We're a year into the pandemic, and we've written a lot on remote work. We've all adapted to hiring, leading, collaborating, and managing our own work styles in a remote world. And, now that we've adjusted to many of these changes, we might all be feeling some of the challenges of remote work, too, so it's a great time to focus on steps to take to help avoid burnout and maintain productivity while working from home.
To quickly review what I covered in a blog post I wrote in October, I shared three things I found helpful to improve productivity: setting up my own workspace, creating a more aggressive goal setting strategy, and making sure I'm building collaborative relationships with my coworkers. I want to share two more things that I've found that can make a world of difference in productivity.
Whether you're applying these yourself or suggesting them for your team or organization, try these techniques to increase productivity at a time when burnout might be looming.
Set Your Schedule, Focus Time, and Stick to it
In order to get work done, it helps to do work. Sounds easy enough, right? I know many remote workers that will rationalize viewing a few Dude Perfect YouTube videos or tackling a house project midday by saying they will work an extra hour later in the day. (People I know — not me!) Maybe flexible hours do work for you or your organization, but it's key to set your work hours and then stick to them so that you're available and dependable for your coworkers during the hours expected.
Breaktime is important as long as it doesn’t go too long. Frequent short breaks to mix up your day can make you more productive. A few good ideas include taking a walk and getting some fresh air, doing a 10-minute workout from a mobile app, grabbing a healthy snack, or video chatting with a coworker about non work-related topics. These timeouts are important because without them you risk burnout.
We've all gotten sucked into a never-ending social media scroll, an eternal sports research project to figure out who is truly better out of LeBron and MJ, or scoured the web for the perfect dinner recipe. If these types of activities are approved and your way of taking a break, embrace it. But be careful how much time is spent. Either be strict on your break time or stay away from whatever your likely time waster is completely.
Setting a framework for working hours can help you avoid burnout, too, because it's another way to give yourself (and coworkers) boundaries. If get your work done during the hours you and your organization have set, at the end of the day, you can click off and focus on your family, YouTube, or finally finish painting that extra bedroom, knowing that you've had a productive day.
Maintain a Routine
It is a good idea to start and end your day with routines. This will allow your mind to start preparing mentally for a workday. A few options for a morning routine could include exercise, a shower, getting dressed, and eating a healthy breakfast. Coming straight into work in your PJs from bed can leave a sense of anxiety to finish something incomplete throughout the whole day which doesn’t allow you to unlock your full extreme productivity level.
In an article on Inc.com, Christina DesMarais stresses the importance of the routine and getting dressed for your workday even though it’s from home. She quotes an education specialist, Catherine Waldron, who said, “Getting dressed makes the home office more like a real office, and tells and reminds everyone, especially you, that even though you may be sitting on the sofa reading, browsing the Web, or talking on the phone, that you are actually working.” Again, going full circle here, avoid those public locations like the couch, but if you must go there, don’t go there in your PJs.
Ending your day with a routine is another great way to power down your brain from the day. I have found myself working late hours without realizing it, and then losing out on important recharge time at night. Having a fun activity or event at the end of the workday can help complete the workday in your mind and allow you to start your recharge for an extremely productive day to come.
What the pandemic afforded us was an opportunity to run a real-life remote work experiment, which has unexpectedly forced many organizations to experience the true effects of having a largely remote workforce. In order to help our clients and partners as they support remote work for their employees, and to help individuals realize their potential as remote workers, PSI has reviewed the science of remote working and compiled a competency framework. Read more about it in our Ultimate Guide to Hiring, Developing, and Leading a Remote Workforce, which outlines the characteristics that are key in helping one develop into an effective and happy remote worker.