How to manage working remotely

Quarantine life has forced companies to figure out how to operate remotely, leaving thousands of employees trying to adjust to working life at home. This new normal hasn’t been an easy transition but there are some ways for those with a home office to stay focused and organized.

Clinical psychologist Maneet Bhatia advises that “you should look for signs like physical and mental exhaustion including headaches, body aches and a consistent negative shift in your emotional state.”

Remote-based jobs force employees to find a balance of when to work and how to create healthy boundaries for personal space. It will vary from person to person as issues like office equipment, career development, and training opportunities impact overall success.

Physical Health

Bad eating habits and burnout can come sooner than expected but there are a few hacks to keep those working from home on the track.

Implementing a morning routine that transitions you into the workday rather than rolling out of bed and immediately starting work can be extremely beneficial as it helps your mind begin to process the tasks it needs to complete in a day.

Listening to podcasts, reading your paper in the morning, or working out can provide mental and physical buffers that can improve overall health.

Exercise—it’s always easier said than done. But taking the time to stretch and get some endorphins in your body will help keep you motivated throughout the day. Taking a walk to get some fresh air may also help keep you from getting bogged down sitting at a desk for hours. Posture is also important so make sure you have an ergonomic desk chair with your laptop at eye level.

Establishing a lunch routine where you take time to cook is also a good way to step away from the screens and focus on getting some brain food.

Mental Health

As daylight hours get shorter and shorter moving into the winter months, it's vital to take care of both the body and mind while being confined to the house.

Respecting your personal time is key when trying to balance work-life from home. Putting your phone on airplane mode before you go to bed can help you stick to a healthy morning routine before the workday. This gives you time to enjoy your morning shower, meditation, or coffee; whatever is that makes your mind happy is worth setting time aside for.

Creating a workspace is also important to maintain morale to separate areas that are meant for living and relaxing compared to where work is conducted.

It may also help to get dressed in clothes suited for the office rather than working in sweatpants all day. Looking good for yourself will help feel better about the work you’re doing.

With lockdown measures still in place, avoiding social isolation is also crucial. Communicating with colleagues, friends, and family or participating in live-stream social events will help facilitate social interaction in a savvy way that protects everyone’s safety.

Bhatia also says that if you’re feeling alone without face-to-face interaction with colleagues create a virtual ‘water cooler’ session for 10-15 minutes.

Keeping a balance of maintaining a healthy network around you will increase productivity without you even realizing it, and give you emotional support to boot!

Time Management

Scheduling time for breaks is vital for getting through a workday from home. Productivity levels fall after staring at a computer screen for long periods of time and taking an hour and a half out of the day will maintain positive outcomes.

Creating a morning ‘commute’ as well as setting goals at the end of the day will leave you with a sense of accomplishment as if you’re coming home from the office. If you schedule the day accordingly, burnout can be prevented so work life doesn’t spill over to your personal evening time.

Management

Team management and leadership also impact work performance; with less supervision, the expectation to motivate yourself and produce great results has been more strenuous than ever before. There are some concerns about adapting to new styles of management as leadership often questions what is actually being done during working hours.

Some managers lack experience with working remotely and based on the current economic climate, concerns about the stability of their own jobs can trickle down into toxic management behaviors when dealing with employees working from home.

Some examples of problematic remote management styles are:

Excessive Monitoring

Managers are trying to balance how often to check-in on employees but it is easy to micro-manage through excessive remote monitoring and daily check-in calls. “An overly attentive management style can have a negative impact on those being managed, leaving employees feeling stifled” which impacts individual performance and team morale.

Unrealistic Expectations

The unrealistic assumption that an employee’s output should be higher since there is less of a commute is also unfair during a pandemic as there are other commitments people have to focus on as well.

From childcare to the elderly, “the impact of COVID-19 has meant that employees have in most cases been juggling working from home with childcare or other carer responsibilities.” With an increase in unprecedented personal demands, workers can be left feeling constantly pressured that there isn’t enough time to perform as successfully as before.

This relentless stress is something managers should focus on because if left unchecked negative physical and mental health could increase among employees.

“There needs to be a line of communication that is always open between the employer and employee” to promote a healthy working environment.

Trust

Management often feels that employees are taking advantage of the time at home, possibly taking more frequent breaks than what would be taken in the office. With consistent emails and constant scheduled video meetings, employees may find it distracting from completing their actual work. The never-ending need to ‘check-in’ can come across as mistrusting which can cause employees to build anxiety and cause unhappiness.

Health and Safety

The physical and mental health of employees should be a priority for management teams as it's their “legal duty to be aware of health and safety concerns, and to be observant to certain cues an individual may display to demonstrate they are struggling with the new arrangements.”

For those living alone, adjusting can be extremely difficult during quarantine as limited social interaction can leave employees feeling depressed. Active listening should be adopted by managers if workers seem to not be adjusting well to working from home.

Outputs vs Outcomes

“Traditionally employers have focused on working hours as a demonstration of the employee performing ‘work’. This longstanding commercial mentality may become problematic” as managers struggle to supervise and oversee work using old management methods.

Employers need to take on a modern approach to accurately monitor how much work is being done while keeping employee morale high.

Statistics Canada reported that once quarantine restrictions are lifted, a quarter of businesses expect 10% or more of employees to continue working remotely. Traditional businesses should look into creating training and support for both employees and managers adapting to the new normal of remote work.

Most importantly, enjoy the independence working from home can provide. With a proper space, schedule, and self-love, it will be easy to enjoy your home office.

By Surina Nath