Before the coronavirus significantly altered our work lives, traditional work environments were already beginning to adapt to modern workplace trends. Offices were offering more opportunities for work-life balance through remote work. And employees wanted it—according to a 2018 survey, 77% of people said that they would be more likely to accept a job if they had the ability to telecommute at least some of the time.
Fast forward to March 2020: leaders around the globe rushed to implement stay-at-home work orders, with companies scrambling to comply. As the largest impromptu global remote work experiment began, how did people embrace the experience?
Well, there have been mixed results. According to a survey conducted by USA Today and LinkedIn, 54% of participants said that working from home yielded a positive effect on productivity, while Thrive Global’s survey data reports 70% of workers feeling less productive. Why the discrepancy?
Pre-pandemic, many of us hadn’t anticipated our current quarantine situations: working along with our spouses or partners, balancing home schooling with kids, or the closure of daycare programs. While some employees are putting in longer, more focused hours, others are struggling to balance their home-life distractions with work. And although employees were given the technologies to succeed, they weren’t given the skills to adapt to this rapid change.
Many of us yearn for the “old” days when the traditional office environment was available, but as the pandemic goes on, it is more likely we will continue to work remotely, at least part-time, for the foreseeable future.
So how can you thrive in your new work environment? Here are some work from home best practices to boost your productivity and well-being:
Remote working tip #1: Design your new remote work routine
When adapting to new situations, try to focus on what you can control—for example, your routine. While limitations of family or work schedules may not be the same for everyone (we see you, parents of toddlers!), there are tools you can add to your day to increase your productivity. Let’s break it down:
Start with your workspace; make sure you have a designated spot in your home, whether it be a desk in an unused room or a spot on the couch where you won’t be disturbed (or distracted). Eliminate any interferences by removing non-essential objects that clutter your workspace or view.
Next, tackle your household calendar. If you have children, examine their schedules. How can you help the older children structure or occupy their days ahead of time? With younger children, how can you coordinate with your spouse or partner so you can schedule alternating times for deep work? If you have roommates or a spouse, review your schedules before the workday begins so you know when you need to move to a secondary location to accommodate a meeting or call.
Now let’s look at your personal schedule. Although you may be able to work for hours without stopping, taking breaks will prevent burnout and, after a period of deep work, satisfy your brain’s dopamine reward center. Schedule breaks throughout your workday for short walks, a quick phone call with a friend, or time to play with your cat.
Since you’ve scheduled your breaks, let’s look at your “deep work” times. You can use the Pomodoro Technique (see below for a free lesson!) to work for twenty-five minutes, then break for five. During those twenty-five minutes of deep work, try to mute your messaging notifications to avoid interruptions. You can then check your notifications during your breaks to see if you need to address anything important.
Remote working tip #2: Improve your virtual communication
Since we are not seeing each other in person, we are now communicating over our devices more than ever. We all know what they say about assumptions, and any information left out may be the key to effectively collaborating with colleagues. When discussing important topics over email or messaging, be overly clear in your communication. Repeat back to your colleague what they said to ensure you’ve fully understood the request and ask clarifying questions to eliminate any ambiguities.
Remote working tip #3: Engage your remote colleagues with planned “Team Time”
Just like in person, virtual casual communication with teammates can help to strengthen the bonds with your coworkers and establish trust, which in turn facilitates better collaboration. When everyone is more isolated during remote work, it is more important than ever to check in on your coworkers. Ask them how they are doing and how you can help, whether during one-on-one phone calls or daily scheduled “water cooler” Zoom chats. Take some extra time to celebrate team accomplishments and share your appreciation for your teammates.
Remote working tip #4: Better yourself with remote learning
With your change in work environment, such as the elimination of your commute or redesign of your work schedule, you may have some extra time available for learning. In their 2017 survey, staffing firm Accountemps found that 93% of workers believed that goal setting was important to job performance. Spending time to improve your professional skills will help you to accomplish your goals. Microlearning programs such as Blue Ocean Brain can help you learn skills tailored to your goals. Use one of your daily ten-minute breaks to dive in and strengthen areas such as change management, communication, digital strength, productivity, and personal growth.
Remote working tip #5: Practice self-care throughout your workday
With the stress of this change in environment, self-care is more important than ever. Remember, small changes can make a big difference! Activities such as a five-minute journal exercise to clear your mind, a two-minute meditation practice using apps like HeadSpace, choosing carrots instead of chips for your afternoon snack, or doing a few chairs squats several times a day can all contribute to better health and brain performance.
Using the above tips should arm you with the tools you need to adjust to your remote world. The key to embracing these tips is to remain adaptable. Although change can be challenging, your openness to implementing these tips will help you create (and retain) a positive mindset that will last long after we emerge from this global pandemic.
Want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique? Check out this unlocked Blue Ocean Brain lesson!