Faced with the spread of COVID-19, the government has asked companies that can allow their employees to work from home. In these exceptional circumstances, working from home can be difficult, particularly in terms of productivity, communication, and motivation.
In this article, we’ll cover the best practices for working from home to stay motivated, productive, and healthy.
Stay productive when working remotely
Telecommuting has many benefits, but it can also affect concentration. Between shopping, housework, family or roommates, TV, social media, and pets, it’s easy to get distracted. Here are some tips to avoid distractions and boost productivity when working from home:
Dress for work
It can be tempting to slip out of bed and turn on your laptop in your pajamas. If you’re in nightwear, it’s likely to be a lot harder to get your brain in shape to work. Try to maintain your usual morning routine to set boundaries between work and home life.
To boost your productivity, you can try replacing your morning commute with another activity, such as a quick walk around your house, a workout at home, or meditation. Then, get dressed, and get ready to start the day with a balanced breakfast. Dressing up for the tasks ahead will make you more motivated, and ready for unexpected video meetings.
Set a schedule and stick to it
It is important to separate your work hours from your personal time at home. For the sake of transparency, specify your teleworking hours to your manager and indicate on your calendar when you are available.
Here are some time management tips to optimize your daily productivity:
Each day, start by defining the tasks to be accomplished to progress towards your goals, that day and throughout the week
Prioritize your tasks by estimating the duration, complexity, and importance of each one
Update your manager and other team members on your progress regularly, at mutually agreed intervals
Take regular breaks to stretch, get some window air, and rest your brain
Not taking regular breaks is detrimental to our health and productivity. The brain is like any other muscle: it needs to rest. These breaks can take various forms, such as:
Read a chapter of a book
Listen to a podcast
Do some yoga
Take a short walk, in compliance with the confinement rules in force
Create a workspace
Whenever possible, it’s best to have a space in your home set aside for work. This will help you separate your home and work activities, and increase your productivity when working in your designated space. Tell your friends or roommates that you’re not available during work hours, even if you’re home.
Video technology is also a very useful tool when working remotely. It helps us stay connected even when we are far apart. Here are some tips for optimizing your video meetings:
Test your computer’s mic, speakers, and camera before important meetings to make sure they’re working
Pay attention to your surroundings during meetings and move to a more professional-looking location if necessary
Use video as much as possible. Keeping your camera on helps improve understanding and communication
Beware of burnout
The fusion of the workspace and the domestic space can lead to an absence of limits and to situations of rupture. Agree on your goals with your manager and your team so that you focus less on the amount of work and more on the results obtained.
If you still feel overworked, invent rituals for starting and ending work, times when you have to move (like a yoga or gym session at home), and relaxation breaks. For example, try the Pomodoro method by concentrating for 25 minutes and then taking a mandatory 5-minute break. Here are other ways to create boundaries between work time and home:
Shut down your computer at the end of the day
Avoid opening your mailbox or your mailbox after deciding to disconnect
Identify an activity that begins around the time you need to log off, such as an online gym class or a phone date with a friend
Communicate remotely with your colleagues
When working from home, exchanges can be more complicated. So you can’t rely on casual talk, body language, and facial expressions to create closeness. To maintain healthy communication with your colleagues when working remotely, here are some things to keep in mind:
Schedule daily or weekly debriefs
In software development companies, daily debriefs are organized with the whole team. They make it possible to follow the progress made and to identify the various blocking points. Usually during these debriefs, each team member prepares an answer to the following questions:
What did I work on yesterday?
What am I working on today?
What issues are holding me back?
Sharing individual successes and goals on a daily basis keeps the whole team excited about what they bring to the company.
Make corporate instant messaging your “home office”
Many teams and companies use professional messaging both to maintain personal contact and to discuss work-related topics. You might consider creating friendly channels where people can exchange information on non-professional topics such as cooking, sports, or pets. It is also in your interest to use the messaging system on a regular basis to discuss key objectives and their progress as often as possible.
