In our last post (here), we looked at the practicalities of setting up a workspace for long-term homeworking. By getting the basics right around self-care, managers and leaders are laying the foundations for effective leadership of their remote teams. You need to prioritise your own well-being and mental health if you are to stand any chance of fully supporting those around you (in the virtual sense of course).
Today, we are moving onto something that is always a challenge, even in ‘normal’ times. How we manage our time and structure our day has a direct impact on our well-being, productivity, and ultimately, our ability to support others. When major disruption strikes, this skill becomes even more important.
Managing your time and structuring your day
Have you consciously structured your day or are you responding to what comes up? Is that approach working for you? What does the structure look like right now?
Here are seven strategies to consider.
1. Don’t assume that you can simply transfer your old working day into your new reality. Even if you happen to be working alone at home with no distractions, your day is likely to look different. You won’t be commuting or be able to just say hello and casually check in with everyone as they come in to the office, so you will need to be ready to be flexible and perhaps even more structured than you used to be.
2. Make sure you have a clear start and end to the day. When your work and the other significant parts of your life are in the same space, it’s particularly important to have a clear start and end to your day. This means you get focused when you need to and check out of work when you should. It’s easy to work longer hours when you’re working from home, so make sure you are avoiding burnout.
3. Get up and get dressed for work before you start to signal to yourself that the day has begun and;
4. Make a clear break at the end of the day. 22% of people already working remotely said that unplugging was their biggest challenge*.
5. Challenge your assumptions. You will have fallen into a pattern of working that is perhaps now not going to serve you well. Get creative about when you work and when you undertake particular tasks and, although you need to fulfil business needs, don’t simply make assumptions about what has to happen or what’s ‘right’. This will enable you to look after your own needs and well-being in a way you perhaps haven’t been able to before. For example, now you’re not commuting, if your energy levels are higher earlier in the morning and you’re more productive, why not start your day at 07:00 and finish at 15:00?
6. Make sure you communicate with your team so that they get what they need and you get what you need. Have an open discussion together about what’s going to work. Working from home can be a recipe for increased productivity as it avoids constant distractions in the office, but if your team are constantly phoning you, this may not transpire. Work with them to agree time set aside and the criteria under which they can disturb your blocked out time. Allowing the team to access each other’s calendars is useful as you can all check availability before calling.
7. Take regular breaks. Another thing that’s easy to do when working from home is to forget to take breaks. We know that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health and it’s also true that our focus can wane over time, so make sure you take regular breaks. If you like a lot of structure, you might like to consider using the Pomodoro technique.