As I reflect on the past year of my life, there has been a numerous amount of change. From graduating college, to accepting my first “big-girl” job, and then finally landing with UTC Center for Professional Education in February, I have learned more about accepting change gracefully in the past year than in the past three years combined. Recently, I experienced a big change in my job environment as I began working from home due to the pandemic. The change has taught me many lessons about how I operate successfully, both personally and professionally. I want to share a few key takeaways that I, a Gen Z girl, have learned throughout my transition to working from home.
- I must be intentional with my focus. Gen Z is notorious for wasting countless hours scrolling through Instagram, updating Facebook status’, and the new favorite─posting dance videos on TikTok. Time is valuable, and I have recently realized the negative impact too much screen time can have on my morale. I want to be productive, meet deadlines, and deliver exceptional work in my office; I have been determined to curb my habit of taking “5-minute social media breaks” that turn into 15-minute breaks. When working at the office, having accountability regarding focus is much easier (through coworkers). I have had to learn how to keep myself accountable and create healthy habits while working independently. I love using productivity and project management apps like Forest and Monday to ensure I am meeting my goals and producing quality work.
- I crave connection. Gen Z is an office-oriented generation, and I prefer working in an office setting compared to working at home in isolation. (Forbes states that many Gen Z’s desire in-person relationships because they’ve missed so much face-to-face contact being on their phones frequently, which I wholeheartedly agree with). Even when I worked remotely during my first job out of college, I enjoyed working at coffee shops to still have in-person connection. With the pandemic, that’s no longer an option, and I have struggled with missing the comradery that comes with seeing my coworkers face-to-face constantly. (I’m also an Enneagram 2, so valuing relationships is engrained into my personality). However, the CPE office does a great job meeting regularly on Zoom to avoid losing all sense of connection. The regular meetings have helped me curb emotions like loneliness during isolation and be able to still build relationships as a new employee.
- Work-life balance is valuable, both physically and mentally. My top CliftonStrength is Achiever (I love a good personality assessment, if you can’t tell). I often find myself in the mindset of having to perform at all times, especially as someone who is new to the business world and wants to “prove” herself as a hard worker. When working at an office, you physically “leave your work” at the end of the day. However, when working from home, establishing boundaries is more difficult, as my “office” is readily available 24/7. As Ryan Jenkins says, “helping Generation Z strike the appropriate harmony between work and life will be critical.” While working from home, I found myself checking my emails at all hours of the day and completing my to-do list at the dinner table. I knew there was a problem, and I needed to be proactive and find a solution. One way I set healthy boundaries is by putting my work laptop out of sight when the workday is finished. Be sure to check out my other work-life balance tips in “How to Avoid Overworking While Working from Home.”
- I thrive with routine. A routine coincides with healthy boundaries; when I have a set schedule every day and wrap up at 5:15, I tend to stick to that schedule and not overwork. I have learned that:
- I work well when I use a planner, plan my day by the hour, and actually stick to my goals.
- I feel better when I implement a consistent bedtime and wake-up time into my schedule.
- A morning routine can make or break the trajectory of my day. If I wake up late, I feel disoriented the rest of my day. However, if I wake up, have my quiet time, eat breakfast, and make a cup of coffee before working, I start my day off smoothly, and that mindset typically stays with me throughout the day.
- As mentioned previously, I set my working hours and then do NOT extend past them. Unless the deadline is today, the assignment CAN wait until tomorrow. 😊
- These are just a few of the tips I have found help me stay healthy and serve as a form of self-care while working remotely. My mental health and demeanor are much more positive when I do not feel scatter-brained and am productive.
- Networking looks different in the digital space but is still HIGHLY valuable. As a newer member of the workforce, I was just beginning to get plugged into the Chattanooga community and build professional relationships when the pandemic began. Networking is more of a challenge from a distance, but with more free time than usual, this can be a critical and useful time to indulge in the networking process. Again, Gen Z craves connection, and many of my friends and I have discussed our desire to develop relationships with and learn from professional contacts. Personally, I have used this time to build up my LinkedIn connections, participate in webinars, grab “virtual coffee” with professional mentors, and update my branding on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
No matter their age, everyone can have similar struggles while working from home. Many workers are learning how to create a work-life balance, set productivity goals, and build connections despite isolation. The best part is? Regardless if you’re a Baby Boomer or part of Gen Z, we are ALL in this together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.