Combat communication problems
Communicating remotely can lead to misunderstandings and misunderstandings. This is partly because the richness and complexity of face-to-face communication (including body language and facial expressions) tend to disappear in writing.
If you notice too many exchanges or the setting of a negative tone, consider it a good time to use the phone or video. If you feel attacked or upset by a message, remember that we tend to perceive neutral messages as negative. If in doubt, speak up. Ask questions to understand your colleague’s intentions.
Maintain team spirit
When working from home, it’s more important than ever to create spaces to interact with your colleagues, beyond projects and status updates. Remote work can cause a feeling of loneliness that may surprise some people. Here are some ways to bond while working from home:
Use instant messaging as if it were a place of socialization
Host an optional lunchtime video chat to discuss fun topics, such as a book you choose to read together or your greatest culinary achievement
Virtual team building can help make up for the valuable forms of in-person communication that telecommuting lacks
Manage a team remotely
Supervising a team remotely can present a number of challenges, especially if this is a new transition for you or your team. Planning, communicating, and setting goals can help maintain satisfaction and productivity.
Here are some tips for managing a remote team:
Communicate clear objectives
Take a moment to organize the schedule. What should you achieve? When? And do you have any interest in modifying your planning and your initial quarterly objectives? Write a report so you can discuss it with your team. This will avoid misunderstandings when creating the document that will serve as a source of information. You can also share the document with the various stakeholders and other teams you work with.
Schedule a team meeting to discuss any new expectations and what, if anything, has changed with remote working. Mention in your diary:
Responsibilities and assignment of objectives
The frequency of reports and the form in which they are expected (written, videoconference, recording, debrief)
Communication standards (technology to use for each type of message, expected response time, idle time, etc.)
Make time for individual management
One-on-one interviews with your team members ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal(s), that the work done is the right one, and that there is no problem of well-being or involvement in your team.
Regular check-ins help prevent problems from escalating, get immediate feedback, and encourage open communication. The time spent on one-on-one interviews with your team members becomes even more crucial and important when you manage a team virtually. Try to allocate between 30 minutes and one hour to each of your direct reports for a one-on-one interview each week.
Make the most of individual interviews
Many factors go into shaping how to organize your meetings for success, such as the emotional needs of the people you manage, your relationships, and the employee’s level of experience. The most important thing in a one-to-one interview is to create a space where people feel comfortable discussing their questions and concerns. These meetings are intended primarily for the employee and their participation is essential.
Tip: schedule your interviews in a shared calendar. This will help provide context before the meeting and will also help both parties feel ownership of the meeting. Estimate the length of topics you know you need to cover.
With the constant evolution of news related to COVID-19 and the lack of habit of working from home for some, your team may feel distraught or anxious. One of the prerogatives of a manager is to ensure that your team feels supported and informed at all times.
Begin your individual interview with an open-ended question. This helps to bring up the most important and top-of-mind topics. Here are some questions you might ask:
- How do you feel?
- What worries you?
- Are your priorities clear to you?
- Do you feel sufficiently informed?
- Do you feel isolated from the rest of the team?
- What satisfies you the most?
- What worries you the most?
- How can I help you?
Once you have listened to their answers, focus on helping them find solutions. Find out what excites them, and how you can help them succeed so they can perform at their best.
Give your opinion often
When employees are used to working in an office environment where they receive daily feedback. The silence of telework can be a source of uncertainty or confusion. It’s easy to imagine the worst about your job when you don’t have reassuring news. Regular feedback helps employees know where they stand, gets everyone on the same page, and reduces the chance of surprises and disagreements in a more formal meeting.
Share relevant information in a fast, inclusive, and organized way
Keep employees in the loop by widely sharing information with all team members when needed. Your leadership is needed to share relevant information that you need to convey to your team. Take the time to understand the content of the message, the reason for sending it, and what is required of your team.
Choose a suitable medium or a combination of mediums depending on the message and its implications. Some messages will require an email followed by a team meeting. When working remotely, especially in the beginning, it’s better to communicate too much than not enough. Sometimes (and depending on your communication style), you can replace a long email with a video.