Finding Joy at Work During These Uncertain Times

A Q&A with organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein


Scott Sonenshein is the co-author of Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life with Marie Kondo. Scott recently hosted a Twitter Q&A answering readers’ questions on how to best adjust to a new work routine during the coronavirus pandemic. Below are some highlights.



How do you keep team morale up during such stressful times?
People need to be cared for and they need purpose. Check in on your teammates, show concern about their well-being (it builds trust). Also, think about how team mission can serve others in these challenging times.


How do you balance work and family time when working from home?
Set up a schedule with family members and work. Without boundaries, it’s very easy for them to blend together. Use symbols like dress or other markers to signal shift in activities (e.g., a bath at end of workday).

When working it can be hard to balance parenting simultaneously. Try repurposing other parts of the house for your work and for each kid, so that everyone has their own workspace. Rooms can be divided if space is very tight.


How do you switch off when work over?
It is easy to work more when the office and home are in the same location. To switch off when work is over, try setting dedicated work times. Consider “commuting” home (walk around block) and turn off your phone after hours.


Do you have any advice for dealing with digital clutter?
For digital clutter, focus on minimizing the number of emails you store. In addition, treat your desktop like your desk–just put the work you need for the day on there. And don’t forget to discard unused apps!

In addition, it is a good idea to keep your emails brief. Use an informative subject line and don’t clutter the message with extra words. I suggest trying to keep to no more than two to three paragraphs, and don’t cc unnecessary people.


How can one avoid clutter and maximize productivity now that  home is the new office?
You need a dedicated space during work time. If you have a desk, yes! But if it has to be a kitchen table, clear off non-work items during work hours. Add a photo, small plant, or other joy-sparking object. Freshen up your monitor with a pretty desktop pic. To avoid clutter, discard papers you don’t need. Store remaining papers vertically.


What are some ways to improve communication while working from home?
We communicate so much nonverbally that it’s easy to misunderstand people without seeing them. Conference software such as Zoom allows us to see each other. Research shows letting colleagues see your work from home space in the background builds connection because it humanizes everyone.


How can companies support the hardest-hit communities, while still keeping business and industry in the best possible shape?

We’re seeing companies act resourcefully in amazing ways-doing things that are good for their communities but that keep them afloat too. Make a list of hidden assets, connections, info, partnerships-and put them to use in new ways. Repurpose items and talents of your staff.