So, you think you got this remote working down, or maybe you think you can limp through it until things return to normal. The lockdown, due to COVID-19, has forced many of us to embrace remote working and, most likely, this is the start of things to come. By now, many of us understand that remote working isn’t as simple as it sounds.
For the past ten years, I have been working remotely in one form or another. At first, while working in a regional role in Asia as an Advertising executive with a remit to travel regularly, then when I became a mum I worked from home to meet the demands of motherhood, and more recently as a Coach and Counsellor working from my home studio clinic. I have had varying degrees of success with remote working. It was when I became a coach that I truly maximised the advantages of remote working.
I would like to share 4 ways which I have adapted for my remote working needs to help me stay productive and time-efficient.
1. Remote working doesn’t mean 24/7 availability.
Remote working seems to increase the perception that you need to be always available. Although employers don’t explicitly say this to their staff, there is the unspoken directive that you need to overcompensate by working longer hours than they would if they were in the office. There seems to be a willingness to accept more and ever later meetings, so as to appear to be working and contactable.
So here’s how I recommend you manage this:
Agree on boundaries
Employees must set boundaries and agree with their employer the hours they will take meetings and be readily available. With many of us inevitably sharing working space at home or having to home school our children, it is unrealistic for employers to expect their staff to be readily available throughout the working day.
By managing your employer’s expectation of your working day, you reduce the anxiety and guilt of not being readily available. You should consider sharing your calendar with your team showing live meeting slots and offline working slots. If you want to concentrate on work without interruption then tell your team you’ll be booking this time in your calendar as slots where you’re busy.
2. Shift into work mode
We would all agree that we have different personas for work and home, at the moment, both my work and home-self are crossing paths. There are countless articles in recent weeks about creating a workspace in your home and the appropriate etiquette of dressing for remote meetings, but not enough on how to prepare the mindset for a productive work environment.
So here’s what works for me:
The Physiology aspect
Our mind is a powerful tool, and it relies on the cues we provide to motivate ourselves to feel in the mood to work. Consider what cues help you to get in the mood to work. For me, it’s feeling prepared for the day ahead, and this includes writing a schedule or a to-do list, preferably the night before. I also ensure I implement a morning routine which may consist of a workout; such as cardio, yoga or meditation, having a shower, getting into clean clothes, and sitting down to eat a healthy and nutritious breakfast.
The Physical environment
The work mode setting also includes the physical environment you create, so I avoid working in my bedroom, which helps me draw boundaries between my home space and my work from home space. If possible, I would recommend finding a room in your living space that has a window, and open curtains, windows, and let in some fresh air for at least 30 minutes. This last point is vital if you are likely to stay in for most of the day.
As a wellbeing coach, I can’t emphasis enough the importance of getting ready and making the most of the morning. For those who suffer from depression or anxiety, a morning routine is vital for motivation. It is also a critical trigger for the subconscious to feel in control and prepared to take on the day. I am not saying you need to dress in a suit and tie and pretend you are at work. However, having a clear morning routine even when you are working from home makes a big difference in how you think, and how you feel.
3. Using technology to be productive
As we all know, technology is an enabler, but it can be a source of additional stress if not
used effectively. The phrase ‘less is more’ is key at this point, consider what you want to achieve with the tools you have or what is missing. Either way what you want is a small set of tools that help you communicate with others efficiently and makes you more productive.
Some of the tools I use and why:
· Video Conferencing platforms – Zoom, Skype
· Audio & Transcribing app – Otter
So, it’s likely that you are signed up to one or two remote meeting platforms, and it seems every day there is a new one on the market. It is vital to stick to one, preferably the one agreed by your employer or your meeting attendees. By sticking to one, you are more likely to get proficient at using it. These platforms are consistently evolving with new tools and widgets to enhance the user experience.
Since I found this function on one of my preferred video conferencing platforms, I’ve found it invaluable to save time and help me focus and be present in meetings. Also, I use an app that offers an audio and transcribing function if the record function is not available on the video conferencing platform.
Find tools that enhance
The critical point here is identifying the tool and tech that will enable you to work productivity at home or work. At first, the tool may appear alien, but with a few tutorials, you can maximise their benefits. For example, as a counsellor and coach, I work both face to face and remotely. Technology has provided the opportunity to work flexibly and to maximise my counselling slots. By using audio and visual recording tools and a transcribing app, I can work with more clients in a day and refer to my recordings to help with recalling discussion points and ensuring I capture what my clients disclosed and reflect on what was said.
4. Reading between the screen
Finally, I wanted to share my tip on how I effectively navigate remote meetings, especially if you are in the business of interacting with people, which most of us are. You will most likely agree that remote or video conferencing is not a replacement for face to face meetings.
This is how I have overcome this:
This is an effective communication approach is that encompasses three simple tasks; listen, clarify and repeat. As a counsellor and a coach, this is an essential skill to ensure we truly understand the meaning behind a client’s words. When applied to the context of remote sessions or conferencing, it offers a vital component to distilling the unspoken word or meaning.
To apply this approach, repeat the words of the speaker and clarifying through questioning.
Example: ‘so I understood you correctly, you would like……, but you feel…., is this right?’
The speaker may disagree with you, but either way, it encourages them to clarify and to be precise.
The advantage of this approach is both parties feel heard, understood and reduces misunderstanding.
Remote working has its challenges, but over the years, I have realised I can shape and take control by setting parameters and transparent ways of working that suits me and those who work with me.
Remote working can be rewarding. I can be flexible, providing a work/life balance I want and helping me to achieve a healthier and productive lifestyle. I would encourage more people to embrace it by applying the small efforts I’ve outlined here.
So although many feel they’ve been forced to adapt to working remotely in this current climate, if you are given the opportunity going forward, embrace it but ensure you draw up how you want to achieve a balance between home life and work; physically and mentally.