Are you still Positively, Productively Working from Home?

So, by the looks of things, many of us will be working from home for a bit longer. Some people see this as great news, others not so much! The novelty value of wearing joggers and slippers for work is now wearing a bit thin!

Working for home brings with it several problems, from the number of distractions available to pull you away from work, to the lack of interaction with other people. Sitting at the same desk all day making call after call without the need to walk to meetings or talk to colleagues is not natural, plus we are all suffering from the inevitable Zoom fatigue. We need to continually look after ourselves both physically and mentally to avoid fatigue and burnout and deal with the “Can’t be Bothered days!”

Review your structure and routine…

If you don’t already, I would suggest starting by structuring your day and building in a well-balanced routine.  I hear so many people say that they are using what would have been their commuting time to do extra work, then wonder why they are burning themselves out! I say you must avoid the temptation to start work earlier and finish later, and work your usual times and instead, use the ‘commuting time’ to do other things. Schedule an early morning walk, set an alarm for your work finishing time to trigger you to spend extra time with the children or get away from the computer, close your eyes and listen to a podcast.  It’s hard to do for some people, but also make sure you have a defined workspace at home and ‘pack up’ your desk at the end of the day (as you would in the office), so you create a definite transition between working and not-working.

Also, you don’t have to sit at your desk all day. I will go and work on the settee or at the kitchen table for periods of time to have a change of scenery, but if I really need to focus (and in my job I do!) I go to my study.  Standing desks are great or walk around the room while you are on the phone, I love using my Bluetooth wireless headset so I can roam most of the house whilst I am catching up with the team.

One of the big-time burners is getting distracted by social media or emails. Every time your attention gets removed from the task in hand it can take up to 20 minutes to re-focus, before which you will get distracted again! Block out specific times in your day to do social media and emails, nothing needs to be responded to immediately.

Finally, take breaks every 90 minutes during the day. No one can sit at their desk all day and be 100% focused and productive.

Remote working has meant a change in leadership styles

We’ve been working from home for a long while now, and for the most part, we have it sussed. However, if you are leading a team that is also working remotely, it is important to review the following four questions every so often as it’s easy to become complacent.

1.      How do we know people are really working?

2.      Are the team getting enough social interaction?

3.      Are we getting good enough feedback to consider options?

4.      Are we as effective compared to when we were co-located?

Remember “Communication is the result you get!”.

Your team was used to seeing you in the office building, so they would get a constant reminder of who you are. This tends to be lost when working remotely and I am sorry to say, you can be quickly forgotten!  Being ‘seen’ is critical to leadership so make sure you are visible to your team as much as possible (literally) using video calls or at the very least, regular phone calls.

Don’t forget that when we are not co-located interpersonal communication changes as we lose face-to-face non-verbal feedback (body language!) so you need to find other ways to receive critical cues from your team, this is another reason regular video calls help a lot. Remember to check that they understand the message you are trying to convey, ask them to feedback the message to you in their own words after you explained what they need to do as this will clarify their understanding of the tasks given.

Combining homeschooling and work

You and many of your team are juggling childcare and homeschooling with work so have to work differently. You may decide to simply take a walk in the afternoon to get out of the house while it is still light and work in the evening.  If your situation doesn’t include homeschooling, understanding, and empathy of those that are can be hard to maintain, but remember, the situation is out of their control.  Judging someone by the hours they are at work isn’t going to give you an indication of their performance. Try to switch your focus to measuring them by their productivity (if you are under 35 that is probably what you expect anyway!). If you are the team leader working flexible times, don’t be hard on yourself either!

As you and your team have been removed from the social aspects of office life, keep encouraging a little time for social chit chat on calls, don’t dive straight into the business. It’ll do you all the world of good!  Also, I know of several businesses that are setting up specific social calls during the day for a chat and social events in the evening.

With a little effort, you and your team can be just as effective as if you are in the office. Just don’t become complacent, and regularly review the way you and your team are working.

If you have a virtual team and feeling a bit fatigued or fed up with it all, I’m happy to have a chat over a virtual cuppa.