically-distanced coworkers.

four-pane image showing two photos of a man with his daughters sitting beside him and two images of an employees sons working, one seated at a table, another lying on the floor exhausted

Throughout the company, we’re committed to staying connected to make up for how much we’re missing seeing our coworkers faces on the daily. As part of our Self-Care Spring Challenge, we’re prioritizing daily conversations with co-workers that are not work related! Besides missing our usual coworkers, we’re also all adjusting to the presence of our “new coworkers” and the many work styles they may have…

Senior Survey Technician Thomas Lyons (left side) and Senior Project Manager Nicole Holmes (right side) each shared some snapshots of their new teams trying to get some work done.

three-pane image showing an employee working at a laptop with a baby seated on his lap, a dog napping on a couch, and a cat on a desk

It’s also important to remember that your usual coworkers are only a Teams/Skype/Zoom or normal phone call away … but in the meantime, it’s great to find a way to get comfortable sharing that new office space. Project Engineer Will Schreefer (left) is a perfect example of doing exactly that! Enzo (top right, “coworker” of Director of Civil Engineering Aaron Gallagher) and the Dread Pirate Carl (bottom right, “coworker” of Senior Transportation Designer Jeff Sawtelle) also seem to be adjusting just fine.

The Challenge: Quarantine fatigue and boredom.
The Tip: Stay well – get your exercise, drink your water, and eat your veggies!

As we stay home to help slow COVID-19’s spread, we face challenges like screen fatigue, boredom, or a lack of productivity – which means focusing on your wellness is important! As part of our Self-Care Spring Challenge, we have asked employees to focus on physical wellness, with daily exercise and a focus on nutrition, as well as mental wellness, with daily brain exercises and attention to connecting with loved ones.

Two-pane image showing a peloton bike and a screenshot of a thirty day yoga planSome Nitsch employees shared how they’re staying home while still focusing on wellness. Director of Civil Engineering Aaron Gallagher shared his Peloton bike and Chairman and CEO Lisa Brothers showed how she’s challenged herself to 30 days of guided yoga.

Wellness activities are also an opportunity to connect with a community. As part of the effort to provide our employees with motivation to stay healthy and ways to feel connected during this unprecedented time, Human Resources Manager Lisa Dolan invites all of Nitsch, twice a week, to join in an online group meditation. Lisa describes the goal of the organized meditations, saying: “For 10 to 15 minutes, employees can relax their bodies and minds, bringing them to a peaceful and calm state that they can carry with them through their day.”

The Challenge: It’s lonely.
The Tip: Welcome the gift of technology – we can still “see” everyone we love!

Vice President and Executive Project Manager John Schmid said it best: “America is running on … adaptability, resilience, and a commitment to the common good.” We couldn’t agree more, or be more proud of how so many people are sacrificing to help others … but with that said, we can still all feel a bit lonely as we remain physically distanced from other people.

Now is definitely a time to check on all our favorite extroverts, because losing those daily connections and face-to-face interactions is particularly hard for them. Senior Project Designer Coleman Horsley shared, “The hardest part is really everything being closed and not being able to see people.” We know how he feels, and we’re doing our best to still “see” everyone as much as possible thanks to the technology that allows us to have video calls with coworkers, friends, and family. Additionally, the Nitsch team is using Yammer to stay in contact through sharing snapshots of our daily lives!

The Self-Care Spring Challenge

We value community at Nitsch, and we’re dedicated to the challenge of building that community now more than ever. To encourage connection and wellness, we’re sharing our Self-Care Spring Challenge below, and challenging you to give it a try. Earn points daily for each task you complete that day!

  • Perform any physical activity (walking, running, yoga, etc.) (30 minutes minimum)
  • Perform group or individual meditation (10 minutes minimum)
  • Write down one thing you are grateful for each night (no repeats)
  • Perform a non-work-related “brain” project (reading, writing, baking, etc.) (30 minutes minimum)
  • Drink 8 (8 oz) glasses of water a day
  • Skype with a co-worker (not work task or meeting related)
  • Connect with a loved one or friend
  • Eat lunch away from your computer on work days
  • Stop screen time one hour before sleep
  • Eat two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables
  • Stand for two minutes every hour while working
  • Create a new posting on Yammer, sharing your wellness activity

We hope you find value in a Self-Care Challenge like ours with a focus on staying connected while staying happy, healthy, and home.