COVID-19 safety measures are sending many employees to work at home for the next few weeks or possibly longer. If you are not accustomed to working from home, how do you maintain productivity and focus? As a manager how do you ensure effectiveness, efficiency and team connectedness?
At BRYANT GROUP, as with many executive search firms, many of our professionals work remotely on a daily basis, whether their office is regionally-based or they are on the road for client or conference meetings. Following are Ten Tips that may help you as you adjust to your new 30-second commute from the breakfast table to your home office (or couch).
1. Managers: Start the day for your remote team members with a 20-minute video chat, like Zoom or Skype. (Video chat helps make a connection and requires focus that a group phone call does not.) Use this time to have each person say their top priority project for the day and a measurable outcome they will accomplish that day, whether they reached the previous day’s measurable, and a note on any outstanding issues or challenges that require problem-solving. Set the participants and meeting times for solving those issues right then. Each team member’s report should take no more than 2 minutes.
2. Make a list of the six most important things you need to accomplish each day. (Even though you probably have 60 important things!) When you know your top priorities you will be more productive.
3. Plan your day. Ensure all your phone and video meetings are on your calendar. Break the rest of the day into “chunks” – 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Then make “appointments” with yourself for each time chunk to focus on a specific task only.
4. Respond to email in two or three chunks instead of immediately responding to each email throughout the day. Every time you turn your focus from what you are doing to answer an email, it takes time to get back to what you were working on. Turn off your email “arrival” sound so it doesn’t distract you. You will be surprised how much more you get done in a day. (To learn how to save more than an hour in email-wasted time every day, check out this article in the Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/01/how-to-spend-way-less-time-on-email-every-day)
5. Take a break. Take an actual lunch break away from your work, eat nourishing food, and take a short walk. A change of scenery and fresh air will make your afternoon more enjoyable and productive. Consider getting together with a friend for a morning workout, quick lunch or after-work drink. (And remember your hand sanitizer!)
6. Maintain professional boundaries. Don’t do the dishes (or the laundry or watch TV). Whatever you would not do at work, do not do it during work hours at home. Just don’t.
7. Maintain professional boundaries (part two). If you do not take personal calls at the office, do not do it at home either. When I first started working from my home office, I had a close family member who would call me during the day and expect to talk. It only took once or twice of my saying, “I am working, and would love to call you back after work hours” for her to understand I couldn’t talk during the work day.
8. Maintain personal boundaries. Technology gives us pretty much continuous access to everyone and everything. When your home space is also your work space, maintain your sanity by setting a time to stop initiating and responding to emails and texts. (Unless you are a brain surgeon of course.)
9. Managers: Consider utilizing a program like Slack or Team where your team can stay connected online, share documents, and work “together” apart.
10. Pick up the phone. Many times it’s easier to make decisions and get things accomplished through real conversation. (Bonus: it also enhances relationships). You can then follow up with a brief email outlining decisions and action steps, so all parties have the agreed-upon outcomes in writing.
Your time working at home can actually enhance your work habits and your relationships if you are intentional. (And, you might even get to do all that while dressed in your “comfies.”)