Almost everyone’s daily routine has been turned upside down due to the coronavirus. For those who have gone from a structured office environment to being thrust into remote working, you might see yourself working much longer hours than you had before. In fact, a recent report from NordVPN showed activity on their servers had increased by nearly three hours per day per user, on average.
All of these working hours aren’t necessarily adding up to more productivity, either. We as humans can only focus so much on a task at hand before we burn out, either temporarily or permanently.
Of course, work may seem like the only thing that IS normal these days which is why we seem so attracted to it. But, too much of a good thing isn’t always great.
Here are a few ways you can establish a better routine and get more done during without adding more hours to your day.
Establish and enforce your own work hours
Yes, I understand that you already have established work hours. Perhaps your office’s hours were 9-5 PM. After work, you would drive home and have dinner on the table by 6:30 PM. However, in a remote working environment, you’re already home at the “end” of your workday. So maybe you’ll continue to work until 5:30 or 6….or later.
That’s where we get in trouble. Working from home makes it easier for work to start as early as when you first roll out of bed, and go on as late as you choose. It’s comfortable because you’re already home. But where you’ll pay for it is when you don’t have adequate time to unplug and recharge for the next workday.
Therefore, while you may be working longer hours, you’re not necessarily being more productive.
Combat this by setting dedicated hours that you’ll be available to colleagues. Remember, they’re likely falling into similar traps which is why they’re calling you 45 minutes before the office would normally open, or texting you “a quick thought” at 8:30 PM.
Clearly state your work hours to your entire team, and ask them to do the same for you. If you are going to stick to your office hours of, say, 9-5 PM, great. In fact, we encourage a “normal” schedule here at Kin so that our entire team is on the same page at all times.
We enforce them by logging into our computers at our start time of 9 AM and saying “hello” in our Slack’s general channel. We do the same when we’re leaving for the day. We call it our digital presence.
You would never walk into the office past team members and not greet them, nor would you leave the office and not say goodbye.
It also sets a boundary: If I haven’t logged in yet and said hello, I’m not available. When I say goodnight, I’m indicating that I’m away from my keyboard and inaccessible until tomorrow.
Take actual breaks
When you’re working from home, it’s so easy to coop up in your work area and not leave until the end of the day. However, the human brain can really only focus in 45 minute spurts according to a University of New Hampshire study, so when you don’t take short breaks throughout the day, you’re decreasing your focus minute by minute. This will lead to taking longer periods to get tasks done, and delaying the “end” of your workday.
Think about all of the micro-breaks you take at work while in the office – going to make a cup of coffee and bumping into a colleague, or running to your car to grab something. Even if you’re away from your desk for just 5-10 minutes, you’re recharging during that time and allowing your brain to reset for the next focus period.
If you’re worried you’ll forget about these breaks more often while working from home, schedule them into your workday calendar. They’re just as important as your morning check-in with your boss for a productive day.
Get off of your own island
Often times, when a person feels isolated or unseen by colleagues, they think the worst. “I’m not working hard enough” or “I’m not being productive enough” are inner monologues that can play out in ways that drive workaholism.
If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone. A recent study from Project Time Off shows that many employees don’t want to use their paid time off for the very reason of not being seen in the office. They fear if they aren’t physically seen doing work, their value is diminished in the eyes of their colleagues.
Unfortunately, the hard truth is that more hours worked does not necessarily equate to higher impact.
By staying in touch with your team, you’ll get a bead on where you can help and how you can work together. You’ll also receive more feedback when you’re visible to one another, which will help the entire team work more cohesively.
Even if you’re getting enough time with those you report to, make sure to schedule some quick chats with colleagues you would usually meet up with at the water cooler. They are likely missing the interactions that made your culture so enjoyable, and while a video chat can’t completely replace it, it can definitely help.
Give these three steps a try and please let us know how they helped your work week next week. We’re all in this together. Stay strong!