As much of Canada’s aftermarket heads into the new year amid rising COVID-19 rates and tightened restrictions on many elements of our personal and professional lives, recommitting to work-from-home best practices can help productivity and personal wellbeing.
Eight months of various levels of government, public agency, and corporate dictates had taken its toll and many have felt their work and personal lives wash together as they juggle personal and professional responsibilities in a work from home environment.
Likely even those who started out fully committed to maintaining a separation have seen the impact, hurting professional productivity, personal relationships, and general wellbeing.
Here are three basic best practices that can help get you back on track:
Set physical and social boundaries
It’s almost a cliché now, but putting concrete demarcations in place to separate work and non-work roles are important. For some this can be as simple as dressing for the work role. Even the “business shirt and pj’s” approach is a nod to this, though for many who are feeling themselves slipping into a too-casual attire, changing into customary business attire provides an important boundary-crossing activity that signals to your brain that you are entering work mode. For those who have worked from home offices as a mater of course for years, that separate space is a familiar and often welcome threshold between work and personal. For others without that space, it is important to maintain some boundaries to allow your brain to shift gears into work mode.
Maintain work-day boundaries
In a world where technology keeps our work at hand with us at all times, and as personal responsibilities for children and elder care have entered an new era of remote learning and heightened care responsibilities, it is difficult if not impossible to have hard boundaries between work and personal time.
However, maintaining a structure that allows for this is important for the well-being of the individual as well as harmonious functioning in team-based environments, is important. While strict 9-to-5 is probably not realistic, setting some boundaries is. Professionals may find it useful to block off regular times in their calendar for addressing remote learning needs of children, dedicated work time, or even outdoor activity. Because remote meetings can be so quickly organized – meeting rooms don’t need to be booked, “everybody is at their computer,” and “this will only be quick”—the temptation to fill the work day with a multitude of meetings is great, leaving few gaps.
This can lead to little time during the normal work day to accomplish work, which can lead to more than necessary encroachment on personal time.
Not that those virtual meet-ups are always bad; many have learned that check-ins that take the place of more casual impromptu conversations help to keep teams connected.
But there’s a limit.
For managers and team leaders, it’s also important to work to keep communications to normal business hours. It is tempting to send off e-mails after hours as you have time to unwind from the day, but this can create an unintentional pressure on team members who feel compelled to respond off hours, with a cumulative negative impact on stress levels and long-term productivity.
There is no question that everyone has been challenged to be effective under new circumstances. For managers charged with maintaining the productivity of a team they no longer see in person, and for team members who may feel isolated and forgotten, monitoring productivity and showing results of work can be challenging.
There is a temptation to inadvertently promote and focus on non-critical tasks in order to check boxes, rather than focus on larger, more important tasks that may not show up in a daily or weekly tally, but are more critical in the long run.
A possible middle ground is to ensure that important tasks are subdivided into smaller, progress level measurements, provided that doesn’t get to the stage where the project itself is obscured by minutiae.
Overall, the key to being effective over the long-term is an environment where output is valued not just measured, there are opportunities to connect with team members, and to disconnect when necessary to take care of personal responsibilities and wellbeing.