AS the lockdown continues in many countries, one surprising benefit, for millions of workers is discovering the joy of home working.
Remote working not only reduces commute time to zero giving office workers another hour or three per day, it also reduces greenhouse emissions improving air quality as well.
The savings in commute costs, and office wear (no more expensive work outfits and shoes required!) and have often been used by remote workers to invest in ergonomic home work stations.
However successful remote working requires more than setting up Zoom, and Slack. It is a skill, and just like any new skill, excellence is a road which must be travelled, rather than reached overnight.
Or in other words, you didn’t learn how to work well in a traditional office overnight so don’t expect to be successfull with home working or working remotely from Day One.
It takes time, how much time is really up to you. Here are some tips from someone who has been working remotely for over 4 years, if you are still struggling with the new normal.
1.Routines Are the Golden Bullet of Remote Working
With no-one on your back, or literally looking over your shoulder you are completely in control of how and when you get things done.
However, human beings love routines, even if you are naturally a rebel – you can’t rebel unless you have a routine to rebel against.
Routines and schedules also prevent you from starting from a blank page every day. Limitless opportunities around how you organize yourself force you to spend as much time retracking what you’ve already done as making progress.
Planning and executing tasks require different parts of the brain – don’ try and use both halves at once or keep switching from one to the other if you want to be productive.
I, for example batch creative thinking, such as what topics I am writing about, before getting down to executing research and writing.
Firstly decide– when do you want to start your day?
After a while you’ll realize starting later in the morning only means you will be working later at night.
If that suits you and your colleagues then great, but it’s really frustrating when you have your great idea at 10pm and want to share it with your colleagues, only to realize that they logged off hours ago as they decided to stick to more regular working hours!
Routine is of courses so much more than establishing when you start and when you finish your work day, and how long and how often your breaks are.
How will you organize your day?
Unless you are working for yourself your monthly and quarterly goals will have already been set by someone else. However, how you achieve those goals can be completely revolutionised when remote working.
Meeting schedules can stay the same, as you can meet remotely via Zoom. (However, those who are home-schooling will probably appreciate a little flexibility on meeting schedules).
However, what happens between these meetings is entirely up to you.
If you are managing a team you can block out time for phone calls and let your team know when you are available for meetings so you are not constantly being interrupted.
You may well find that tasks that require focused quiet time are completed much quicker when you are working remotely as you have fewer interruptions.
With commute time no longer a factor, you might decide to work similar 9 to 5 hours as previously. What can change is that you use your commute time to go for a walk or exercise and that means that now you are ready to work at 9 am.
You don’t need to spend an hour chatting to everyone about what they did the previous evening and drinking 3 coffees before you feel able to open your Inbox, every morning.
Remote working is a great opportunity to discover what works best for you – rather than what generally works best for everyone.
3. Fighting Real Life Distractions
It takes on average around 25 minutes (23 minutes and 15 seconds, to be exact) to return to a task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark.
Multiple studies confirm this. Distractions don’t just eat up time during the distraction, they derail your mental progress for up to a half hour afterwards.
So, every time you stop to check your email, just in case something important needs your attention, you lose almost half an hour of your precious time.
You may not be surprised to find out that:
“attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” according to scientific studies.
Other distractions include:
- Social Media notifications which will distract you all day if you don’t turn them off. Unless they are part of your work, Social Media catch ups can be scheduled to your lunch break or the end of the day.
- Email is a huge worm hole where hours can disappear every week, unless you have a system. Not looking at every email when it arrives is not going to result in Armageddon. It will result in complex tasks being completed much quicker than stopping every time someone sends you an email.
Whole books and many podcasts discuss email management, but suffice to say here, that just by adding a note to the bottom of every email you send indicating a time frame for when you would like a response, if a response is needed, will encourage recipients to do the same for you.
Not all email is urgent, and if your colleagues begin adding time frames for responses, everyone on your team will be much less stressed.
- It will take a while for your friends and family to stop ringing you during the day for long conversations unless you remind them firmly that you are NOT on holiday.
- If you would like more Tips on Productivity take a look at my BLOG HERE.
4. Working Alone at Home
So, one upside to remote working could be that you don’t have to spend 20 minutes discussing your colleagues home renovations every time you go to the shared kitchen to make yourself a coffee – but you may miss the social aspects and down time.
If you are used to being surrounded by people all day every day, being alone at home when you are remote working will initially come as a shock.
All of that peace and quiet, if you are fortunate enough to be living on your own, may at first seem unnatural.
However, you can have some of your favourite music on, if you don’t find it distracting or your favourite podcasts.
Some remote workers like to listen to the radio all day, as they like the sound of chatter nearby. Others find that listening to Mozart makes them more productive. Whatever works for you will help you stay productive, and can become part of your routine.
However, some social interaction is essential and it can also take the form of meeting friends for lunch or even going out to work in a coffee shop on occasion (though obviously not during the Covid-19 Pandemic lockdowns).
One thing that can really help staying connected with colleagues, especially if you the manager of a remote team, is to schedule informal as well as formal online meetings.
Why not have a coffee chat with your co-workers once a week? In that way you will have some face time with our colleagues, and maintain the social as well as the working relationship.
(If you are remote working when others in your household are also at home, the challenge of setting boundaries will still apply.)
5. Weighing up the Relative Value of Working in Pyjamas
It’s great not having to think about smart office wear, at least not on the lower half of your body, (if taking video meetings) when you are working from home.
However, most remote workers still find it useful to have some kind of “work uniform”.
It helps you get into the right mindset every morning and also helps you end the day, by changing clothes, if you are having trouble switching off.
6. Work life balance
Remote working presents different challenges to workers who live alone, to those that live with their family, especially if your whole family is at home.
Whatever your personal situation, it can be challenging to close the door to your “Home office”, and stop thinking about work.
Setting clear priorities at the beginning of each week will ensure that you
- You are not still working at 10 pm every night, unless you want to
Or the other extreme
- You are not binge-watching Netflix for 3 days then scrabbling to get back on track for the remaining 4 days of the week
After the first few months you, and hopefully your remote team, will know themselves better.
This really is the secret to successful home working. Once you know how you work most productively then you are on your way to real success as a remote worker.
You may discover you are a night owl and work best at night – and prefer to have the day for sleeping and spending time outdoors.
However if you find it difficult to manage your stress levels whilst working at home – check out my BLOG HERE
7. Your Physical Environment Matters
Since working remotely most often means working from home, your physical environment will become much more important.
We don’t spend all of our time looking at our screens, and you might find your attention wandering to the state of your carpet, or the colour of your walls.
Similarly, you may start longing for better office furniture or a more ergonomic work station. Maybe your home working desk should be a state-of-the-art standing desk, rather than your kitchen table?
After a little while it’s completely normal to want high quality, ergonomic furniture. Why not have a comfortable chair and desk as well as a great coffee machine?
Whatever your personal preferences you can create the most perfect environment for home working, whatever your budget.
Working remotely has many benefits as well as challenges and soon you will find it normal and enjoyable.
If you want more help to deal with stress or anxiety whilst working at home – check out the blog posts HERE.