But there is nothing normal about the “lockdown” mode many of our people are facing, and even we experienced telecommuters are having to find some new ways to manage work, family, and health in this crazy, unprecedented time. So we wanted to share some of the best practices, tips and tricks our people and teams are using to maintain productivity, engagement and wellbeing.
Tips For You
Maintain regular hours
All the blogs and articles we see seem to agree, and so do we: keep to your regular work hours. Resist the temptation to sleep late, and don’t rely on external cues like colleagues packing up to remind you to shut down and sign off for the day. Working from home shouldn’t mean that your work time bleeds into the rest of your day, or vice versa.
Throw the advice above out the window (and pay homage to working parents)
Regular working hours are ideal, but you and your team might have to throw this advice out the window when people are juggling childcare and/or eldercare responsibilities with the whole family at home. School and childcare closures mean some colleagues are working overtime as cooks, teachers, music instructors, PE coaches, family therapists, hostage negotiators (“She took my toy!”), dog walkers, and more.
- If you are the parent/caretaker: Make your teams aware of the demands on your time, and ask for what you need, such as an extended deadline on lower priority projects, rescheduling a meeting to coincide with your toddler’s naptime, or setting expectations that you may not be as responsive to emails/chats and how you want people to contact you if they need something urgently.
- If you have parents/caretakers on your team: Support them. Understand. Flex meeting schedules to their availability, even if they are more junior and that’s not usually how it works. Ask them how they are doing and be interested in the answer. Catch them up later if they miss a meeting because they are busy caring for their families. And know that they are probably working much, much harder – not less – than the rest of the team, while probably under tremendous stress to make it look seamless.
Create a Morning Routine
If your normal morning routine has flown out the window, create a new one to get your body and mind primed for the work ahead. Take 15 minutes to read the news while you drink your coffee; call your parents, a friend, or a neighbour to check in; read a book or play a board game with your kids; or spend 20 minutes with your favourite online meditation guru or stretching coach. Whatever it is, do it every day to help you get into a rhythm.
Set Ground Rules with the People in Your Space
With schools closing/closed and partners and roommates working from home as well, everyone will need to adapt to make it all work. Set some ground rules: designated quiet spaces, signals for when people can or cannot enter your workspace, taking turns making lunch or running out for groceries, an equitable schedule to share dog-walking or childcare/eldercare responsibilities.
Schedule (and Take) Breaks
Robots can go without breaks; humans cannot. And with more of your work moving to calls and video conferences, it’s easy for a day’s schedule to become back-to-back-back calls. If you are a human, then be sure to plan for time to eat lunch, get up and move, use the bathroom, etc.
When scheduling those calls and video conferences yourself, try scheduling them for 25 minutes instead of 30, or 45 minutes instead of an hour, to build in a quick break (and to challenge you all to be more focused and engaged while on the call).
When you are taking a break, try setting a timer so you don’t cut it short yourself or get sucked into folding laundry or fixating on the news.
Finally, protect your eyes with the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds.
Move Your Body, Clear Your Mind
In some ways, making a point to move your body and get some exercise is even more important now than before, as social distancing (at a minimum) and sheltering in place (in some places) limit our ability to get out and about at the same time that stress and anxiety are building.
Rather than melting into the sofa, take advantage of whatever ways are available to you to offset this reduction in activity and let off some steam.
If your circumstances permit, get some fresh air – whether you take a walk or go for a run (while keeping your distance from others), shoot baskets in your driveway, or just open up the windows (and perhaps put on an extra sweater). If you can do it when the sun is shining, all the better.
If you can’t get out, take advantage of the wealth of online exercise options: from yoga and stretching videos to fat-burning cardio work-outs, all done from the comfort of your own living room. Fitness gurus of all flavours are putting more of their content online right now, including workouts and activities for kids, families, and seniors, so there is something for everyone in your household.
Keep a Dedicated Office Space (not in your bedroom, if possible)
It can be difficult to find a comfortable place to work from home, especially if roommates or your family are also spending more time there. If possible, find a desk or table outside of your bedroom to be your “home office” – ideally somewhere you can sit comfortably, avoid excessive distractions, have good lighting, and close the door. If all those features aren’t available, do the best you can (and consider investing in a set of noise-cancelling headphones).
End Your Day with a Routine
Again, since you don’t have a commute or colleagues to help signal the end of the workday, create a different routine to wrap up each day. This is a great time to update co-workers or managers on the progress of your day, organise your work for the following day, check in with your team, catch up on the Yammer activity of the day, log off, etc. One ClearPeople colleague proposed a “Virtual Pub” – we will let you know how that goes!
Take care of YOU (personal wellness)
These are exceptional times that many of us have never experienced before. Acknowledge that and take care of you with exercise, proper nutrition, plenty of water, and SLEEP!!! On average, adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night to promote a healthy immune system, and kids need even more.
You could try out a meditation app such as Headspace, Calm, or Aura, and consider making some breathing exercises part of your daily routine. And know that it is normal to feel anxious in these extraordinary circumstances. So if it is getting to be too much, first turn off the news for a bit – there is way too much doom and gloom circulating. Catch up once or twice a day; some of the memes and videos going around are hilarious comic relief!
TALK about your feelings! Friends, colleagues and Human Resources are all here to listen and help, whether it’s referring you to professional resources or just commiserating.
Tips For Teams
Hold a daily team check-in
Our teams are holding daily stand-ups for 10-20 minutes to share priorities, updates, achievements and issues – they keep projects moving and everyone engaged.
"Show Up" to meetings and be heard
Resist the urge to multi-task or zone out when you are on calls. At ClearPeople, we use a lot of video calls/conferences, which has the benefit of helping us see our colleagues and some of their body language, and also reveals when someone is multi-tasking. If people aren’t engaged, we know it’s time to change it: make the meeting shorter to keep everyone’s focus, take turns running the meeting or presenting different topics, use interactive exercises (quick 5-minute brainstorm, survey, round-table feedback, etc.), or just have everyone stand up and stretch for 1 minute before you get started.
Leaders: It’s your job to make sure everyone is involved and contributing. Listen for that, and specifically ask for thoughts or feedback from anyone who hasn’t participated yet.
Even under “normal” circumstances, the experienced remote workers know they need to overcommunicate to keep everyone informed and connected. Remind people of schedules/availability, status of work, upcoming needs/activities/changes, etc., and use multiple channels. You can even joke, “I’ve probably mentioned this 100 times, but…” and mention it again.
This is especially important for newer or more junior team members (who might normally bet more direction if working side-by-side), or if your manager has a tendency to micro-manage. A pro-active status update goes a long way! Just be brief! You don’t need a lot of detail; people can follow up if they have questions or want more details.
People are under a lot of stress and it’s easy to misunderstand/miscommunicate tone, especially without the body language that goes with it. Go out of your way to be positive and give people the benefit of the doubt. When in doubt, take your hands OFF the keyboard and call your colleague.
Socialise with colleagues
We already mentioned the “virtual pub”; how about a virtual coffee break or water cooler? This morning the ClearPeople team had a quick video conference for everyone just to check in and see how people were getting on. We debated whether working in one’s pyjamas is better or worse for productivity (FYI no consensus reached), discussed borrowing a neighbour’s dog so you have an excuse for a walk, and shared a link to Joe Wick’s YouTube channel for daily PE lessons for kids of all ages. Good book recommendations, recipes, binge-worthy Netflix series, (appropriate) jokes, are all welcome.
We hope these tips help you and your organisations manage through these trying times. If you have other ideas to share, we would love your feedback.