Whether you love working from the comfort of your home or prefer a traditional office space, remote work may be the new normal for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus crisis. It’s our job to not only build our own set of productivity tools but to also empower our team to continue working at optimal levels, while still promoting a culture of work-life balance (no matter how elusive that concept may seem).
To echo Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and The Infinite Game, leaders are not only responsible for delivering results, but for creating an environment and culture in which their team can achieve results, too. And these unsettling times will shine a light on those who possess true leadership more than ever.
Build Productivity Tools For Yourself
- Stick to a routine: Structure is the overarching key to productivity amid these uncertain times and incorporating structure into your workday all begins the moment you wake up. Don’t make the mistake of rolling out of bed and opening your laptop … while still in pajamas and eating a bowl of Cheerios. Instead, have a set morning regimen as if you were going to meet colleagues face to face. No, you do not need to get suited up, gel your hair perfectly and/or apply a full face of makeup. But you should plan on an ensemble that is fitting enough for a casual work day. That includes slipping into comfortable outdoor shoes (in other words, do not spend your work hours in those fuzzy home slippers!) There’s something transformative about looking the part and feeling the part.
Once you have completed your morning self-care routine, it’s time to officially start your workday. Schedule a daily call with your whole team to kick things off, or send a brief daily e-mail listing updates and priorities to mark the start of the day.
Build in set times for lunch, a quick walk and healthy stretches in between.
- Ambiance, ambiance, ambiance: While we can’t help our location at the moment, we can design our own space for creativity and productivity. Choose a section in your home where sunlight pours in during peak work hours. After all, natural light has proven to be beneficial to worker productivity. If this isn’t an option, look to companies like Hue or VeriLux that focus on smart lighting options.
If you don’t have the luxury of a designated home office, don’t fret. In addition to natural light, a clutter-free workspace is critical. Keep your tech devices, notebooks and pens organized and keep a clear delineation between work and home items. If you’ve turned your dining table into a makeshift desk, don’t let personal mail, leisure magazines or kitchen utensils creep into your workspace.
- Bucket your time: Let’s face it, some work projects are like beasts that need constant feeding, attention and time. Don’t let one specific task eat up your entire day, while forgetting about other obligations. Also, don’t multitask! Buzzing from one to-do item to another every few minutes will not lead to results.
Instead, have a set number of hours per day devoted to deadline-driven and priority projects as well as at least one to two hours for accomplishing the other seemingly little actions that must be done for business to run smoothly.
- Log off … and stay off: This point deserves its own bulletpoint for a reason. For years, packing up and physically leaving your office has helped you end your shift. But this component of your day is now gone. Now you need an official marker to end your day. If a set time (let’s say, 6:00 pm) is not enough for you, try asking your partner to keep you accountable for peeling you away from the computer, be it for a safe evening stroll or to get dinner ready. Or, ask a friend or colleague for an end-of-day phone call or virtual hangout to mark the end of your shift.
Productivity Tools For Your Team
- Check in with them: Email and Slack are a great way to stay connected but there’s nothing like a daily or weekly call or video conference. Allowing for natural, verbal conversation can better encourage collaboration.
While you should never worry about over-communicating with remote teams, make sure to be mindful of your tone amid constant emailing, texting and Slacking. As you fire away messages all day, don’t forget to take a step back and humanize your communication. Develop an awareness of what you say and how you say it.
- Have a good sense of your employee’s workload: When working remotely, it’s easy to lose track of your team’s workloads. Keep a set memo or rely on software platforms like Asana or Monday which help you to manage your team’s projects and tasks online--and keep each of them accountable.
- Lead remotely and with empathy: Surprisingly, severe burnout is common among remote professionals. Many new to the remote realm constantly feel the need to prove that they are indeed being productive from home. The current global pandemic is only exacerbating this need to prove oneself as furloughs and layoffs lead to mass insecurity in the workforce. One quick tip is to schedule an occasional Zoom or Google Hangout meeting with your team or individual colleagues to recap the day and even just chat. It doesn’t hurt to ask them once in a while: “How are you feeling today?”
Productivity Tools For Working Parents
- Crystal clear communication with your partner: Working parents are presented with an additional set of challenges, especially those with younger children who may need more supervision. Here, coordinating and planning ahead with your partner is key. You’ll find that having one foot in work while the other foot is immersed in childcare can be extremely tolling. Instead, work with your partner to create a schedule that allows one person to focus 100% on work while the other is responsible for childcare--then reverse the roles the following day. This planning will go a long way when it comes to productivity, versus both of you trying to juggle both.
- Crystal clear honesty with your employer: Unfortunately there are millions of single parents who might be without a support system. This is when it helps being completely transparent with your employer about your present situation and setting clear expectations about what you can deliver and when. You can assure them you’re still committed to performing but will need flexibility in light of the circumstances. Also, joining a digital community of other working parents or single parents might be helpful, as those with more experience with working from home might share lifehacks that could help you master remote life, day by day.