As we have been facing the reality of a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, working from home became the “new normal” overnight, here in Lebanon, though Lebanese employers have never been big on the idea of “working remotely. Yet, if properly managed, working remotely can be just as productive as being in the office. Here are a few tips on how to make it work.
CREATE A WORKING SPACE THAT SUITS YOU
Choosing and fixing a working spot for yourself at home is really the first step to being productive. It may not be as easy as it seems to find the right spot: one that balances comfort with enough quietness so that you can focus and concentrate. (It actually took me three trials at home, to finally settle for a little corner of my living room that is discreet, but still has an amazing view).
You also need to make sure that the space dedicated to work time is always tidy, or soon, you won’t want to sit at it.
A little bit of personalization or decoration is cool. I added a little side-lamp to mine, for the cozy feeling when working at night, and a jar of yummy treats so that I don’t always have to interrupt my work to go to the kitchen…
SET A DISCIPLINE
It is important to keep track of time: set real working hours, breaks, lunchtime, etc. That is the only way to keep it doable in the long run, and to stay sane. Being locked at home is quite challenging, and if you don’t set a discipline or a routine, you will not be efficient. I have noticed that for me, the best is as follow: waking up really early, when the rest of my street is still sleeping, around 6:00, and start working immediately. I take a breakfast break around 10:00, and get back to work for another 2 couple hours. I’ve noticed that I am not good at all at working afternoons from home. This is usually when I get into the cooking frenzy and all. It is once that night has fallen that I am able to get back to work. I usually get a lot of my inspiration at night.
It is easy to overdo it, when you work from home, and some days, I really have to tell myself that I should get offline and be doing something else…
At the end of the day, you are locked at home, and never have a change of scenery, so it is important to compartment your day and separate between your work activities and personal life activities.
STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR COLLEAGUES AND STAFF
No physical interaction with your co-workers/employees has a great impact on the morale of the troops. Try to regularly check on everyone you closely work with through chatting apps, and if you are the boss, you have to be available and ready to answer questions and inquiry your staff may have. Do not disappear on your working partners, that will create confusion and an unhealthy working environment. And nothing needs that at a time when everything is already very hard on everybody.
A lot of people, when suddenly experiencing the “freedom” of working from home, may also experience anxiety due to the lack of supervision and direction.
OPERATE IN A BUSINESS-LIKE MANNER
That one part has been very challenging to me… Usually, I get up, have breakfast, shower and get ready for a full day at the office. Now, I get up to stay in my apartment all day, and often, the temptation to stay in my PJs is very strong. That might also be because I live alone, and having no witness to my overly comfortable ways. So I have decided to force myself to get ready as if I am going to get out of the house, and it actually feels better ! Staying in your pajamas will definitely negatively impact our day, as the theory of “enclothed cognition” implies (the way you dress actually affects your behavior). So dress for the job you still have !
Make a “to-do” list at the start of your day, by priorities and plan your day around those tasks.
MAINTAIN YOUR PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH
People like me, who are very diligent workers, are at risk for burnout as they have a hard time setting boundaries, usually. The task is even more confusing when working from home. Some may also feel the need to prove their management that they are being trustworthy and productive. The challenges are real, and the psychological effect of this lockdown can be overwhelming. Stay professional, but again, do not overdo it.
Keep time for yourself, and pleasure activities. Eat well, try to exercise, and most important: limit non-work-related screen time. Connect with people by calling them, not through text message.
TO THE ATTENTION OF ALL EMPLOYERS OUT THERE
Yes, work in the time of coronavirus (and #thawra, and #economiccrisis…), remaining productive while staying home to “flatten the curve” presents incredible challenges for workers, businesses and the economy overall.
For you who are feeling lack of productivity in your employees while they are working out of sight, without conventional supervision, know this: many studies have shown that remote workers can have greater productivity, due to less interruptions from colleagues or inefficient meetings.
Employees are less stressed due to avoiding traffic and commuting time, and flexibility is actually allowing them to have a more balanced life. If well-trained and well organized, with more independence and flexible hours, employees have shown to develop skills in self-management (self-motivation, self-discipline, focus and better concentration), as well as in communication and the use of technology.
Maybe now is the time to develop new sets of goals and metrics for performant remote work.
A final thought to all employees working from home: you should always strive to be a better worker, be responsible and accountable. At the end of the day, if the company that employs you does good, you will do better as well. You are the master or your integrity