I’ve been “working remote” for over 14 years, long before it became mainstream and now, it’s almost a requirement due to COVID-19. In a recent article published by The Washington Post, the average workday lengthened by 48.5 minutes and meetings increased by 13% in addition to having to answer more emails. People who have had to transition from office to home are largely impacted and the adjustment has caused great concern regarding burnout and overwhelm.
Numerous factors weigh into this. Some people do not have a “home office” or a semblance of a workspace to call their own. Kitchen tables, dining rooms, bedrooms, basement and even garages are becoming the new home office. Coupled with kids being home for the summer and now, remote learning seems to be on deck for thousands of kids coming late August into early September.
Fear of losing one’s job also weighs heavily as the “out of site, out of mind” and “if the cat’s away, the mice will play” thoughts from both managers and employees start to creep in. Workers on both ends are feeling the need to respond to emails at all hours of the day, agree to meeting after meeting and taking on all kinds of work to feel “secure” in their job.
It was easy to run down the hall and ask Bob a question or pop in the conference room for a quick meeting to check on projects. To reduce burnout and overwhelm, a more thoughtful approach to the workday is needed. Having done this for over a decade, I’ll share several tips on how to stay sane, on task and less stressed in your workday.
Team Huddle – this is a type of meeting that lasts 5 – 15 minutes daily and is meant to get everyone on the same page, ask questions, talk about completed items and align on goals. Having a clear direction each day helps eliminate guess work and feeling pulled in too many directions without purpose.
Slack – this tool is great for inter -company communication. What it’s not meant to do is bombard your team and colleagues everyday with questions and intrusions. (See #1). Slack is great to provide task and project updates, general announcements and even project spaces so that a continual dialogue can be had without a million emails going back and forth.
Project Management Tool – I use TeamWork Projects. Whether you are an employee or business owner, utilizing a task management system will help you align to deadlines and deliverables and will keep you on track daily, weekly and monthly.
Big Rocks/6 Most – Establishing the main projects you need to be working on is paramount. Working with your manager and/or team on setting these expectations and then using the Team Huddle will help everyone stay on track.
Setting Expectations – If your kids are home or you have other extenuating circumstances, work with your client, team or manager to discuss realistic turn-around times and availability. Chances are, they are likely experiencing changes on their end and would welcome the reassurance that you are on top of your schedule.
Remember – the amount of time you are spending going above and beyond to show that are working isn’t going to mean anything if you are not aligned and feeling all over the place. Your clients, managers and companies are looking for results, not how many times a day you answer emails, even at 8pm!
When are you most energized? I tackle the most pressing items that require more thought and attention in the morning as that is when I am most productive. If you are a morning person, align your most pressing items when you are at your optimal performance level.
Kids and dog running around? Establish ground rules with the kids if you can. I have seen people tap a piece a paper on their door or back of their computer that is either green or red. Green – come on in kids! Red – do not disturb. Take Fido out for a long walk in the morning so he is more relaxed when you start your work day.
Take breaks and lunch as you normally would! Do not pick up laundry basket on your way back to your workspace or do the dishes. Save that for your break or lunch hour or after your work day. Try and keep your work day as just that – “work” day. What you do after is up to you!
Enlist help. It’s okay to ask for help. Whether it’s a neighbor, friend, parents or colleague, pitching in together will help ease burdens for everyone.
COVID-19 has definitely changed the workplace and our lives as we know it and we are learning and finding new ways to adapt everyday.
Stay safe everyone!