In March 2020, the way many companies worked was given a massive shake-up — much of the world was catapulted into lockdown, and those that could be thrown into working remotely. While heading back to an office setting has started to become possible again, it’s looking as though remote work and/or a physical-virtual workplace hybrid is here to stay, in fact, research from Gallup recommends workers spend 60-80% of their time remote (or 3-4 days telecommuting in a 5-day work week — this will, of course, vary by industry).
While there are some fabulous perks to working from home (hello, no commute), there can be some downsides, too, like occasionally finding yourself in a bit of a motivational slump. We recently spoke with a few seasoned career coaches on the topic of remote and hybrid working, so keep reading for their useful tips when it comes to staying productive and motivated, as well as how to maintain a presence even from afar.
Tap into technology
Ah, technology — many of us have developed a love-hate relationship with it, but tech can be quite the productivity booster when it comes to WFH, so might as well lean in and make the relevant tools and apps out there more friend than foe. “Motivation can be tricky to master when work and home are one in the same, and tech tools can certainly help telecommuters get (+ stay) in a work mindset,” says Ashlee Anderson, blogger and career coach. She adds that many remote workers are already quite well versed in technology since they’re routinely using different apps and programs to communicate and collaborate with coworkers from across the globe.
Aside from the usual apps, you might be firing up daily like Zoom and Slack, she notes that tech tools such as calendars, to-do lists, timers and workflow apps can serve as great motivation boosters. “A simple Pomodoro timer helps chip away at work in short 25-minute sprints, while a productivity assistant, like RescueTime, provides much-needed focus and blocks unwanted distractions. There’s also Trello, a flexible productivity app, which can organize projects and create workflows in a way that works for you.”
Focus on the little wins
Take time to focus on the little wins and micro-goals, says Bri Seeley, an entrepreneur coach, who adds that working remotely can quickly turn into a ‘’Groundhog Day’’ situation where monotony becomes your primary experience. Don’t fret if you’re feeling a bit like Bill Murray, though, because she has some advice that’s very easy to implement: “In order to beat the mental humdrum, it’s really important to take purposeful moments to acknowledge and celebrate things outside of our routine — celebrating little wins and honoring when we’ve reached micro-goals can be what’s needed to disrupt the ruts many of us have fallen into over the last 18 months.”
Communicate, communicate, communicate
The saying “out of sight, out of mind” is a real fear for some remote workers, especially those who work from a distance while their coworkers are in the office. Communication is key in this situation. “You want to have regular feedback from supervisors and open lines of communication with coworkers on your team — additionally, insisting on an annual review allows you the opportunity to share your work wins throughout the year while receiving constructive criticism that you can use to improve your performance moving forward,” Anderson explains. Long story short, if you’re going to be working remotely for the long haul, it’s important to be proactive and maintain consistent communication so your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. “A quick email to touch base, a monthly Zoom session or a weekly call go a long way in positioning yourself exactly where you want to be.”
Seeley also suggests going out of your way to think of others. “Ask your boss how their trip to the vet ended up, follow up with your coworker whose child just went back to school, check in with your administrative assistant to see how their significant other’s surgery went, etc.,” she advises. “People remember when you can demonstrate a level of thoughtfulness outside of the normal work conversations.”
Switch up your environment
If you’re frankly just sick and tired of looking at the same four walls every day, try a change in environment for a boost of motivation. “This may include something as simple as rearranging the furniture in your home office or working out of your local coffee shop if it is safe to do so,” says Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, and founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. Here’s an interesting tidbit — studies have shown that working in spaces that have lots of ambient noise, like the good old coffee shop, can contribute to better cognitive flexibility, aka the ability to think diversely to solve problems and learn new concepts.
Ditch the sweats
There’s no doubt that many of us have adapted a “business on top, PJs on bottom” remote work wardrobe, but research has suggested it’s worth ditching the sweats when it comes to maintaining productivity. For example, this study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology revealed that professionals perform better when wearing clothes that have “symbolic meaning” and found that doctors were more focused and attentive during tasks when wearing a lab coat.
Procrastination. We’ve all been there — especially when it comes to a hefty work task or a project that you’re feeling plain old reluctant to tackle. Cue the dangling carrot. “The idea of rewarding yourself for completing tasks can be quite motivating when used sparingly and with purpose,” says Anderson. She continues: “You don’t want to reward yourself for everyday accomplishments, but rewards for hitting long-term goals, deliverables or milestones is a wonderful way to tell yourself ‘job well done.’”
It’s best if you set up the details of your reward and the associated accomplishment well in advance (and unfortunately it doesn’t count when a task is almost completed). “Instead, look at upcoming projects or deadlines and identify any you know will knock you off your game — then pick a reward that’s meaningful to you and promise yourself you’ll get X when Y is done.”
Engage in a bit of self-care and reflection
Our last tip is to remember to take care of yourself during those long work-from-home days. “These do not have to be time-consuming acts either,” notes Elliott. “They may include things like brewing a cup of coffee, meditating for a few minutes, or stepping outside for a quick walk”.
Anderson also recommends taking a minute to reflect once the workday has come to a close which may involve jotting down something that went well and having a moment of gratitude for it. “It’s amazing how a little bit of gratitude can make a big difference in how motivated you feel to also end the next day strong and so on and so forth. Similarly, in the morning, try to set an intention for the day — this simple act of stating what you want to accomplish through your actions can help you stay focused as you move from task to task,” she says.
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