Tips from CCI on How to Keep Focused and Motivated while Maintaining your Wellbeing during Covid-19!
When you no longer have your team around you, and you are surrounded by those you live with and all of your domestic tasks, it can be hard to switch into the work mind-set. Having to work with daily distractions can prevent you from working at your best. Here are some tips to help you keep connected with your team, stay focused and get through in this new working environment.
Keep focused and motivated
The “Pomodoro timer method”: Breaking your day into manageable chunks of focused time can help maintain motivation. The standard ratio of focus is “25 to 5”, meaning twenty-five minutes on a task that requires total engagement of focus, and then five minutes on something that is easy to achieve. Or, you can use these five minutes to check in with family members or make the cup of tea you would normally have in the office.
Background noise: If you normally work in a busy office, the silence of an empty house might push you to look at social media or other forms of personal entertainment. Find a playlist that works for you, this might be your favourite songs or a concentration playlist. Finding something that makes you feel like you are not in isolation may actually help you focus. If your problem is the inverse, and you have a noisy household with everyone home from work and school, make sure you find a space where you can get a little quiet time. This might mean investing in headphones or re-configuring your workspace to avoid major distractions.
Something to look forward to each day: Make mini plans that can keep you focused during your day. Sure, we can’t meet up with friends after work, but you can always plan a video call. If not, think about what you are going to make for dinner or watch on TV. Having something to look forward to at the end of a day of work will help the day fly by.
Maintaining Team Dynamics
Check in with one another: Team meetings at a set time every day or even bi-weekly can ensure that you don’t feel like you are working alone. This has been a major shift in dynamic for your team, so use a software that allows you to communicate as close to normally as possible, e.g. Microsoft teams / Monday.com / Slack / Discord
Maintain Personal Connections: In the office you were used to catching up with each other or having some ‘Watercooler chat’ about what you watched on TV the night before. Make sure you maintain those relationships. Have a separate chat / hang out that isn’t work focused. Why not organise after work drinks over Zoom? Or set up a work WhatsApp to fill each other in on any news or stories you would normally share. This can help motivate your team through what can be quite frustrating times, and it also ensures that when you do return to your office, there has been as little breakdown in team morale as possible.
Ensure your team know the best time to contact you: This might be standard in your office environment but without the visible cues that we get seeing someone in person, it can be hard to know if they are very busy and need a moment to focus or if now is the right time for a long debrief. Letting people know when and how best to contact you (phone call, email, chat, etc.), and how that may change throughout your day is important for everyone to maintain a balance of focus and productivity.
Tone of voice: Things can look more serious or harsh in writing, when you cannot hear or speak to you colleagues. Make sure you are communicating in as similar a way as you would in the office. If you normally check in on them with a smile, ensure you are communicating with words that you would normally use visual cues to get across.
Create a new work Routine
Sleep routine: That lie-in might be tempting, but make sure that you establish a sleep routine at home. Yes, you no longer have the commute, but a consistent sleep routine will keep you focused in the mornings. You may normally use the commute to wake up and motivate yourself for the day, so now is the time to figure out your new morning routine. You may still wish to grab some fresh air in the morning, do an online exercise class or even just have your coffee in your back garden or balcony if you are lucky enough to have outdoor space!
Get dressed for work: It doesn’t have to be an office suit but changing from what you sleep / lounge in tells yourself that it is time to be productive. Establishing boundaries between your work life and your leisure starts with getting ready for the day.
Take a break: In the office you take more small breaks than you realise; walking to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, going to the photocopier, walking to a meeting. Create small moments in your day where you can check in with yourself and break up the monotony of staring at your screen. Maintaining your lunch break is important, as this helps structure your day and gives you some time to yourself to look forward to. If you are worried about raiding the kitchen cupboards during your workday, plan your lunch each evening / morning as you normally would have, as this helps reinforce a routine and structure to your day.
Cabin Fever: Fight the feeling of cabin fever by ensuring you move during the day. It is unlikely you are glued to your desk in the office, so at home should be no different. Go for a walk at lunch time if you can or give yourself five minutes to stretch your legs – make sure you are looking after your physical and physiological health by getting in some fresh air to keep yourself on track and motivated throughout the day.
Look after your aches and pains: Working from home means leaving your desk environment in work. You may not have thought you needed appropriate desks and chairs at home before all of this happened and investing in them now might not be an option. Ensuring that you stand up from your work space regularly, even if it is just whilst on a quick phone call, will help prevent the aches and pains a lot of us are feeling without the proper office furniture we may be used to.
Separate leisure space and workspace: Set up your new version of an office and preferably not in your kitchen or bedroom. If that’s not an option, ensure you have a desk or table area that can be your designated workspace. If it then needs to become the dining table later that evening, ensure that you set it up as a workspace each morning and clear it away in the evening.
Avoid working from a relaxation space: It might seem like this will help your anxiety, and short term it might, but in the long run it will make it harder to see relaxation spaces in your home as anything other than work spaces. Eating at your kitchen table surrounded by your home office might be fine for a few weeks, and working from the comfort of your bed might seem like a treat, but long term it will add to the cabin fever and increase anxiety both in work and during your leisure time.
Make sure to log off for the day: Create boundaries that would normally exist when you leave the office. Signing off and sending a final catch up message to your team will add the structure to your day that saying goodbye to everyone in the office does, whilst also further helping clearly delineate between work and leisure. For office workers, working from home can often seem like enforced overtime, so ensure your work is focused and does not take over your personal time – evenings and weekends should still be something to look forward to!