How to Survive the Unique Problems Veterans May Face While Working Remotely

(U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

Whether you are sick (but still able to work), your employer requires you to work from home, or it's just the nature of your job, remote work is very different from in-person work.

Many of the conveniences and systems we're used to "at the office," along with the camaraderie and collaboration of being alongside co-workers, shift when you find yourself working from your kitchen table or home office, particularly if that move is sudden.

Many people do their job virtually because the nature of their work allows for it. For instance, graphic designers, recruiters, consultants and sales professionals are accustomed to working virtually.

But at a time when workers are being sent home to work to quarantine during the novel coronavirus pandemic, work life may feel very different. Even for those who worked remotely before, the workplace could feel unfamiliar today.

Isolation and Loneliness

If you deployed while in the military, you are familiar with the emotions that arise as you step out of a familiar setting and leave family and friends. While this is unsettling, you are still surrounded by others who face the same circumstances and who are committed to serving the same mission.

Their presence, support and similar focus can be comforting.

Unlike deployments, working from home during a mandated government quarantine can lead remote workers to feel isolated and lonely as they embrace their new work situation. If you're an extroverted person who thrives on group interaction, working from the confines of your home can feel like a form of punishment. Even introverts might miss the interaction and human connection that comes from colleagues and clients.

Tips for combating loneliness and sadness at work include:

  • Whenever possible, converse with your co-workers via video calls and group chats. While a phone call is better than an email, if you can see a human's face, it helps.
  • Share resources. If your colleagues need help with a project outside of your job description, but it's something you could help with, do so. Helping others keeps us focused and grounded in our humanity.
  • Share your skills, knowledge and talents with others. Offer mentoring services to veterans who might be transitioning. Let others on your team know that you are able to provide guidance on various aspects of life or career and schedule calls. When we focus on serving others, we are less focused on our own needs and stress.
  • Get a pet. Pets are known to calm human stress, provide responsibility and offer a distraction from the isolation.
  • Practice gratitude. Each day, make a list of all the things you have to be grateful for. Celebrate the people in your life who make you feel happy and supported, and focus on what you have, instead of what you might not have, to stay grounded in a gratitude mindset.

Staying Focused on Work

If you are sent home to work, your employer likely is adjusting goals to accommodate a different flow of information and productivity. Your job as an employee is to adjust as well and keep up with your responsibilities.

Remember to:

  • Understand expectations and deadlines. Just because your environment changed, doesn't mean your workload has shifted. If you are unclear about how your deadlines might have moved, or your project load is increased or decreased, clarify with your supervisor.
  • Treat it as a workday. Get up at your regular time each morning, shower, dress and start your work as you would at the office or in the field. Your commute may be much shorter, but staying focused means treating it as a workday, not a holiday.
  • Keep kids busy. Staying focused at work while you might have a full house of stir-crazy kids home from school is challenging. If your children are being homeschooled temporarily, this is all new for you and them. Creating structure in their life and your workday is critical. Build in breaks to help everyone stay focused and positive.

A Positive Mindset Is Important

Working from home when it wasn't your choice to do so can bring feelings of frustration, anger and hopelessness. You may come to miss your routine and your colleagues. Staying focused on the work you have to do, keeping your family healthy and safe, and maintaining a positive and hopeful outlook are crucial to maintaining good mental health and ensuring your work product is on par.<br> <br> Talk to colleagues, neighbors and friends by phone or video -- a human voice and face is helpful to our need for connectedness. If you find yourself needing additional support and resources, reach out for help. Resources like the Veterans' Crisis Line (800-273-8255) are ready to take your call if you need to talk.

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