Lets be honest, nobody liked hours of commuting to work everyday. We waited for the clock to strike 5 so we could head home. And let’s be real, who liked those useless meetings that could have been an email?
Thanks to 2020 we don’t have to experience that anymore. Now we have an entirely different problem to solve.
Adapting to Remote work!
The rise of remote work was slow and gradual, but this pandemic has skyrocketed it. We’re forced to suddenly live 5 years ahead of our time. Nobody was prepared for it. Companies did not expect to go 100% remote so fast. Most of the Indian companies did not even think of going remote at all! They did not ‘believe’ in it.
However, when 2020 started getting serious, no one had a choice. And because none of us were prepared for this, remote work became a challenge. There was a lack of logistics, communication and of course, a good internet connection.
In this blog, we’ve tried our best to give you solutions to problems that remote work entails. We looked at companies that were 100% remote even before the pandemic, such as Buffer, Zapier and Basecamp.
The one major reason they have been successful in working remotely is, their founders wanted it to be that way.
The main problem is not remote work but work-from-home-during-lock-down. One thing is clear, remote work is here to stay. The faster companies train their employees for it, the better it will be for the entire organisation.
Many companies have announced they’ll be going completely remote post-pandemic. People will adapt to remote working with time. Surveys say people who work remotely are happier, more productive and have a better work-life balance.
Look at the 2020 State of Remote Work by Buffer and AngelList to understand the shifting landscape of remote work.
The new normal has changed our lives completely. As fast as we accept that, the better we will be able to overcome the challenges. We talked to our community members to know how they are dealing with it, and got some really creative answers.
Quick hacks to solve productivity challenges of remote work
If you’re already in the thick of remote work, you’ll be facing these:
- Mental & Physical Distractions
- Problems with Prioritization
- Getting Overworked
- Issues with space and logistics
- Communication blackouts
How to avoid mental and physical distractions while working remotely:
We longed for more quality time with our family when we used to go to our offices. Now that we spend 24 hours 7 days with them, it’s getting a bit too much. We have our toddlers running around, the doorbells ringing, pets climbing our work desks and whatnot. And then there is grocery shopping, cooking 3 meals a day and washing the dishes!
It’s not just the physical distractions. Sometimes during a meeting, you’ll remember, you have to buy milk, clean that drawer or wash your clothes - and a plethora of other worries. You may not have control over the physical distractions but you can control your mind from getting distracted during work.
- Wake up early to get some time out for yourself
One of our community members said they’ve started to wake up at 5 am in the morning when their entire family is asleep. That is the best time for them to complete the tasks that need maximum focus.
Your phone is not buzzing, you don't have to reply to that urgent email at 5 am, your brain is fresh and you are cognitively more alert.
We all have heard or read the saying 'Early bird gets the worm'.
- Practice meditation
Meditation helps you focus, increases the level of patience and you become more mindful of yourself and your environment. You don’t need a fancy yoga mat, scented candles or those rock lamps to meditate. Just some attention shift.
Here is how you can meditate ANYWHERE! Start by focusing on your breath.
- No matter if you are standing, sitting, walking or even cooking (just not lying down) bring your attention to your breath.
- Follow this 4-7-8 ratio. Where you breath in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 and breath out for 8.
- Do it 4-5 times. Then return to breathing normally (still focusing on your breath)
Some proven benefits of this kind of breathing are:
- reduces fatigue
- reduces anxiety
- reduces stress
- increases focus
- relaxes your mind
This small yet powerful mindfulness exercise goes a long way. It refreshes your mind, removes the fog which results in clear and better thinking.
Alternatively, you can use apps for guided meditation. Headspace is a great way to get started with practising meditation and mindfulness. It has different playlists for focus, sleep, anxiety and stress.
- Try the Pomodoro Technique
Highly recommended! This technique is useful for those who get distracted easily. Simply setting a 25 minutes-timer for a task makes you work with more focus, less distracted and improves your productivity overall.
Here’s how this technique works:
- Choose a task you want to accomplish.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the time is up.
- Take a short 5 minute break (this marks the completion of one "Pomodoro").
- Repeat these steps 4 times.
- After every 4 pomodoros, take a longer break such as 20 minutes or more.
This technique is recommenced by a lot of our community members who have been working remotely for more than 4 years now.
- Listen to some work/ study music to concentrate.
Here are some recommendations from our members:
- Only keep your work-related notifications on
Turn off social media notifications. They are the biggest distraction of them all.
- Have a separate space for work (if possible)
Having a separate room or even a separate corner is important to get you mentally prepared for work. It also helps you be self-disciplined — which is an extremely important trait that remote workers need to have. The couch or bed are not good places to work from. They affect your productivity, mindset and most importantly, your posture!
We’ve found the guide to setup your home workspace.
- There are various distraction limiting tools that you can try
- If you have young kids, make them understand you are working. Here’s a way one HelloMeets community member suggests you can try
“If possible try to involve them and explain what you are doing, you'll be surprised how quickly they can relate to your troubles. Give them small tasks, tell them it'll help you, they'll be busy with it while you focus on the task at hand. For example colour, something, write down numbers till x. Kids just want to know they are needed and involved.” -Richie Chakre, Senior Marketing Lead at Infrasoft Technologies Ltd
- Put a sign outside your home to not ring the bell. When you’re expecting deliveries, schedule them in the slots when you are not working or don’t have meetings.
