With increasingly strict lockdown measures, companies worldwide are scrambling to find digital solutions for their employees so they can do collaborative work from home. As we mentioned in our earlier article, telecommuting or remote working been gaining ground with a 15% increase in the last decade, with more than half now working from home half the workweek.
The big question is, though, how do workers stay healthy and motivated to work while at home? We’re living with uncertainty, and that’s creating anxiety in many people.
Another distraction is procrastination where it’s reported that workers spend 90-180 minutes procrastinating during the workday, presenting a loss of about $ 8,875 per worker, annually. It may actually be higher as actual productive hours are said to be less than half a usual workday, so that’s less than four hours of productivity a day.
So, how do you stay motivated while working remotely? Here are some recommended strategies from productivity experts and psychologists.
A huge obstacle for many employees who already work remotely is social isolation and loneliness. Working alone can exaggerate negative feelings, making people feel trapped or stagnant. In 2019, a survey of remote workers by Buffer showed that loneliness was the 2nd biggest challenge faced by remote workers with 19% of participants citing it.
According to Dr. Thuy-vy-Ngyuen, a professor who studies the repercussions of isolation, people underestimate the psychology of working alone. “We’re used to social interaction. It facilitates cooperation and closeness’’.
To alleviate feelings of loneliness, Dr. Thuy-vy-Ngyuen recommends staying in touch with someone in the same boat as you. It doesn’t have to be a colleague at your workplace, just someone going through the same issues as you.
Alternatively, use collaborative work platforms such as Slack, Trello or Zoom wherever possible. However, Dr Ngyuen says that face-to-face interactions like video calls are preferable to collaborative tools.
Sara Sutton, the CEO and founder of remote working site FlexJobs echoes similar sentiments. “Out of sight, out of mind can be a real problem for remote workers,” she says. “The very best remote workers will reach out to coworkers and managers regularly through a variety of tools.’’
Invest In Health and Wellness
The major benefit of working from home is that it’s easier to lead a healthy lifestyle. There’s no pressure, and there’s more time saved from long commutes. Make the most of this by investing time and effort into home cooking, exercising regularly, and optimizing your workspace for ergonomics.
George Chiang, an ergonomist at Ergonomic Trends, tells US News that taking periodic breaks from sitting is paramount for your health and much easier to do when you’re at home.
“The key rule to follow is to get up and walk around every 30 minutes,” says George. “If that’s unfeasible, even just a two-minute walking break every hour has been shown to be highly beneficial”.
Get Dressed For Work
Ok, you don’t literally need to put on a suit, but dressing up or changing clothes when you work can help. Dr Karen Pine is a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. She tells Forbes, “When we put on an item of clothing it is common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment.”
“A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it’s professional work attire or ‘relaxing weekend wear,’ so when we put it on, we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning.”
Of course, not everyone needs to do this, but dressing up can introduce an element of routine and structure to your day. We are used to set aside time on a working day to shower and get dressed for work. Continuing to do this keeps this familiarity to your regular workdays, even when working from home.
Establish A Routine
Humans are creatures of habit, and once that work routine becomes broken, it is tough to get back on track. Hence remote workers should try hard to keep up a routine that’s easy to manage. A routine helps people feel like they’re in control. Losing a routine can introduce feelings of anxiety and powerlessness.
‘’ We are creatures of habit, and when our routine is suddenly disrupted, we go through several emotions such as helplessness, despair, anger, and frustration. To get back control, you’ll have to mimic your previous routine as close as possible.’’ writes Bernardo Tirado, an industrial psychologist and project management executive for Psychology Today.
“Keep your routines as best you can,” says Janel Dyan, a brand strategist and author of “Story. Style. Brand.: Why Corporate Results Are a Matter of Personal Style”.
“Too much ‘downtime’ is not a good thing when times are uncertain, and keeping your usual routines helps us have a sense of control. Wake up and go to bed, as usual, eat healthily, manage your work hours and find time to do the things that you always do.”
Adapting To The New Normal
With the current coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe, it may be months before life returns to normal. To survive, companies need to get their staff working, so remote work is the new normal, at least for the time being and the foreseeable future.
For the next 12 – 18 months, workers need to do their utmost to be self-motivated and also be their own taskmaster, so they continue to contribute to the revenue to keep the business solvent and ready to grow once we’ve gotten COVID-19 under control.