Mastering Remote Working

Written by 9:00 am Business, People Focus

remote working

Mastering Remote Working 

Remote working has been around for some time, with estimates that 70% of the working population make use of this flexible working arrangement once a week.  Mass adoption of remote working has accelerated in recent weeks, driven by COVID-19 and the need for social distancing. 

With remote working being thrust into our lives and becoming our new normal, it’s important to understand how we thrive and remain productive in our new remote working environment. 

The Advantages of Remote Working 

We can start our days fully charged and feeling in control, as we gain back precious time & energy that’s normally lost to our morning commute. 

We will experience fewer distractions which can improve productivity.  No impromptu check-ins or updates from team members who swing by your desk, no getting side-tracked by office chat and banter. Removing those distractions creates space to do deep-work, a term coined by author Cal Newport as “Professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit”.  If your line of work requires you to ‘think for a living’ then you’re a Knowledge Worker and deep work is imperative for optimum output.   

A change of scenery (somewhere that isn’t your office cubicle) can temporarily inspire fresh thinking and new ways to tackle existing business challenges. 

We also feel empowered and trusted by our organisations to work remotely, this creates a sense of accountability and responsibility to deliver. 

The Pitfalls of Remote Working 

If we don’t look after our well-being, we can end our day feeling drained and depleted, because one of the biggest downsides to a distraction-free zone, is that we don’t take breaks.  We’re so deep into the `Deep Work’ that we forget to step away from our work-area and fully disconnect from technology.  This leaves us feeling drained due to the increased and more intensive cognitive load. 

We are always on and always connected: online, available and responsive throughout the day to emails, calls and chat notifications.  Showing your Employer or your Micro-Managing Boss that you are in fact doing work and not abusing access to remote working. All this Synchronous communication (more on this later) splits your attention and makes it harder for you to focus and make meaningful progress on your work. 

We feel lonely.  This is more common for longer stints of remote working.  Humans are wired for connection.  Lack of connection results in loneliness and may cause you to feel despondent and dis-engaged which will ultimately impact your productivity.   

Your boundaries between work and personal life may become blurred and you may become distracted by personal chores or admin that needs to be done, meaning you run the risk of stretching yourselves too thin across these two domains and ultimately your work and productivity will suffer.   

How to Master Remote Working 

The key to mastering remote working is planning how you want your day to go by creating slots in your calendar to be productive, connected and well. 

You should proactively allocate time in your schedule for different types of work, deep work vs shallow work. Deep work for me, means doing the hardest thing first in my day, ‘Eat the Frog’ which is normally the most cognitively challenging.  It requires a distraction-free zone, laptop lid down, phone turned off and a pen and paper to capture my thinking.  Shallow work, like responding to emails, chat notifications and attending status updates is planned for the afternoon, when my cognitive fuel has been depleted. 

You should schedule your day for different types of communication, Asynchronous Communication (Async for short) vs Synchronous Communication (Sync for short).  Async Communication is when you send an email or chat message without expecting an immediate response vs Sync Communication when you send an email and get an immediate response (your communication activities are in sync with others). Most of our days are heavily dominated by Sync communication like meetings, real-time chat messaging and email which leads to constant interruptions and prioritizes being connected over being productive.  Schedule a couple times a day to dedicate to Sync communication, giving yourself allocated timeslot to process messages, emails, chats notifications as well as be available online for team check-ins.  By allocating dedicated Sync communication slots, you naturally free up your time for Async communication. 

Stay sane by stepping away from your desk and technology throughout the day.  Even better is breaking the day up with exercise, a twenty-minute walk around the neighbourhood will refresh and re-charge you to tackle the rest of your day. 

Lastly, make plans to have face to face connection to avoid feelings of loneliness, that means camera’s on when connecting with team members.  You could also try informal coffee catch-ups or a virtual lunch break by creating a virtual room on your preferred communication platform. 

Tags: , , , , Last modified: May 27, 2020