Staying focused when working remotely can be challenging, even for seasoned professionals.
Constant distractions – from that pile of laundry that needs ironing to your dog wanting a brisk walk – staying focused can be harder than you think.
But with more teams working remotely around the world, and with the escalation of Coronavirus adding to the numbers who are working from home, could virtual working be the future?
Certainly, with technologies allowing individuals to conduct face to face Skype meetings or share documents via Microsoft Teams and such like, it’s easier than ever to facilitate virtual teams and keep your company functioning successfully no matter what is happening around the globe.
Whatever your reasons for working remotely, it’s critical to plan and prioritise to make it feasible. And there are many benefits for the virtual worker, such as: –
- There are no office distractions – you don’t have constant phone calls, meetings or interruptions from colleagues to contend with. According to a recent post on LinkedIn by Peter Stark, a leadership author and expert we spend anywhere from 35%–55% of our time, and sometimes much more, in meetings? So, remote working can definitely help with time management!
- You can adjust your work environment to suit you. Whether you like to listen to classical music or silence when working, have the radiator cranked up or the window open – the choice is yours. Having control of your environment in this way also helps you stay relaxed and boosts morale, which enhances your productivity too.
- You can choose how and when you carry out your allotted tasks. For example, you could decide to start early so you can finish earlier and attend a school sports day. Or you could pace your work through the day and go for walks mid-morning and afternoon to clear your head. The autonomy of being able to plan out tasks helps you work efficiently and more creatively.
Of course, remote working can come at a cost. As a training professional and leadership coach, I work with many virtual teams and have heard individuals say that they sometimes find remote working challenging.
Apart from the household chores that can distract you when you’re working from home, there are other potential downsides to remote working. Asking these three questions can help you confirm whether you are making the most of working remotely –
Are you as productive when working remotely as you are when supervised?
Do you find it harder to switch off from work, or feel the need to prove yourself by doing more than the allotted tasks or times?
Do you sometimes feel isolated?
If you experience any or all of these downsides, you could be at risk of virtual working taking a toll on your mental health. Happily, there are ways to keep focused, motivated and enjoy working as part of a virtual team.
Here are eight easy-to-implement strategies to help you stay focused, motivated and positive about remote working.
1. Create a Workspace
Having a dedicated office space is essential, and your number one strategy for successful virtual working.
It might seem like a good idea to sit on the sofa with your laptop on your knees, but you won’t ‘feel’ at work. Additionally, you won’t be creating a divide between work and home life.
So, ideally, allocate a room as your ‘office’ but if you don’t have space, create a corner where you can put a desk or table, big enough to work at, which becomes your workspace – and don’t let paperwork escape from this area!
Remember that, especially if you are part of a permanent virtual team, a good quality office chair makes all the difference. You don’t want to be sitting on an uncomfortable kitchen chair for seven hours at a time.
And finally, if you have a dedicated room, close the door when you are working. This indicates to your family that you are ‘at work’ and are not to be disturbed.
2. Dress for the Role
Dress in a way that makes you feel like you are at work.
That’s not to say you need to be suited and booted, but something smart–casual and comfortable will put you psychologically in the right place for productive activity. It will also mean if you receive an unexpected Zoom call from a client, you’re dressed appropriately.
3. Minimise Distractions
Do you find yourself drawn to other non-work tasks when you should be working? Being clear on when you are at work and when you are at ‘home’ is critical in making virtual working a positive experience.
Set your office times, and then close the door – figuratively or practically!
4. Get Organised
Make sure you understand what your short – and long term – goals are, what tasks you need to carry out, and what deadlines you need to meet. Be focused on these so you can organise and prioritise.
Once you know your outcomes, you can set about organising your working day/week and prioritising essential tasks. Set yourself a to–do list for each day and tick off tasks as you complete them (most people find this act very rewarding in itself!)
Remember to take regular breaks through the day – a short stroll in the garden, making a drink or having lunch are not ‘luxuries’. They will help you concentrate on the work in–hand by allowing your brain some recovery time in between assignments.
5. Banish the Ping
It’s crucial to stay focused when working virtually – and that means banishing the ‘ping’.
If you need to keep your private phone with you – mute it. Similarly, with social media. It’s best to allocate times to check your emails and other messages – for example checking in at 8 am, 1 pm and 6 pm, so you don’t get distracted by the constant interruptions that social media can bring.
6. Reward Yourself
Be kind to yourself. Working from home doesn’t mean ploughing through a million jobs to ‘prove’ you can work unsupervised.
So, remember to reward yourself when you complete a job—for example, making yourself a cup of the fresh–roasted coffee you love and enjoying it with a slice of cake when you’ve signed off that latest project.
7. Keep an Activity Log
Consider keeping an activity log of your daily work activities.
This not only allows your manager to see what you are currently working on, but it also provides a useful reference for you to check when you are at your most productive – handy for planning in those complex tasks when you are at your most focused.
8. Check–in Regularly
Finally, keep in regular touch with your manager and other members of your virtual team. Working remotely can be isolating, but regular check-ins help banish the loneliness that can creep in.
Virtual webcam meetings – formal or informal – can also help keep a virtual team in touch, put faces to names, and remind you that you are part of something bigger.
Checking in helps with wellbeing. It also gives you a chance to seek support if you need it and reinforces the collaborative benefits that come with teamwork.
Incorporating these easy to implement steps into your plan for virtual working will help make the process more efficient, raise your productivity and keep you happy in your virtual team.
If you manage a virtual team and want to increase your learning or to develop your team, we can help. Here at Zestfor, we offer programmes to help you to optimise your leadership skills and personal development and get the best out of your virtual team.
If you would like to find out more, then send a quick email here.
Until next time,
Zestfor specialises in developing Training programmes and resources scientifically tailored for technical markets – including Pharmaceutical, IT, and Life Sciences.
Our blend of in-classroom, online, and virtual live-stream delivery methods will engage and assure even the most introverted team members from the first meeting – whether face-to-face or virtually. To have a brief chat, call us on 0845 548 0833. Alternatively, please email our team here.