Remote working for four months – what!

Written by Peter Cosgrove

March 23, 2020

Who would have thought that one of the biggest challenges with remote work was to stop going to the kitchen and snacking! It’s a common complaint you hear from people and it’s one of the many challenges that we will all face over the next four months. Yes, four months, so it’s time to review your remote working plan.

Set up: if you thought you would be working remotely for a week or two, you now know this could be for a long time, its time to set up your desk so it operates as effectively as it can be. That does not necessarily mean copying the desk at work, but you may want to consider the idea that you and a partner/ flatmate can work in the same room for the next four months, even if it is possible – is it a good idea? Have you invested in noise cancelling headphones? What strategies have you employed to keep any children occupied? If you have to share a room, do you both need to work 9 to 5?

Using technology: we are all becoming very expert on online communication tools whether its Zoom, Skype, Teams or even Netflix party but it is important to remember – just because technology can do something it does not mean that it should. Often the basic phone call is a much better and less distracting medium. Why not ask people to call more than they email? Ask yourself this question, given you know that almost every friend you have is not on a plane, not traveling, and more than likely sitting at home – how many have you called to chat to in the last seven days? Most of us are not using the phone enough to talk with people. Video calls can be great but take out your phone and pick one person to call every day – keep connected and feel less isolated, next time you go to whatsapp – just call.

Work changes: Work should not be the same. Many people’s work seems to have been guided by their calendar, they come in and go to a meeting at 9 another one at 11 and a conference call at 2. Firstly, these meetings are generally quicker online and secondly some of them may not be as important now that we are in a crisis. Your job is not to work to a calendar but to work out what you need to get done. If you can’t do that, the question is whether you have a proper job. Your company may need to change direction, offer new services to customers, or completely transform its logistics process – all of this takes ideas and this takes thinking time, so give yourself time to consider some great ideas for your business and your customers– business as usual will not work.

Meetings: Meetings were not working when you were in the office, so chances are virtual ones are even harder to keep people engaged. For every meeting go back to basics: A one page briefing document to be sent in advance; an agenda for every meeting; make it 30 minutes not 60 minutes; no typing or texting during meetings and invite as few as possible to the meeting. Simple meeting rules. If we start adopting these practices now, it will lead to much better meetings when back in the office. As someone once said to me – part of the problem is that too many people schedule a meeting to save themselves from having to make the effort of solving a problem for themselves!

Distractions: It’s time to start looking at your distractions a little closer. Nir Eyal has written a book called Indistractable and in it he gives some ideas on how to help stay focused with the torrent of ‘stuff’ coming our way. There are too many to list in this post but to get you started, here is a work and fun one to try: Forest is an app that can help you focus on your work, you literally turn it on for 45 minutes or however long you want to focus and a tree grows on your phone, if you decide to use your phone you kill the tree, simple but effective (as an aside: you do have to pay ~3 euro and I always love the fact that we would pay 3 euro for coffee daily but the idea of paying once off for an app – outrageous!). On a lighter note KitchenSafe or kSafe is a cookie jar where you put in your treats and the box is locked for a period of time – it can be used for those tempting chocolates, and lots of other things: your phone, your ipad, your remote control!

Its only been a week of remote working for most, you cannot expect things to work perfectly and if you are feeling guilty about your lack of productivity remember that this is all happening with the constant hum of anxiety affecting us all. If that anxiety keeps driving you into the kitchen, I would highly recommend “The Motivation Myth” by Jeff Haden, easy to read with great practical solutions, or you could just go out and buy a KitchenSafe or a padlock!

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