November marks more than half a year since COVID-19 restrictions forced employees worldwide to shift to remote work—and many feel the negative effects. According to a recent survey by consulting firm Eagle Hill, 55% of workers say they feel burnt out, compared to 45% earlier in the pandemic.
Executives recognize the trend. Matthew Schuyler, Chief Human Resources Officer at Hilton, says we are approaching “a second wave of team member or employee duress” following the initial move to remote work in March. Harmit Singh, CFO at Levi Strauss & Co., shares Schuyler’s concerns and says, “employee burnout is a core issue.”
With many companies extending their remote-work policies into 2021 and beyond, employees everywhere face a challenge: how can you remain productive and engaged for an extended length of time outside the office?
In this post, we’ll explore five practices you can implement to stay productive and avoid burnout while working remotely.
Practice 1: Separate Your Work Life From Home Life
You likely didn’t spend an hour making breakfast or lunch in your office kitchen every workday. Nor did you interrupt your work to do laundry, walk your dog, empty your dishwasher, or mow your lawn. However, it’s hard to resist these distractions when you work from home.
Increase your focus by establishing clear boundaries between your work life and home life. If you previously woke up early to prepare breakfast before starting your workday, or if you set aside time on Sundays to prep lunches for the week, stick to that schedule. Speak to other people living in your home to set expectations for working hours. Communicate that being at home is not necessarily synonymous with being available to socialize.
Designate a workspace in the home that provides privacy—and signals to housemates that you are in work mode. If you are unable to do so, increase your focus by using noise-canceling headphones.
By minimizing distractions at home, you’ll be able to maximize your efficiency while reducing energy and time spent on extraneous tasks.
Practice 2: Thoroughly Plan Your Daily Schedule
Some employees struggle to focus while not in the physical presence of their coworkers. Others lack a sense of urgency when they know they will be home all day. To counteract these challenges, take a focused approach to your day by setting specific hours for certain tasks.
- Start by establishing a consistent time to begin work each day. By training yourself to work on a consistent schedule, you’ll make productivity a subconscious routine rather than a conscious effort.
- Structure your tasks according to your energy levels. Studies show that people get most work done by 11 AM, with productivity declining as the day stretches on. Of course, this differs from person to person. Find out when you’re most productive and mentally focused throughout the day—and plan out creative time, meetings, and administrative tasks accordingly.
- While productivity demands discipline, taking planned and focused breaks help you stay fresh. Budget time in your daily schedule to step away from work. By intentionally setting aside specific times for activities outside of work, you’ll get time to recharge and avoid long, unproductive breaks.
Practice 3: Commit to Logging Off at the End of the Day
When workers do not leave their physical workplace at the end of the day, there are blurred lines between working hours and personal hours. That’s why one of the most common remote work challenges is signing off at the end of the day.
According to a recent survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America, 37% of employees work longer than usual since the pandemic began. Furthermore, 75% of workers feel the need to answer emails or calls immediately, while 60% report feeling “stuck” to their computer, according to EPIC. Research shows that working these longer hours leads to a sharp decrease in productivity.
Maintain your efficiency by planning a time to end work each day—and sticking to it. Set expectations with coworkers about when you’ll be available. When you finish work, log out of your email, turn off work messaging notifications, and close your work laptop. If you work on your personal computer, create a separate user account for work. Doing so allows you to leave behind work apps, emails, and bookmarks while still having access to your computer after hours.
Making plans for after work is another way to ensure you sign off at the end of the day. Whether you dedicate time for exercising, running an errand, or meeting a friend, give yourself a reason to leave the house—and leave your workday behind.
Practice 4: Replicate Your Office Routines
Most of us don’t miss spending time stuck in traffic commuting to work, or dry-cleaning work clothes. But routines like commuting and getting dressed for work helps you shift into work mode.
Recognizing the value of the commute, Microsoft Teams now offers a virtual commute feature. This service helps workers set aside 20 minutes every morning to think about goals, prioritize tasks, and transition into the workday. You don’t need an app to simulate your commute, however. Take time to go for a short walk or bike ride in the morning. Or leave the house to get coffee or breakfast before starting work.
Dressing for the workday is another way you can simulate the in-office experience at home. Setting aside work clothes for presentations, important meetings, or the general workday requires you to adopt a professional mentality without entering the office.
Practice 5: Minimize Electronic Distractions
Technology is instrumental in helping employees work remotely. However, when workers are not careful, the technology tools we use to stay connected create significant distractions during the workday.
A recent study indicates that the average internet user logs nearly two-and-a-half hours on social media per day. Spending time on social media leads workers to lose concentration, work slower, and decrease efficiency. In addition to adopting practices already outlined in this post—such as intentionally structuring breaks into your workday—you can take additional steps to limit electronic distractions while working remotely.
Log out of social media accounts on your computer browser. Encourage teammates to conduct work calls through dedicated platforms like Zoom, Slack, or Google Meet. Then, set your phone to silent and leave it in a room outside your designated workspace. Close non-work-related messaging services, like Messages, iMessage, or WhatsApp, and only use them during times you’ve set aside for breaks.
If you must have your phone nearby while you work, activate built-in time limiters on apps like Instagram and Facebook. You can also download third-party apps that help you limit your screen time, such as Freedom, Moment, OFFTIME, and more.
Optimize Your Remote Work Life—For Now and Tomorrow
While burnout remains a top concern as COVID-19 office restrictions continue, remote work is here to stay—even in a post-pandemic world. That is why optimizing remote-work habits today sets you up for success tomorrow.
With a workforce spanning five continents, Velocity Global is well-versed in the challenges and best practices of supporting remote workers worldwide. Are you interested in learning more about how your company can adjust to the new normal of remote work? Reach out to Velocity Global today to find out how our expertise benefits companies like yours.