Commentary: Adapting to full-time telework

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jacob Frohreich
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

We find ourselves in difficult times. A time of uncertainty and a time of great challenge. Challenges in our personal lives, as well as our military duties. One such difficulty that many of us have been dealing with recently is teleworking. Full-time telework can be a blessing; however, it can also prove to be a source of great consternation. This effect can be far more extreme for those who are not used it. If you are not careful, your days can quickly start to feel repetitive. The movie “Groundhog’s Day” comes to mind. Where you feel like you’re experiencing the same day over and over again, until the day of the week begins to lack any real meaning. I personally struggled with this a great deal, and it took a lot of work to combat that feeling.

Prior to accepting the Active Guard Reserve (AGR) position that I serve in at the 439th Airlift Wing, I held a fully remote position with a defense contractor based out of South Carolina. I performed full-time telework for six years. The initial adjustment period was difficult; and like many things in life, there were good and bad parts to this new life I found myself in. But, over time, I discovered methods that allowed me to be both more productive and healthier. I would like to take some time and share some of those methods with you, hopefully they help.

Your daily routines are important. Keep them! Your work life is your work life, and your personal life is personal. Do your best to keep them separate. Set boundaries and enforce them. Start and end work at the same time you would if you were going into work. Take your lunch break. Set aside time for physical fitness. And when you’re done for the day…be done for the day. When these worlds start to mesh together, you can feel trapped. It’s hard to escape when you’re already at home.

Get ready for work in the morning. This will help maintain that separation. If possible, set aside a separate space in your home that is your “work space”. This doesn’t have to be a separate room; it could just be a distinct space in a room. Try not to use it for anything else. This will help keep you focused. It is very easy to get distracted when working from home. Feeling like you’re not being productive is one of the great stressors of full-time teleworking.

Communicate. Social distancing is not social isolation. Complete isolation can be quite damaging. At a minimum, I make a deliberate effort to communicate over the phone with someone once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. With today’s technology we also have ready access to video calling; leverage that technology to your advantage. Be creative in how you communicate. 

Get out of the house! We find ourselves amidst many restrictions brought about by COVID-19. However, we must be flexible, and adapt. Go for a walk, or a drive. Warmer weather is coming, exercise outside. Anything that will get you outside and out of your house will help. 

And finally, remember that you are important. It’s easy to fall into the trap that what you are doing doesn’t matter. I speak from personal experience. I felt that way several times about my past career. When you’re dealing with intangible things, it’s difficult to assign value to them. What we do is important, you are important. Never forget that; and if you did, I’m telling you now to remind you.