For many across the world, remote working is now a mandate. We have never seen remote working at this scale earlier.
How do we make it effective? Yes, it takes lot of mental strength and discipline.
Is it impossible? No.
Is there a secret sauce? Yes.
Build a Routine
First and foremost, Dress up. Yes, you have to. If you are in your pajamas or shorts, your mind does not allow you to get serious. Instead treat it like any other work day. Let go off your pajamas. Wear clothes that you would normally wear if it was a working day.
Second, find yourself a spot in your home where there is minimal distraction including those from house-helps.
Talk to your spouse. Set some ground rules. Just because you are home, it does not mean you take each other's availability for granted. After all, you are not a participant in Bigg Boss
Talk to your kids. Help them understand why it is important for you to focus on your work. Take examples of their own school work. It will be easy to explain. It is not straightforward with very young kids. But do try. See if you can compensate later by giving them more "me time".
Being home will not prevent you from doing Laundry, guiding the house-help, giving attention to your kids and spouse and a million other distractions. But keep a schedule for it.
Write down the tasks you want to accomplish every hour and then keep ticking it off once you complete. This task list should also include things requiring your personal attention like Laundry.
Stay away from TV
Yes, it is very tempting to binge watch your favorite shows. But you are home for a reason. It is a working day and not a TV day. Disconnect the cable or OTT service.
Turn off the Wifi and data in your cell phone. You don't want to keep looking at Whatsapp and Facebook all the time.
It is a work day. Don't forget. Sit in the kitchen if you have to, but stay focused.
Keep a bottle of water and beverage of your choice next to you
Avoid making frequent trips to the kitchen to drink water or to make a cup of your favorite hot/cold beverage. Optimize the time by keeping a bottle of water on your desk along with a flask of your preferred beverage. Trust me. This helps and also avoids the temptation to "take a walk to the kitchen".
Do not work from your bed. Sit upright at a desk
Don't make your bed your work zone. Bed is for resting and sleeping. Find a table and chair. Buy a set if you have to. Don't stretch your legs and rest your back against a pillow. That is a recipe to aggravate an existing back problem or lead to one.
Avoid running errands
The pending visit to the Bank or your finance adviser can wait. If you have been putting it off long enough, it is not important. Stay indoors and focus on the work to be completed.
It is harder in the afternoons
Because you are home, you will be tempted for an afternoon siesta. Force yourself to complete an important task of the day. Reward yourself with 5 minutes of extra break later. Do not sleep. I know it is easier said than done. But remember why you are working remote. The reason.
Take short breaks
When working remote, ensure you keep some time to take a brisk walk. Don't sit at your desk and start chatting with a colleague. Move around. Keep a schedule for it.
Reward yourself with movement every time you complete a task in your hourly checklist.
Use Video calling more than ever
In office, you "see" your colleagues. Use the available Video calling technologies to your benefit. Host your meetings and turn on the videos. Yes, you have to be appropriately dressed. But that is the first thing you have to do anyway when working remote (remember: No pajamas).
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Have a cadence with your team to check-in at regular intervals. Open a virtual meeting room. Ask everyone to join. They are always "there". At any point, anyone can unmute themselves and check-in. It should be exactly like working with each other in office. Imagine sitting next to each other. A virtual meeting room that is "open" for the entire duration of work day will help.
Over-communicate. When you are remote, you and your teams need to know that outcomes are produced and there is no risk to the planned work. In office, you can always meet and take stock of the progress. But when remote, communication is the key.
Don't use remote working to disappear at your whim. There is a reason why you are remote. Respect yourself by being available and sincere. Expect no less from your colleagues.
What are the rules of engagement? Is everyone clear about how to reach you? Are there times in the day when you prefer IM over a phone call or virtual meeting?
When you are remote, things can go horribly wrong due to factors you do not control. For example, a power outage, slower internet speeds, unexpected attention required for a family member etc. Set some basic expectations with your supervisor and team on the plan for the day. Set realistic goals. Commit to what you can deliver. Don't disappoint yourself and your teams. Be honest.
Expectation setting, when done right, is a great leveler.
Do not Enforce. But Empower
Remote working on a large scale is new to many. Give your teams options to choose from when drawing the day's schedule without disrupting the committed work. Teams that use data to make informed decisions are more successful. Explain the rationale behind why the schedule is important and what the impact is if it is not met.
Check if the teams are aligned with each other. Watch for red flags. Are team members able to collaborate? Are there any adjustments needed?
Remember, this is new to many. So, don't expect it to be smooth from the start. Don't look for perfection.
Met your goals for the day? Go for a walk or a run.
Did not meet your goals for the day? Go for a walk or a run anyway.
Exercise is a great rejuvenation for the senses.
- Dress up. Don't work out of your pajamas.
- Find a place with minimum distractions. Do not work from your bed. A Table and a chair is mandatory. Buy one if you have to.
- Set expectations with your family including kids about your availability and schedule. Don't let anyone take you for granted.
- Set expectations with your supervisor and teams for outcomes that you can deliver daily.
- Do not use remote working to run your personal errands.
- Keep distractions to minimum. Disconnect cable and OTT from TV. Disconnect Wifi and Data in your cell phone.
- Take short breaks.
And remember, this is stressful for you and everyone who is working remote. It is new to many at this scale.
It is not easy to stay focused with the kind of distractions - both the managed and unmanaged types.
Do not feel bad if you are unable to be as productive as working in your office. The key is to communicate and over-communicate.
Water finds its own level. We can tide over the current uncertainty and anxiety if we make it easy for ourselves and everyone we work with. The whole world is going through the same thing. You are not alone.
Find a way, not an excuse. It will never be perfect. Make it work.