Although news of vaccines are extremely positive, it’s likely that many of us will continue to work virtually for much of the year. Several organizations have even said that they will make virtual work a core part of their talent strategy going forward. Of course there are definitely benefits to working from home.
I’m a fan of not having a commute and being comfortable in my environment. I also like being near my wife, fridge, and my dogs!
But it also comes with challenges, like feeling isolated and constantly chained to work. If you’re considering being in a virtual work environment for the long haul then here are seven tips from top leaders to stay sane and productive while you embrace your WFH situation.
1. Have A Plan
Start your day with a prioritized list of what you want to get done. Be proactive and choose your target tasks for the day. Doug DeVos, president of Amway, told me this: “The main thing is to wake up and try to engage your mind. What are you thinking about? What are you doing? How do you create that process of going forward? What’s my plan, even if I have to adjust it? I get up and create my list of tasks for the day.” At the start of each day, create a list of the top three things to accomplish or work on that day. You might not get to all of them, but writing the list keeps your mind focused on the things that are most important.
2. Adjust Your Expectations
Don’t go into working from home expecting it to be exactly the same as working in the office. Switch your mindset to focus on productivity, not the number of hours you sit at a desk. Some parts of your job will like be smoother from home, such as sharing files and reaching far-spread employees, while other aspects of work may be more difficult, such as gathering teams and coordinating schedules. Understand that it won’t be exactly the same and lean into the benefits and strengths of remote work. With accurate expectations, you can set yourself up for success for working from home.
3. Check In With People
One thing missing from working in a traditional office is being able to easily drop in and check on co-workers. Don’t sacrifice human interaction just because you’re working from home. Send a friendly email to a co-worker, start a conversation on the company chat channel, or have a standing virtual happy hour with your co-workers. Check in with people to refresh and recharge. It’s a benefit to both you and them. “A lot of people are struggling with where things are right now—maybe they have a family member who’s ill or they’re a parent and their kids are at home,” said business author Julie Zhuo. “Across the board, many people are struggling, and it’s really important to be conscientious of that. I recommend you find a time to be able to check in with people at a personal level.”
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4. Keep It Short
Emails, meetings, texts—keep them all short. Your day can easily get sucked up with messages and meetings that are much longer than they need to be. You wouldn’t go to someone’s office and give a monologue—don’t do it when you’re working remotely. That doesn’t mean you can’t catch up with co-workers or spend time collaborating, but really evaluate the purpose of your meetings and communication and be aware of the time restraints and needs of others. It can be difficult to understand someone’s schedule and workload when you aren’t together in person, so err on the shorter side.
5. Get The Right Technology
Your productivity is directly related to your technology. If you have technology that makes it easier to communicate, collaborate, share files, and stay organized, you and your team will likely be more efficient and productive. Many companies didn’t have the right technology in place when they made the quick switch to remote working in the spring. But now, months later, there is a huge variety of tried and tested solutions to get work done well. If your technology isn’t working or is slowing you down, find a better solution instead of working with a sub-par option. Even when working from home, you should embrace new technology and find ways to leverage it to improve your workflow. Christian Ulbrich, president and CEO of JLL, had this to say: “We will succeed in the digital era only if we engage with enthusiasm and welcome the ideas and opportunities that digital tools, data analysis, and new technologies will bring.”
6. Find A Release
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you always have to be working. Find a way to relax your brain and unwind before, during, or after work. Use the time you would be commuting to get outside, clear your head, and unwind. Your release could be going for a walk, trying a new restaurant, playing with your kids—anything that isn’t related to work. Jim Heppelmann, CEO of PTC, gets up early every morning to take care of the animals on his ranch. As he feeds his animals, he relaxes and enjoys his release to set his mind at ease before he begins his day. Clearing your mind helps you set barriers around work and puts you in a better mental state.
7. Get Active
Working, sleeping, and living in the same space can be draining. You’re probably used to at least walking around your office, so try to stay active in your WFH situation as well. Tiger Tyagarajan, CEO of Genpact, told me this: “I spend most of the day on video conferences, but I try to squeeze in a run beforehand if I can. If you’re dealing with a global time zone situation, maybe the better option is to shut down at a reasonable time and go for a run in the evening.” Find what works for you. Many successful leaders swear by their daily activity. Get up and exercise, go for a run or walk to get fresh air, or set a timer to get up and walk around your house every hour. Staying active is crucial for your physical and mental health.
It might not have been expected a year ago, but working from home can be a great situation. As you settle into working from home for the long term, remember to adjust your expectations, stay organized, and make time for yourself to fully embrace your working situation.
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