The 5 Don’ts of Working Remotely
By Tony Ragoonanan
There are both good and bad things that came out of the pandemic and many of us are all dealing with difficult situations as well as choices while trying to adapt to the remote work culture. There are, however, principles and guidelines that can help us to keep going. Here are the 5 things that we should keep in mind:
1. Don’t avoid virtual face to face meetings
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice how often you actually see your co-workers or boss. There are countless reasons why you should encourage the face to face interactions even when it is virtual, but here are a few that I find to be the most important:
- They build stronger relationships, especially loyalty and trust.
- They facilitate more clarity
- It breaks the feeling of isolation
- It allows clearer expression as you can see body language and facial expressions
Virtual meetings provide an excellent way to help drive the productivity of employees regardless of where they might live. Love them or hate them, virtual meetings are here to stay.
2. Don’t take a “back seat” on organizing your space
Just because your coworkers and bosses are not seeing your workspace doesn’t mean that it should be disorganized. It will actually affect you more than it would affect them. What is actually happening here is that you are increasing your “activation energy.” If you have ever studied Chemistry, you may remember the term “Activation Energy”. For those who didn’t, Activation Energy is the term given to the minimum amount of energy required for a chemical reaction to occur. I’m using this as an analogy in describing the energy required for a person to move from one place to another or from one task to the next. If we could put a system in place to lower the energy required to move, then it stands to reason that we are actually more likely to get it done. For example, if your workspace is a mess, it may take more time to find the items you are looking for. The activation energy required would be higher, therefore, you may end up putting it off. Can you change something here to make your activation energy lower?
The goal with activation energy is to keep it low. One can do this by simply adjusting workspaces and areas in your personal life that makes it easier for you to move from point A to point B. In other words, to plan and act.
3. Don’t avoid breaks
Routine kills creativity!! Think of your own life and identify the times when your best ideas come to you. Do they come when you are sitting at a desk or doing your regular routine? Or do they come to you when you are taking a break from the routine? I know for me, when I go for a drive or take a walk, my mind starts to focus on other things and I actually come up with more ideas. I actually get a sense of the bigger picture.
Kimberly Elsbach, a management professor at the University of California says “Never taking a break from very careful thought work actually reduces your ability to be creative.”
Taking breaks also helps you to achieve more balance in your life, to create healthier habits, and to keep in mind what is really important.
4. Don’t handle household chores during work hours
One of the best ways to deal with this is to batch chores. This way, it doesn’t interrupt your work time. Also, note when your “high-energy” and “low-energy” times occur and schedule your day accordingly. People have different daily rhythms, times of day when they are most effective. Important work or activities that need creativity and intelligence should be scheduled for the time when you are most alert. Routine or mundane tasks should be carried out during periods of low energy.
To an extent that we can actually control, we must protect your peak productivity periods. In other words, “Build a dam.”
In the book “Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople” by Todd Duncan, the author stated that it would be a good idea to “build a dam” (boundary that safeguards against the entry of water at any given time and maintains a predictable, manageable current”). The idea behind this is that we should regulate input and dictate our output. We are certainly not in control of everything that comes into our mental and physical inbox, but we can, to some extent, regulate what we “pressure” ourselves to do.
5. Don’t try to work from anywhere
There is a particular sofa in my house that I love to lounge on, especially when I get up early in the morning (which is every day) and I have those valuable 2 hours to myself. I love to sit there because it allows me to think and to do miscellaneous reading on all kinds of non-work related topics that I enjoy. The problem happens if I try to any serious work there…not happening. That couch continues to be a mental “anchor” for leisure that I can’t escape. Of course, I could find the solution for that through some yoga and emotional intelligence tactics, but why spoil my place of leisure even if it’s bad for my posture.
What I’m saying here is to have a dedicated workspace so that your concentration could be higher and allows your mind to get used to the fact that it’s your workspace. It doesn’t necessarily have to be only one spot but don’t just pick arbitrary areas in your surroundings to do any serious work.
Keep in mind that working from home is not going to be an 8 to 4 situation and bosses shouldn’t expect that either. However, meeting deadlines and achieving goals are still going to be absolutely critical.
Maximizing your use of time while working from home can be very subjective. Not everyone can use the rules the same way. You will have to adjust the rules to suit your job or lifestyle but remember that the goal is balance.
Brian G. Dyson, President and CEO, Coca-Cola Enterprises during his speech at the Georgia Tech 172nd Commencement Address Sept. 6, 1996, said the following:
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
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