Remote & hybrid working – 6 solo time management tips
As we come out of the COVID pandemic (or continue to slog through it with no end in sight, depending on your perspective) remote and hybrid working are being widely touted as a key feature of the much-anticipated ‘new normal’. Deloitte’s Chief Economist in the UK, Ian Stewart quotes an ONS survey in which 85% of those currently working from home want a hybrid home/office arrangement in future. What’s more a Deloitte ‘quick’ poll (of 500-1000 people) suggests that just two days a week in the office is a desirable maximum.
All of which makes getting homeworking right a key challenge. Especially in terms of managing your work time effectively – mostly a matter of mindset.
If you’re working remotely (or managing remote workers) by now you’re probably way past the kneejerk reaction of, “Great! More freedom, less distractions, more done,” and are deep in we-all-provide-our-own-distractions territory. So, on the topic of distractions, use of time, and work-life balance, here are a few tips, and common pitfalls to avoid…
- Create a work zone – Not because it focuses the mind, not because it gives you privacy (both good things, by the way) but because it gives you a designated space in which to be in ‘work mode’. With the implication that you don’t have to be in that mode in other spaces. Whether it’s a dedicated home office, a spare room, a corner with a comfy chair… you have a place in which you’re ‘at work’.
- Dress up… or down – At the very least, get dressed! Again, it’s a mindset thing but if you’re wearing ‘work clothes’ then you’ll be more focused on work. It’s not necessary to go the full designer boardroom outfit but do wear something that says work to you. If only so that later, when you stop work, you can get changed and feel like you’re done with work for the day.
- Set up a routine – Your working hours may be a start point here but unless you’re in a customer-facing role (and need to be available at certain times) one of the perks of homeworking is the flexibility. That said, because your physical location is now blurring the home-work divide, it’s even more important to have clarity on when you’re working and when you’re not. This obviously needs talking through with boss and colleagues – agree boundaries, response times, hours of availability (including when your phone is switched on) AND under which circumstances the agreement might be temporarily abandoned (emergencies – but what exactly constitutes an emergency for you, your team and your role?) Then use whatever calendar app or tool you have to make your commitments, unavailable periods and ‘open’ hours clear to those who need to know (maybe sign off your emails with your working hours?)
- Find time to be social – Alongside all the ‘freedom’ rhetoric around hybrid working, there are also features of shared office working that are being missed; not least, the opportunities for casual interactions, the so-called watercooler moments. Loneliness and isolation are real dangers of long-term remote working. A good homeworking setup includes time in the day to reach out and connect with colleagues (fancy a quick coffee & chat in Café Zoom?!)
- Prioritise – Just as in an office, knowing what you need to work on and when is crucial. However, how you prioritise when working remotely may be a little different. Tammy Bjelland, founder & CEO of Workplaceless suggests some task categories based on whether you need to interact with colleagues/customers and each task’s tolerance for interruption distraction:
- Asynchronous, distractions okay (e.g. administration or other repetitive work).
- Synchronous, distractions okay (e.g. meetings with colleagues).
- Asynchronous, distractions not okay (e.g. solo writing, research, or strategic work).
- Synchronous, distractions not okay (e.g. client or partner meetings).
Yes, the classic URGENT / IMPORTANT way of prioritising still stands, but when deciding what to put where in your calendar, it’s worth adding a SYNCHRONICITY / DISTRACTION layer to how you assess your priorities and your time.
- Define the end of your working day – Harking back to the earlier point about changing out of your ‘work clothes’ at the end of the day, a good psychological ‘trick’ is to have an ‘end of day’ ritual; something you do to mark the transition from the period of work to not-work. If you’re used to travelling to an office, this ritual is usually your commute. However much of a pain it is, it’s also the time when you switch off from work concerns and change your focus to home or personal matters. It signifies a change of mindset that makes it less likely that your me-time is taken up with work, and it’s important to establish a remote equivalent (not so easy when your commute might be three steps across the room). But it doesn’t have to be dramatic, just something that marks the end of the working day: a change of clothes, a change of room, sitting down for 10 minutes with a fresh cup of tea, read a chapter of your book, catch up on Twitter/Instagram/TikTok… Whatever it is, it’s good to create a border and a crossing point, from one mindset to the other.
The list could go on. The key is to find the best setup for you that also fits with the restrictions and requirements of your role, team, and organisation. Undoubtedly, that means conversations with a manager and colleagues. The irony is, the further away from each other we work, the closer we need to communicate.
Whether in the remote working context or more generally, Maximum Performance’s Time and Priority Management session is one of our most popular training modules, available in both face-to-face and virtual formats, and fully customisable to specific organisational circumstances. Give us a call on 01582 463460, we’re here to help.