While corporate giants are already well-versed in conference call etiquette and are kitted out with the latest tech, many others have been left scrambling to get their hands on second-hand equipment and work out how to dial-in to a video call. Meanwhile, infrastructure struggles to cope with a sudden influx in demand for remote connectivity, as has been seen in recent Microsoft Teams outages.
School closures have brought an abundance of additional difficulties. Millions of parents across the UK now have to juggle childcare responsibilities with professional responsibilities, staying on top of their workload and – in many cases – the early onset of cabin fever, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty.
At a time like this, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is not only more important than ever before, it’s significantly more challenging too. However, the first step towards striking such a delicate balance is maximising your productivity levels during the day, so that you can have a clean break from it all by the time the evening finally rolls around.
Stay connected, but know when to disconnect
It’s never been easier to stay in touch with others, and tools such as Skype, Zoom and the aforementioned Microsoft Teams all exist to facilitate this when we are unable to be physically close to one another. Constant communication strengthens teams, establishing a sense of community and helping to anticipate potential hurdles before they arise.
Even when your team members are scattered all over the globe, there’s no excuse to not be communicating effectively with one another. Make an effort to pick up the phone rather than send an email, schedule regular video calls with your colleagues and ask whether anyone needs some extra support as we all adapt to a new way of working.
Yet, over long periods of time, this ‘always-on’ mindset can be incredibly detrimental to our mental health. Even if you’re tethered to your kitchen table for eight hours a day, you’re under no obligation to stay there outside of your working hours. Wherever possible, mute your notifications and avoid checking and responding to your emails on your mobile devices out-of-hours.
As the evening draws in, it’s ultimately up to you to determine when it’s time to step away from the day’s work – a decision that’s even harder for those that have the luxury of choosing their own working hours.
Find a routine that works for you – then stick to it
How we start our day sets us up for what’s to come, but far too much emphasis is placed on our morning routines. Decide what time you need to begin work for the day, then apply the same rigour to the rest of your day – from how long you set aside to complete essential tasks to what time you take your lunch break, and how you choose to spend it.
When structuring your day, factor in time for distractions and shorter breaks too. If you’re struggling to stay focused and manage your time effectively, try experimenting with time management tools. The Pomodoro Technique is one of the most popular ways to break down heavy workloads into 30 minute segments, with two or three minute breaks interspersed between each one.
No matter how relaxed or regimented your routine is, don’t be disheartened when you’re distracted by your children, your partner or even household chores. Minimise distractions where you can by choosing a designated workspace, investing in some noise-isolating headphones and letting your family know when you need to get your head down and focus.
Over the coming weeks, most of us will simply have to make do without a quiet home office to retreat to. However, when normality returns, we can expect to see many employers take a totally different attitude towards remote working. And, if you’re able to show that you know how to make remote working work for you now, in the most challenging of circumstances, you may just open up a wealth of opportunities for yourself and your career in the future.
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