- If you live with people, ask them to divide home tasks. This way the burden will not come on your shoulders and you will be able to manage your time.
How to Prioritise work without anyone’s help
It was easy in office when you had your manager around. Now that you are at home and no one to physically guide you, prioritisation becomes a challenge.
Especially when you have that 1 nightmare of a task to complete. You run away from it by doing the small and less important tasks. And when you are working on that annoying task, you might tend to slack off.
Then there is also the problem of decreasing self-motivation. To be an efficient remote worker you need to be always self-motivated and expert at time management.
Here is how to can fix this:
- Complete the worst tasks first.
- Try the 1-3-5 technique. 1 most important and big task, 3 medium and 5 small tasks. Focus on completing the most boring and big task first.
- Manage your energy. Observe when you are most energetic during the day and plan your tasks accordingly. Here is a blog that explains why managing your energy is more important than managing your tasks.
How to not get “Overworked” while working remotely
Managers fear employees won’t work if they are not monitored. But it’s quite the opposite. When you live and work under the same roof, it becomes difficult to draw a line between work and home. Remote workers tend to forget taking breaks, having lunch or finding the right time to stop.
A survey by Airtasker showed, ‘remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month, or 16.8 more days every year, than those who worked in an office.’
There will always be work. Finding a balance between work and personal life is what you have to get good at.
Here is what you can do:
- Have a fixed time of working. Even after our working hours, we tend to complete the ‘small’ ‘pending’ work. Be strict with yourself when it comes to managing your work and personal life. (easier said than done)
- Be clear with your team about your working hours. Announce your work timings on slack groups so all your teammates know when you are available.
- Keep your work device out of your sight when your time is up. The urge of sending that one email or reviewing that one document will always be there. When you don’t have your work devices around, that urge magically disappears.
- Keep workspace separate. If possible have a separate room that you can lock after you are done for the day.
- To switch off from work mode, go out for a walk, or work out, do yoga or something mindful that takes your mind away from work.
Fixing Logistics and making space for working remotely
Because this wasn’t a planned remote work transition, most of us faced logistical challenges. We didn’t have the devices, good internet connection and office furniture. A lot of companies are trying to provide laptops and desktops to their employees along with some giving allowances for office furniture. Lot of homes in the metro cities lack the space for additional furniture. If you have this issue, here are some ideas-
Another issue is a good internet connection. If you are from the west, you must be thinking, is that even an issue in 2020?
Yes. In the developing cities of India, it’s still a big problem. We did our research to find some best broadband services in India. (not sponsored)
Here are some best services recommended by our community members all across India:
Depending on your location and budget, see what works for you. Ask your neighbours, what they are using. Alternatively, you can also find a local broadband service providers.
Communicating Efficiently with Colleagues and Teams
People have complained that they are not able to communicate well with their teams. They don’t have clarity of work, and new employees are confused because there is no one to guide them physically.
We are not habitual of working remotely yet. Remote work requires over-communication. All of us need to practice communicating in a clear and concise way. Doing that one weekly team meeting, in the beginning, is not enough.
To be an efficient remote worker, you must be a good writer. Most of your team communication is either emails, group chats, DMs or video conferencing. Sending a well articulated message that is understandable and clear to all is as important as knowing the appropriate channel for that message.
Fadeke Adegbuyi’s blog “The Remote Worker’s Guide to Becoming a Better Writer” has some great ‘writing tips that work no matter what your job is.’
Here is what you can do and encourage your team members to do too:
- When you are done with the team meeting, send all the team members an email for the same. Make sure you have mentioned all the important points discussed.
- If you have the authority, mention all the responsibilities clearly to the teammates via email or group chat. If not, send an email to your manager and others to know who is responsible for what task.
- Make sure you ask them to acknowledge your message. This way you’ll know everyone has read and understood their task.
- If you have team members around the world, have some hours that overlap. This is what Basecamp does.
There are various communication tools for teams and individuals that help in efficiently communicating. Even after having these tools, some people are still facing issues because they are not trained to use them. When suddenly your work environment is changed and you are handed some alien tools to ‘communicate’ it can be less of a cakewalk and more like a walk on Mars.
Luckily, these tools aren’t that complex to crack. The complex part is understanding the frequency of communication you need to have. And you can only know that, when you communicate. A better way to have clarity of your work, team and company, is to practice documentation. When you have EVERYTHING written, it gets easier for everyone, even the new employees.
Th Pandemic Survival Guide explains why documentation is so important for remote teams and how you can do it!
Here is a list of ‘easy to use’ tools:
As long as you are self-motivated, accountable for your work and have good communication skills, remote work will reward you. No tool will work for you unless you have the right mindset.
To get your mindset right for working remotely here are some books and blogs you can read.
- Here is a list of best tools for a remotely distributed team
- To make your life super easy, here is the ultimate remote worker’s toolkit
- Everything We Know About Remote Work- Buffer
- How to quickly adapt to remote working
- New to Working Remotely? These Resources Can Help
- Joel Gascoigne's blogs on Medium (founder of Buffer)
- Remote- Jason Fried and David Heinemeier (Founders of Basecamp)
- The art of working remotely- Scott Dawson
- Virtual Culture- Bryan Miles
- Rework- Jason Fried and David Heinemeier
Here are some more pro tips for productivity
Hope these tips help you in getting more productive and solving the hassles while working remotely.