India is in the midst of a 21-day lockdown and each day the news gets more and more depressing. We are sure that there will be light at the end of the tunnel but its impossible to see it right now. So as we fight this pandemic as a nation the least we could do is stay at home. Seriously, doing our part for the health of the world is never going to be as easy as this ever again.
Everyone I know is working from home, staying home, trying to control the energies of kids to keep them at home, staying in touch with friends and family through video calls, trying out new recipes and generally trying to relax (if we can avoid hearing news that is). Everything in the world can be looked at with the critical eyes of a user experience designer and that is exactly what I decided to do at home during this lockdown.
Spoiler Alert: Everything was great. The measures taken by the government to ensure that we got a steady supply of essentials, dairy and food was a huge advantage that we cannot help but mention.
Now, onto the challenges faced during lockdown:
- Separating work from home. Working hours and personal time just blend into each other when you are within the same four walls all day every day. Eating while on calls, sleeping with an open laptop, waking up and working in bed was all getting to be too much with time.
- Teamwork makes dream work. But how can we get the entire team to be on the same page about everything (including the latest gossip!)?
- Productive home time. Say we successfully separated work from personal life, now what do we do with this saved time?
Here are some of the solutions that worked for me. In this very rare case, “I am the user”, so once the problems were identified, solutions were easier to test and validate.
Solutions for ‘Separating work from home’
- Setting an alarm for breaks. This was the simplest and most effective way to make sure I took proper meal breaks, drank enough water, and stood up every now and then. If I was deep in work, I snooze but never miss doing any of this. Easy peasy except for the alarm to wake up, which I’ve struggled with my entire life so can’t blame it on lockdown.
- Block sites using a chrome extension. I am not someone who listens to music while working but for some reason (maybe because I miss the usual banter noise from the office) I thought I should try it for fun. If I pick youtube for this purpose, in ten minutes I am watching videos instead of working. If I pick Spotify, I am trying to optimize and customize a playlist for hours on end. This brought me to StayFocusd, a chrome extension. I blocked YouTube, Spotify, Whatsapp web, and Gaana (I don’t have a Facebook account which is why that name is missing) and voilà, now I am forced to work.
- Change of clothes. This one is drastic, I agree but there has to something that evidently separates work and home. I have tried setting up a dedicated desk, setting an alarm for the start of work, keeping my phone in another room and whatnot. One day I was looking at the pile of clothes in my closet and it hit me, I should dress for work. And no, I don’t change into “proper work clothes”, sometimes it’s just changing from one set of pyjamas to the next but it worked. As soon as I was in new clothes I was ready to have a super productive day of work.
Solutions for ‘Teamwork makes dream work’
- Video calls. We are a very close-knit team and it is really hard not seeing them for so many days. Apart from the usual calls for work and collaboration, we have called for no reason at all where we talk about everything under the sun. As frequently as possible we try to squeeze that into our week, the more calls we have, the merrier we all are.
- Microsoft Teams/Slack. These two help us stay on top of tasks, see who is working on what and also in prioritizing tasks for the day. Everyone’s social media pages are flooded with reviews for tools like these so it’s no surprise that we have it on our list as well.
Solutions for ‘Productive home time’
- SMART goals. If I have nothing planned for my spare time, I have a tendency to keep working into the night. If I choose something too complex to do for my spare time, I still had the tendency to keep working into the night. So I picked a hobby I had and was slacking on for quite some time, reading. Every new year I resolve to read x number of books and never get it done but this year is definitely going to be different. Armed with Goodreads 2020 challenge and a cupboard full of books I bought and forgot about, I meticulously set deadlines and timelines for my reading list. I don’t want to brag but so far I am doing really well.
- Game night. Ofcourse, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and by pure luck, we have a couple of our friends staying next door in our apartment building. We meet regularly for a game night of cards or carroms at our place. They are the only 2 human faces I’ve seen for weeks now but I am extremely glad to have that luxury. When we are too lazy to even walk 5 steps to meet them, online games are a God-given. After the lockdown, I am considering adding ‘Ludo Champion’ to my resume.
- Learn something new. Several online courses are practically giving away valuable content in light of this pandemic and we have just enough time to hone a new skill. As for me, I started a course on Social Psychology several months ago and completely forgot about it. I decided to continue it because it was important for me to choose a course that I truly wanted to learn rather than taking a course that just looks good and I’ve learned so many cool things from the course, it is unbelievable.
In conclusion, let’s enjoy the time we get to stay home but make sure we don’t waste it either. The challenges and solutions are solely from my perspective and do not endorse any of the products mentioned in this post. How have you been coping up with the lockdown? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk about it. We’ll surely get over this pandemic and we’ll soon be rejoicing with our friends and family but until then stay safe.