Productivity & Community While Working Remote
As I write this blog, the world is in the midst of a global pandemic involving the spread of a highly infectious disease known as COVID-19. As of March 17, 2020, there are just under 200,000 cases world-wide with China, Italy, Iran and Spain being hit the hardest. While the United States currently has just under 6,000 cases confirmed and 97 deaths, many experts believe that we are only a couple of weeks (if not days) behind reaching similar levels of the largest hotspots of the disease around the world.
The WHO, World Health Leaders and America’s CDC have all issued strict guidelines ranging from “social distancing” to “shelter in place”. While many Americans and global residents are taking these guidelines seriously, there are still large portions of the population that fail to listen or grasp the seriousness of these warnings and the situation we’re in. With all of these new guidelines and restrictions, business, schools and public facilities are scrambling to put tools and policies in place that allow us to stay productive, while remaining physically distant and isolated from one another.
Staying Productive in a ‘New’ Environment
So, with all the doom and gloom of the details above, how do we stay positive, productive and engaged with our friends, family and work? While this blog is focused on work activities, I believe that much of my advice is applicable to our personal situations as well. We should all feel grateful that this is 2020, and from a technology perspective, we’ve been building our remote work ‘toolbox’ for the last 25 years. We’re ready for this.
The first and most important element of working remote is trying to establish some sort of regular routine. With the current pandemic, most people only have the option of continuing to work from home. Home can be full of distractions, and the environment can often kick-off a set of sub-conscious behaviors that take your focus away from work. Things like families, chores, entertainment and pantries full of snacks all pull at our attention. Anything we can do to establish a regular routine that we can stick to will help us all stay more productive. Consider getting up and having your morning play out just as you would if you had to head to work. Preparing for work is part of the process of feeling engaged and will make us more productive.
Second, find a space that you can call your own while working. With the whole family home, and limited options of where to set-up shop, it might be easy to think about the dining room table or the couch. Those might be great options for some, but if it means an abundance of distractions that you can’t tune out, it won’t be a good option for you. I personally pulled out my space heater, headed to the basement and made a workstation that’s removed from the bustle of upstairs. While there’s a lot of thumping feet coming from above, a good pair of headphones has done wonders to keep me focused.
Now that you have a set routine and a focused place to work, I encourage you to form a plan on finding predictable ways to engage with your co-workers. This is tricky as we don’t want to create distracting moments to our colleagues, but a good communication strategy is necessary. Of course, email is the default, but there are so many tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, WebEx, and other “collaboration” tools to help you stay in touch. Try and use these to keep work items moving, and not necessarily as gossip tools. Schedule times to collaborate with co-workers so efforts are planned and coordinated. A lot can be accomplished when you have just small focused windows of collaboration, while effectively using your independent work time to keep progress between check-ins.
Be Intentional in Connecting
Finally, we can’t ignore that we’re all social beings that are being isolated from one another. Removing our time for community and fellowship leads to depression, anxiety and of course lower productivity. I’m personally going to try something at my company where I’ll schedule 30 minutes of social interaction with my team. Of course it will still have to be virtual, but with no agenda other than to catch-up, commiserate, and be together, it will give us a time to look forward to when there so many uncertainties in the rest of our lives.
I’d love to hear how you’re finding successful ways to keep your work from home situation positive, productive and healthy. Share your thoughts in the comments below. And remember to stay safe, stay smart and be well. We’ll all get through this together.