My makeshift office, background dog barking, sweatpants rotation and daytime laundry loads don’t feel like the makings of high productivity. But many studies show performance improves when working remotely. While I’ve had some work wins over the year we’ve been at home, the energy it’s taken to stay connected and engaged was considerable. How do we keep it up?
The not-so-good news is it’s up to each of us. It takes planning, commitment, intention and a good dose of resilience. For me, it also helps to remember the larger goal I’m working toward, my institution’s mission and the things that won’t happen if I check out. These haven’t changed since we locked down, so my attention to them shouldn’t either.
Many of our employers and work teams are planning online social gatherings, trivia, group workouts and more to do just this—keep us engaged and communicating and adding some levity to the environment we’re in. No one dreads forced fun more than I do, but I recommend taking advantage. In retrospect, I’ve never regretted an icebreaker I had to join.
The funny, shocking, unusual or interesting things the world used to present us in the course of our out-and-about days aren’t as present anymore, so we have to be self-starters about breaking up our monotony. Put yourself out there to help on something new at work, volunteer or dig into an interest or hobby. One positive development is 9 to 5 has become—as long as your boss agrees—more like whenever you can make it happen. This can allow for exercise (I know), taking calls during a drive or writing out loud to your phone’s voice memo app while on a walk. Identify people who bring energy and inspiration to your day and schedule pick-me-up time with them.
As a manager, I have to be intentional about watching closely and listening carefully for clues my team gives as to their well-being. They’re harder to see when we’re not together. Being open to and supportive of their individual highs and lows is helping them stay engaged, I think, and encouraging my engagement at the same time.
Really, the risk of not doing these things is isolation, disconnection and lethargy. As an introvert, it’s tempting to think, “That doesn’t sound so bad.” But I know it isn’t good for anyone. One strategy I’m going to try as we pass the one year mark of working remotely is a tool to help me focus. Ideas include The Checky app, Freedom and the Strict Workflow Chrome extension which relies on the Pomodoro method. I’m also going to try making better use of what used to be my two hours total of daily commute time by picking my favorite podcasts back up and going to exercise (I know).