BEST PRACTICES WHEN WORKING REMOTELY
The COVID 19 crisis and the current lockdown has resulted in those of us, who are not categorised as essential services, being ‘homebound’ and having to adapt to now having to work remotely, not having direct contact with colleagues and managers to discuss matters, or discuss and manage priorities and deadlines and there being no clear delineation between your ‘workday’ and your ‘personal / home time’.
So how do you ensure that you are working productively while ensuring that you are maintaining a healthy ‘work-personal life balance’ and not going into ‘work overdrive’ simply because you are working remotely from home?
1. Create a Routine and Stick to a Schedule
Begin and end your ‘workday’ at the same time each day – as though you would if you were having to go into the office.
This will help separate work and personal time, ensure a proper work-life balance and avoid falling into the trap of working unreasonable hours, with no clear boundaries or ‘off time’.
At the start of each day, consider what needs to be done for that day and block out a fixed number of hours that you will dedicate to work on those matters. Then, unless something urgent arises, stick to that time!
2. Set SMART Goals
Set SMART goals – goals that are:
• Time-bound (have clear deadlines)
Clearly defining your goals and what you need to achieve each day, will help you identify which matters you need to focus on and ensure that you do not waste time or spend more time than necessary – ensuring that you maintain a healthy work and personal life balance.
3. Prioritise Wisely
When working remotely, prioritising matters and work wisely is key – otherwise you run the risk of simply working with no clear ‘cut off’ time or idea of what needs to be done each day.
Stephen Covey, co-author of ‘First Things First’ (Simon and Schuster, 19940, provides a useful ‘matter / task identifier’ to help assess and classify the importance of a matter and therefore what you should be prioritising and focusing your time and energy on:
- “Important and urgent — Tasks that must be done. Do them right away.
- Important but not urgent — Tasks that appear important, but upon closer examination aren’t. Decide when to do them.
- Urgent but not important — Tasks that make the most “noise,” but when accomplished, have little or no lasting value. Delegate these if possible.
- Not urgent and not important — Low-priority stuff that offer the illusion of “being busy.” Do them later.”
4. Plan Tonight For Tomorrow
At the end of your ‘workday’, take a few minutes to work out a plan and ‘to do’ list for the next day’s work.
This will ensure that you don’t jump into the next day with no clear idea of what your goals are, what you wish to achieve for that day. It also ensures that you maintain a healthy balance between when you are working and when you have your personal ‘downtime’.
5. Beware of Remaining ‘Glued to the Desk’
Ensure that, during your ‘work time’, you give yourself some physical distance from your workspace by, for example, having lunch in another room or sitting at your kitchen table.
Not only will this help create a necessary ‘breather’ but will also have you going ‘back to work’ more refreshed and more productive.
6. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Create a dedicated workspace, a place where you can focus on your work (ideally one you where you can close the door). This will ensure that you maintain a healthy separation between your work and personal life. It also ensures that you are not, during your downtime, constantly reminded of your work and tempted to continue working when you should be ‘switching off’.
At the end of your ‘workday’, close the door, walk away, and do not return until the following morning.
7. Look the Part
Although you may be working remotely from home, this is not an excuse to ‘slack off’ in terms of your personal appearance.
You don’t need to of course put on a ‘suit and tie’ while sitting at your desk at home, however, similarly, you should not be rolling out of bed and simply sitting in your pj’s!
Making sure you dress and look neat and presentable has a marked effect on your mindset, ensuring that you signal to your mind that it is now time to ‘concentrate and to work’ and that you approach you work in a professional manner. It also means that at the end the day, when you ‘take off’ your work clothes, you are signalling to your mind that this is the end of your ‘workday’.
8. Create Healthy Boundaries
When working remotely from home, it is critical that you create healthy work / personal life boundaries.
This means that, even though you may be working from home, you do not need to answer an email at 9:00 p.m. when this is your personal time. It is easy to say ‘I’ll just answer one more email and then I’ll shut down’ when working remotely. However, if you do not set clear boundaries from the start, you risk becoming overwhelmed, suffering burnout, lacking motivation and making potentially serious mistakes and errors.
To maintain healthy boundaries and balance, limit work to your usual ‘business hours’ only, and consider having a template ‘out of office’ reply that you use at the end of your ‘workday’, such as “I am happy to look at this tomorrow with a fresh pair of eyes”
9. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
When working remotely, communication with your line manager and colleagues is key.
You are no longer a few desks down – as a result, having regular, scheduled ‘check ins’ and communicating regularly with your line manager and colleagues is vitally important. Not only does this build trust as between you and your line manager (helping them monitor your progress), but also ensures that you keep on top of priorities, are clear as regards expectations, and what key deadlines.
10. Keep Connected to Avoid Isolation
When working from home it is important that you remain connected with your colleagues to avoid your feeling isolated and de-motivated.
Create a “virtual water cooler”, such as a team whatsapp group or set aside a set time each day / week to connect with your colleagues, discuss issues and share your remote working experience. This will ensure that you do not feel alone and isolated at this time.
11. Know when to “log off”
This is probably one of the most challenging aspects for working remotely. Critical to maintaining a healthy ‘remote working life balance’ and avoiding feeling overwhelmed, de-motivated or suffering burnout, is to develop the habit of setting a clear and definite time when you officially “log off” for the day – and then stick to it!
It is likely that, even post the COVID 19 crisis, working remotely will become more the ‘norm’ for many law firms and organisations alike. Starting good remote working practices now, while one is in COVID 19 lockdown, will ensure that, when the lockdown is lifted, you are ‘on the front foot’ and able to more effectively and successfully manage this ‘new normal’ way of working.