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Monday, September 20, 2021

Academics & Research

‘It just can’t be business as usual’: UH psychology professor talks being flexible about work-from-home goals


While working from home, UH psychology professor Rheeda Walker said it’s important to get creative, experiment and give yourself time to find what methods work best for you. | Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

While working from home, UH psychology professor Rheeda Walker said it’s important to get creative, experiment and give yourself time to find what methods work best for you. | Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

While working or studying from home during this unprecedented era of the coronavirus pandemic, a UH psychology professor said this is not the time for “business as usual.”

As many students and working professionals look for strategies to help them thrive as they study or work from home, Rheeda Walker said it’s important to find what methods work best for them — whether it’s as simple as deciding what to wear or possibly as daunting as adopting an entirely new work strategy. 

“We have to be willing to be creative in how we get our stuff done, but it starts with being mindful of what’s working and what’s not working,” Walker said.

Finding what works

Not every piece of advice from experts about how to adjust to this situation is going to work for everyone, Walker said. While some might be ready to incorporate large changes into their daily life, others might not be ready, and Walker said neither group should feel pressured to stick with methods that aren’t working out.

“Someone might internalize, ‘If I can’t do exactly what they’re saying to do then something must be wrong. There must be a problem’,” Walker said. 

One of the best ways for someone to gauge their readiness for change while working from home is to self-assess their stress level on a one to 10 scale, Walker said. Zero being no stress at all, and 10 being the most overwhelmed they can imagine.

If someone’s stress level is between a seven and a 10, they’re probably not ready to implement a new work plan, Walker said. However, if someone’s stress level is at a six or lower they can probably start to incorporate some different strategies into their routine. 

For the stressed-out workers that need simpler methods, activities that provide a break like taking a walk, journaling or talking with loved ones can be of great use.

“You need to make sure to spend time talking about positive things like ‘Hey, let me tell you about this project that I’m thinking about’,” Walker said. “Not just all this doom and gloom but some of the positive aspects or maybe things they’re grateful for.”

Giving yourself time

Because of the unprecedented circumstances, people are having to work in, Walker said to lower the bar in regards to your self-expectations. By setting two to three goals a day, and trying your best to get them done, Walker said it’s possible to limit your worry you might have at the end of the day whether you got enough done.

If your new style of work expectations after moving to remote methods is feeling overwhelming, Walker said the first step is to have an honest conversation with your employer.

“We have to balance what we take on so that we can be honest about achieving two to three things because this is not the time for business as usual,” Walker said. “It just can’t be business as usual.”

While working from home, whether faced with the choice of wearing slacks or sweatpants, scheduling a study session or any other item on your to-do list, Walker said it’s important to get creative, experiment and give yourself time to find what methods work best.

“We have to be willing to let ourselves try again the next day because I do think it can be next to impossible,” Walker said. “If you’re just not there — if you’re out of steam then you’re just out of steam.”

Even after the coronavirus pandemic ends and people begin to return to their normal work lives, Walker hopes employers and workers are able to take some of the strategies they practiced while working from home back into the office. 

“My hope is that … more people will become open to just a new way of existing where we slow things down, and we are much more intentional about how we use our time,” Walker said.

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