The suddenness with which working from home came about left many organisations with very little time to prepare. Just as we hesitate when we hear a fire alarm, validating whether it’s real or just a drill, the same human trait presented itself as we went into lockdown.
We commandeered tables, desks, chairs, whatever we could at home, not knowing quite how we were going to make this work. However, it didn’t matter so much as it was only temporary - but no one really knew how long temporary was going to be.
Now with a better understanding, more of us are beginning to look at how we work, where we work, and how we can become more effective and maintain engagement. Here are some tips to help achieve maximum engagement and productivity.
Recent studies in chronobiology have given us great insights into the natural rhythms of our body clocks. For many of us, our peak levels of alertness occur during the hours of 10am until 12pm, and from 5pm to about 6pm – times when we should focus to undertake important activities. Early in the morning, mid-afternoon around 3pm, and late at night is when our energy, and levels of alertness, hit the lowest points; times to avoid if we want to be productive or make important decisions. Structure is important when working from home, but it’s easy to end up working throughout the day and well into the late evening. Knowing our levels of alertness are low in the late evening means we should be avoiding work at this time. So, what do you do for the hours in between the optimum times? Well, this is when those mundane tasks can get done – those that do not require huge amounts of concentration but require completion.
The other aspect of how we work is making sure that our desks, chairs and anything else we were getting by with, is now set up not to cause any aches and pains. The Institute of Employment Studies found from their recent survey that respondents reported far more musculoskeletal aches and pains, since working from home. Now we know that working from home isn’t as temporary as first thought, we need to make adjustments to our equipment to make sure we are not damaging our bodies as we get through this.
It’s easy to lose sight of our work achievements as we plough through trying to get as much work complete as we can. Eventually, there is a risk that we will feel burned out, and a sense of not having achieved anything, leading to disengagement with work.
At the beginning of each day, write down four things you want to complete that day. Make sure at least two of them are important pieces of work. At the end of the workday, review your progress.
The act of crossing off completed tasks, can provide our bodies with a flood of dopamine – the pleasure hormone, allowing us to feel good about what we have managed to achieve. At the end of the week, get into a habit of writing down three achievements you are proud of from the week. This will allow you to feel engaged, knowing you are making the most of working from home, and getting great work done.
Working from home can feel lonely at times. It’s easy to miss the hustle and bustle, and banter of the work environment. Age UK, describe loneliness as “a subjective feeling about the gap between a person’s desired levels of social contact and their actual level of social contact”. For many of us, we are probably experiencing a large gap between our desired level of social contact and it’s worth bearing this in mind with work colleagues. Focus on a team spirit through a morning catch up before everyone starts working on their tasks. Check in to see how everyone is, allowing for that social contact. At the end of the day, bring the team together to ask what they are most proud of in terms of what they achieved in the day. This will allow your team to celebrate their achievements maintaining their engagement level and forging a remote team spirit.
At the end of the week, have a longer team call, where you discuss the successes from the week, any key learnings and insights into what could have been done differently. This coming together of the team, will mean it helps keep people focused, allows them to appreciate the value they add, and to feel connected to what everyone else is working on, allowing them to maintain a level of inclusiveness.
Whilst working from home was a sudden change imposed upon us, we need to develop ways in which we remain productive and engaged and help our teams to do the same. Understanding how we work best, and maintaining a sense of routine and structure, and being able to ‘see’ what we’ve achieved in the day, will allow us to appreciate the value we add. It’s important that we remember the importance of work relationships and our need for social contact. Taking time in the day to continue to nurture these, will allow everyone to feel connected, involved and maintain that team spirit. Working from home may have initially felt uncomfortable, but with a few simple steps, we can ensure both productivity and engagement remain high, minimising the impact of the current situation.
By Amrit Sandhar, founder of The Engagement Coach