By Loren Smalley, MA, CARW
When the COVID pandemic began, the in-office world suddenly had to pivot to an all-remote work and learning environment. We thought it would be temporary, a few weeks at most. Many of us threw our daily routines out the window just to survive. Overnight, we became work-from-home employees, teachers, and care providers, all while continuing to manage the household. Workflow responsibilities shifted for a large part of the population. Those initial weeks and months of working remotely slowly turned into a year and now here we are, many of us still finding ourselves working in an all-remote environment. With a staggering number of companies deciding that remote work has been successful, they are choosing either to continue with it or adopt a hybrid model.
If you are someone that is still working remotely, here are some tips to better your experience and make sure that you set yourself up for success:
Know your company’s expectations with remote work.
Remote work has changed a lot of expectations without realizing it. It is harder to stop the workday. Have a conversation with your employer or supervisor about what is expected of you while working remotely. What are the hours you are expected to work; perhaps they have become more flexible? Are your productivity rates changing, do you have to shift your priorities, tasks, or projects? Check to see if your company has implemented new practices, policies, or protocols for working remotely.
Act like you are going into the office.
If you haven’t already, create a morning routine. Chances are you have softened or completely thrown out parts of your pre-COVID routine, so proactively starting a new one will do you good. Get dressed as if you were heading into the office, put on a pot of coffee, have some breakfast, get the kids off to school, and start planning your own workday by making a list of things to accomplish.
Create a productive work environment.
Make sure that you have everything you need to do your job proficiently and effectively. Create a private room or space for yourself to work where there are limited distractions. If you already have a space dedicated to work, check to see if there is something that is not working for you and find a way to improve it. Set boundaries with whomever might be in the home with you during the day – rules for when you are taking phone calls, when the door is closed, etc. You may even put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign as a reminder! People understand that there are circumstances out of our control when working from home, but trying to limit them is helpful.
Get and stay organized.
People are more successful when they plan out their day. Each morning, organize yourself and your workspace; make it as efficient as possible in order to encourage productivity. Find what part of the day you are most productive and move particular tasks to that time period. Some put their least desired tasks in the morning just to get them out of the way. Work in time increments. Many people have become skilled at multitasking during COVID. If you find yourself jumping around from one task to another without fully completing any of them, try scheduling a chunk of time and focus on one task/project, take a brief break, and then continue with a new task for an additional chunk of time.
Isolation has become a large area of concern since shifting to all-remote work. We no longer have those daily run-ins with our co-workers in the hall or the kitchen. Set up a regular call or video conference with your team and your supervisor to make sure that you are on task and discuss any important topics. Find different ways of staying connected and collaborating with your team. Make sure that the video feature is on during video conferences; it helps to make the meeting more enjoyable, productive, and personable. Treat each meeting as you would in the office – be professional and dress appropriately.
Find a healthy work-life balance.
People have become far more accessible than ever before and usually find that they are checking emails and taking phone calls during times that they typically would not if they were in the office. Working remotely does make it more difficult to leave our work behind. At times, personal and work time all seem to blend. You can help this by setting limits with work if you feel that it is interfering with your home life. Let people know what time you start and end your day; block it out on your calendar. If an urgent matter arises, they can contact you, otherwise, it can wait until the next morning. This will help you to avoid burn out and have a better work-life balance.
Many have found that working remotely has created higher and faster burnout rates since they are working longer hours and taking on more responsibilities. Try to carve out some time for physical activity and small breaks throughout the day. Pay attention to any added stress or anxiety; maybe you are taking on more than you should. Project management apps/tools can be helpful. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to taking on more tasks than you can handle. It is also okay to say “no” to after-hour calls, emails, and text messages.
Have a wind down process.
Add a wrap up routine to your day. A time when you start shutting things down, responding to final emails and phone calls. This will help you keep a routine and disconnect on time, just as you would if you were in the office. Ending work at the same time every day creates structure, reduces burnout, and overall can make you a more productive employee.
If you find yourself struggling in a particular area while working remotely or realize areas that need improvement, start an open conversation with your colleagues and supervisor. They may be able to add some insight and help you be more successful.
Loren Smalley, MA, CARW is a Career Coach at the Ignite Career Center of Jewish Community Services
Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or call 410-466-9200.