Many leading companies are shifting to work from home mode due to a rapid spread of the coronavirus disease in the world. Microsoft and Expedia sent more than 80% of their workforce to work from home. Twitter has also shut down its physical offices, and Apple has sent 12,000 California headquarters employees to telecommuting.
The main issues that arise in this case for most workers are related to productivity management and maintaining the right work-life balance. How to maintain efficiency, combine work responsibilities with personal affairs and steer clear from distracting factors that almost inevitably arise while working remotely.
So, how to work from home and not be distracted?
Plan your communications
Remote communication changes the normal flow of a conversation. How often after sending an email did you immediately feel insecure about how it would be perceived? Will your boss consider this letter an assault on his or her personal space? Will you be informed if/when you do so? When we don’t get an answer, we tend to doubt ourselves, or even harbor discontent with our own team. To remain productive and maintain our regular workflow, remote teams have to find new and better ways to communicate with their co-workers.
Our advice is to switch most remote conversations to video calls. They are much better than emails and voice calls help to build empathy among team members. Also, as a manager, you may come up with virtual team-building rituals that will provide team members with the opportunity to regularly interact and actually apply their collaboration skills in practice.
If you’re still wondering what challenges might your virtual team face and looking for the ways to overcome them, you might find the following resource highly useful: https://litslink.com/blog/working-remote-in-coronavirus-crisis-tips-and-pitfalls
Plan your successful workday
By approaching your time management in a different way, you can maximize your efficiency. For example, if you work at home once a week or when it is needed, postpone your meetings. If it’s impossible to abandon them, devote at least half a day to concentrated work. Choose the most suitable time for this, focusing on your own strength and taking into account planned meetings. Then indicate one or two tasks that you want to complete during this period. These may be tasks requiring one or several hours of continuous work or more creative and strategic thinking. Some people experience a creativity crisis in the office and perform better at home. It is also useful to opt-out of email for a while when you work on a really important task.
Observe timelines whenever possible
To maintain a good state of well-being and high involvement in a team, it is important to respect timelines. This is especially true in the current situation when many of us also need to manage workload and look after their children or elderly relatives at the same time. Even for employees who do not have children or some other family responsibilities, this is a difficult task, and the reason for this is mobile devices, thanks to which work never stops.
Sticking to a “from 9 to 17” framework might appear to be unrealistic. When you work remotely, it is essential to find a time slot that will align with your body rhythms. You must also understand that others can work according to a different schedule that does not match yours. You can purposefully formulate a budget for working hours by setting in the mail at certain intervals of the day an auto-notification of your temporary absence in order to calmly focus on work. In a more compromise setting, it’s useful to set up an automatic reply that sometimes you will respond less quickly to messages.
Setting clear timelines often requires you to be able to coordinate your schedule with others. This is where managers step in to aid employees with structuring, coordination, and observance of their workflow. This may require regular virtual meetings or the provision of tools for coffee breaks or virtual workspace organization. Until things get better, it’s very important to maintain a sense of normal workflow.
Focus on the most important tasks
When working from home, many may feel the need to demonstrate higher productivity. But as a result of such an aspiration, tasks that are often urgent rather than important will often be done first, and this is counterproductive in the long run, even if it might seem effective at first. It is important to carefully prioritize, especially when the workload increases.
You should not neglect breaks and work long hours on the same task even if it is very urgent or important. According to recent estimates, the time for a productive activity among knowledge workers is three hours a day, and it is important to protect these three hours from interruptions and multitasking. Even before the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, it was not easy to maintain such an interval and devote it to its most important tasks. Now when these boundaries are blurred, employee time is even more fragmented.
Long-time engagement when working from home creates a higher risk of burnout. In the long run, attempts to accomplish tasks and replies to emails every few minutes are not only counterproductive but also destructive for our psychological state. Each of us needs an opportunity to distract for a while and allocate some time for our hobbies or personal tasks.
Google and Microsoft have announced that they have made their corporate communication tools available for free for a limited period due to the spread of COVID-19. Google has announced that it will provide free access to paid Hangouts Meet features for all users of the G Suite and G Suite for Education cloud service packages until July 1. Microsoft also provided a free six-month trial access to premium Microsoft Teams enterprise communications services.
In Hangouts Meet, you can organize conferences for up to 250 participants, as well as arrange live broadcasts for up to 100 thousand viewers from one domain. Free access to Microsoft Teams was initially provided for hospitals, schools, and businesses in China, but is currently available worldwide. On March 10, Microsoft will release an update for Teams, which will remove restrictions on the number of users in one chat and allow you to schedule video calls and conferences.
These are just a few recommendations that will help you maintain the right work-life balance and stay productive while working remotely. A flexible approach to work, proper timelines, and effective time management practices will allow you to maintain a normal workflow and stay in touch with your co-workers for efficient collaboration.