How to cope with working remotely

Dec 15, 2020 | General

COVID-19 has changed the working landscape across the globe at an unprecedented pace.

Working from home has very quickly become the new normal for many of us the world over, and the transition to this new working environment hasn’t been quite as simple as one would think. For a lot of people, it came with it this idea of being able to get stuff done without very little interruption and fewer distractions, until procrastination and monotony set in. For those with kids came this overwhelming sense of not being able to get anything done what with the stress of schooling from home and general parenting (and mediating) in the hours usually reserved for work.

It stands to reason that what most people thought would happen hasn’t quite panned out that way and working remotely was completely different than what a large majority perceived it to be.

So what could you do to make this new routine the type of normal that helps you stay more focused, less distracted and productive enough to complete the tasks you need to?

1. Don’t make work another bullet point on your to-do list

Working remotely takes discipline no doubt. It’s hard to immerse yourself in the job when it’s so easy to get up and put on another load of laundry, mop the floor, start cooking. Throw kids and even pets into the mix and this ups the to-do’s to another level of craziness altogether. And then all of a sudden, you realize time’s run away from you and you’ve gotten very little done on the work front.

The first thing to remember is – don’t be hard on yourself. Settling into a new routine is not always easy, particularly when it’s one that you didn’t necessarily ask for or even wanted. Not everyone wants to be working from home so it’s okay to feel frustrated, angry, sad. This is a process that you’ll need time to adjust to but we’ve got a few tips to make it easier:

  • Create a daily routine so that you have structure to your day. This works really well when you have kids because everyone knows what to expect. Design a schedule that breaks up the day into blocks of time which are filled with the activities that you (and/or your children) need to complete. Stick this up on a wall or the fridge, anywhere that’s visible for everyone to see, and adjust the routine where necessary. Let your kids know when it’s okay to interrupt, and when it isn’t. Boundaries are key. And if some extra screen time is thrown into the mix to give you a little bit of extra breathing space to meet a deadline, don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re all doing the best we can to cope with what is undoubtedly an extraordinary time and the parenting rule book needs to be a bit flexible.
  • Keep other technology away from your working space. Your television, mobile phone and even gaming gear can very quickly turn from a 5 minute “break” to an hour’s long activity. Put them somewhere where they can’t be seen to avoid the mindless distraction.
  • Get up from your desk and move around regularly. You’re going to have multiple tasks to complete for work. Before moving from one to the next, get up, take a breather. Change the environment, even if this means simply moving from one room to another. Clear your head, even if it’s while sipping a glass of water or a cup of tea and then continue. The same principle applies to taking a meeting or a call. Find another space somewhere else in your home so that you don’t feel as if you’re confined to a box. It’s so easy to slip into the habit of sitting at your desk for hours at a time. This will soon start to feel very restrictive, so move around, change context – it helps.


2. Acknowledge that just about everyone’s in the same boat as you

You’re not on your own in this, everyone across the globe is trying to find their feet in this whole work from home situation. Be understanding of your own challenges and that of your co-workers. The reality is, you may not be as productive as you’d like, especially if your kids are at home with you. Don’t let this make you feel anything less than. You can only try your best and your best is good enough.

If you feel that you can’t get to everything as you should, remember that communication is crucial. Let your team know, make sure they understand what to expect of you and when. They’ll probably be far more understanding than you think. Frustrations arise when people are kept in the dark, especially if it creates a bottleneck in the workflow. So keep in contact regularly, have a weekly catch up, set up priority lists and ensure everyone’s on the same page.


3. Be a clear but empathetic leader

If you’re an executive, manager or group leader, be clear about what you’re expecting from your team. As Gartner says, “the worst situations are where leaders provide unclear and contradictory priorities to their people”.

At the same time, leaders also need to show empathy and have a clear and honest approach to communication. “Be the trusted source”, as Gartner says. “Remember that in any communication plan, it matters less that you communicated something and more that your audience understood it…it shouldn’t be called a communication plan — it should be called an understanding plan. The emphasis should be on what your listeners take in, especially in a situation that is volatile and unpredictable.”


4. Move around, exercise, and keep active

It’s so easy to forget about your physical health when stuck indoors. Finding the motivation to keep fit falls by the wayside, aside from maybe walking to the fridge what feels like a million times a day.

Allocate 15 – 30 minutes a day to doing some form of physical exercise. There are so many dance and fitness videos on YouTube videos for you (and your kids) to follow. Grab a skipping rope, you’d be amazed at what just 5 to 10 minutes of skipping can do to your heart rate. Hoola hoop with the children. Find something to get your body moving.


5. Look after your mental health – reach out

COVID-19 has not just impacted the way we live our lives but also the mental health of many. It has exasperated feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression and worry across the globe so please know that you are not alone in feeling any of these emotions. Reach out in those low moments. Call a friend. A family member. A mental health professional. Talk. Community has never been more important, even if it’s not a physical coming together of people. Reach out to that one person who you know will listen and have a conversation. You’ll feel much better for it.