How our freelancing past helped us during the COVID19 pandemic

“Till further notice, we will be working from home,”

I read the last sentence of the e-mail again. This was in early March last year. Covid-19 was just starting to gripe the nation and the government was yet to announce the lockdown. However, the notification made us more anxious, and not because of the pandemic. Ravind, the Senior Designer at Matsio, was worried about our weekly brainstorming sessions. While Suresh, our Web Developers, did not want to miss out on the pair programming.  (I, on the other hand, was secretly a little sad about missing the office coffee machine).

That day made a lot of changes in all our roles and routines. The pandemic has set a ‘new normal’ and let’s face it, it came with its pitfalls.

Even after a year of working from home, many people are still struggling to stay productive and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Social media channels and clickbait websites have flooded our screens with lessons on how to survive in the pandemic world. Yet, the core problem remains unaddressed- how to maintain work-life balance when working from home.

When work-from-home was announced at Matsio, we were all anxious about many things, but not productivity or work-life balance. Being a small firm did help us in maintaining our communication and workflow streamlined. However, it was our individual freelancing expertise that helped us remain steadfast. The office became just another place. (sorry, coffee machine.)

Before Matsio, most of us worked as freelancers and knew what deadlines and distractions meant when working from home. Our history as freelancers has helped us gather some unique skills that we never knew would come in handy.

Separating work life from personal

Commuting to and from work helped us make the mental shift from work time to personal time.  However, when working remotely, this became difficult. The easiest solution for this was to create transitions- a technique that our boss Aghosh had learned from his freelancing career before Matsio.  We engaged in shutdown rituals like reading the newspaper or spending time with your pet to act as signals marking the beginning and end of your work hours. This helped us compartmentalize our work from personal life.

Setting up goals and intentions

We all set goals to help us finish our work in time. During the lockdown days, we took this step a little further. During his freelancing days, our web developer, Suresh used to set goals and intentions for not just the work he was doing, but also for the time he spends after the work hours. For us, this routine maximized our productivity and provided the workday gratifying that we all were looking for. We also used it to differentiate between when to work and when to do other activities.

Supporting each other

Whenever there is a drastic disruption in routines, often the first thing to go will be exercise and healthy food habits. We took extra time to enquire about our colleagues’ physical and mental health. There were exercise challenges to keep fit and on track. Supporting each other made us realize the necessity to practice self-care.  It was all the energy we needed to wash away the stress and lift our moods during the dark pandemic times.

Stay away from time-wasters

Since distractions are meant to happen when you are working remotely, we always remembered to set boundaries. Back when I was a freelancer, the first thing I did was to communicate my needs, time restraints, and work schedules clearly with my family. The pandemic was not different. We followed the same protocol at everyone’s home and it made it easier to for us to work from home.

Keeping the best practices alive

The best thing we have at Matsio is our conversations. Our exciting talks help break up our workday and make it feel unique. The first thing we made sure of was to keep the conversations alive. Beyond our weekly, creative brainstorming sessions and  Zoom meetings, we used the same resources and slack messages to talk, discuss, crack jokes and work together progressively.