Many of us are having to adapt to remote working; for some it comes naturally, for others it presents challenges. How can we, as owners or employees help ourselves and our teams make the most of remote working in a way that suits not just the business, but the individual too?
1. Lack of boundaries between work-life and home-life
For people new to working from home the sudden dissolutions of role boundaries can be a challenge.
Usually the expectation when working in the office is that we act ‘as if’ we have no other roles in life. In return, when we’re at home we can forget about work (though admittedly weakened by the mobile phone for some).
Now the two domains of at-work and not-at-work are happening in the same physical space with not even a transition zone between them. How can we manage work-life balance in this new situation?
How to deal with this
There are different ways of dealing with this. You can pretend there’s still a boundary: put on the suit, enter the office with your packed lunch, and not emerge until you’ve ‘finished work’. For a minority this structure and routine will be essential.
For true night owls this is a chance to redesign the working day. Potter all day, get cracking after supper and power on until the wee hours.
For most of us it’s better to go for balance rather than boundaries. It’s a good policy to take a break from your computer every 40 minutes or so. This is both on mental effectiveness grounds, it’s hard to concentrate fully for much longer, and on physical health grounds, it’s not good to stay sitting still for long stretches. So take a break and do something active for 10 minutes.
Whatever strategy you choose, it’s a good idea to have a clear marker between predominantly work time, and predominantly home time. So take a run, have a shower, walk the dog, or mix a cocktail to mark the transition for yourself and those around you.
2. The challenge of staying motivated
For some people the challenge becomes one of motivation. Without the regular blips of pleasure they experience joshing with colleagues or chatting about nothing much, the day begins to seem all work and no pleasure. In this situation mood can quickly drop and then it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get on with things, especially things we aren’t looking forward to, don’t enjoy, or find hard to do.
How to motivate yourself
There are a number of ways of managing this. Break big projects down into small tasks. Set clear targets for the next hour, day, week. Make a list, prioritise it, and tick things off as you achieve them. Take breaks. Decide at the end of the previous day what the first task is for tomorrow.
Then there are more psychological tips. For example, use a task that you are looking forward to as a reward to yourself for doing the less pleasant one first. Do hard tasks in small bursts, followed by a reward of some kind such as having a sweet treat with your cup of tea.
In addition, you can focus on how you can use your strengths to help you achieve your goals. Strengths are the things we can do naturally, easily. Using our strengths tends to be motivating and confidence building and enjoyable. If you want to know more about strengths you can take a free strengths test here, or you can purchase a pack of strengths cards to use at home, for a good selection look here.
Proactively manage your mood. Notice when you are starting to flag, becoming lethargic, or cutting corners you wouldn’t normally. At this point take a break.
You can boost your mood by doing something physical, by ringing someone for a chat, or by watching something funny, for example. Think about what gives you a little blip of pleasure and include many of them in your day.
3. The effect on relationships
Finally let’s look at the effect of working from home on relationships. For many people their main relationship network is their work colleagues. Working from home, especially under C-19 conditions, can cause a real change in the pattern of the relationships. Sustained for years by daily incidental contact, fuelled by interest in the ongoing mini-sagas, or latest leisure passions, they tootle along without anyone needing to give them much thought. When those opportunities for lots of micro-moments of connection are suddenly lost, the friendship, which seemed so solid, can whither.
What to do
The most important thing is to notice what is happening. Those of an extrovert nature are most likely to quickly miss the camaraderie of work and to start phoning colleagues or to setting up a zoom meeting when they need a distraction. The less naturally social need to make a much more conscious effort to stay in touch, perhaps using texts and emails to send things they think will interest their colleagues. Even so, it’s a good idea to speak to someone in a social downtime way, rather than a purposeful work-oriented way at least once a day. This is important to your health and wellbeing.
By following the tips above to help overcome the three key challenges of remote working you can be sure you are looking after yourself, your team-mates and your business/career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sarah Lewis C.Psychol., is the principal psychologist at Appreciating Change, a strengths-based psychological consultancy that is committed to applying well-researched positive psychology ideas and interventions to workplace challenges and opportunities at an individual, team or whole organization level.
Sarah is an associated fellow of the British Psychological Society, a principal member of the Association of Business Psychologists, and a member of the International Positive Psychology Association.
She also collects great positive psychology resources to support consultants, trainers and coaches in their work which are sold through the Positive Psychology online shop. https://www.thepositivepsychologyshop.com/