Key lessons learnt in a year of remote work

Article by Aliya Vigor-Robertson, Co-founder, JourneyHR 

diverse woman working from home on sofaThe lockdown anniversary has given us all a chance to reflect on how our lives and working practices have changed after a year of remote working. But as employers and employees what have we learnt?

Do we still have the same energy as we did at the start, or are we beginning to lose productivity and become more distracted by life around us? If so, how do we rediscover our focus and drive?

The initial panic productivity rush is over

Certainly, the initial productivity rush, which was largely adrenaline-driven as our survival instincts kicked in, has waned for many.

No-one expected we would still be in lockdown a year on and lost productivity and burnout, made worse for many by childcare and home-schooling, are real threats which make effective, empathetic communication with staff more important than ever.

How to avoid procrastination and distraction

One of the biggest impacts on productivity can be procrastination, where the scale of the task means we just can’t find the focus to start. The fact that many employees are tired is also adding to the strain, while our normal sources of energy (our colleagues in the office) aren’t available in the way that would normally help motivate.

But would we start a Joe Wicks workout without a warm-up? Well we might have at in the beginning, but we soon learnt the error of our ways. Approaching work in the same manner, limbering up with an easy task that gets our brain in the flow and the task moving, can help overcome procrastination.

Break down tasks and redefine to-do lists

But it’s also important that individuals reassess their personal limitations. For instance, creating realistic workloads learnt from remote working through the pandemic that respect the boundaries between work and homelife. This is especially important for those whose working patterns may change longer-term.

Although helpful the scale of to-do lists can be damaging to productivity and another cause of procrastination. They rarely take into account everything that needs doing and projects can get confused with tasks. Instead focus on ‘today’ lists, a more realistic assessment of what you can get done in the day and with time allocated to work and breaks.

Remembering to take time out from the day is vital but can be hard if we are rushing to finish for the day so we can get dinner on. It’s easy for work to creep into what was once our commute time but use that space instead for the same self-care you administered before. Swap reading a book on the train to work for a spot of yoga or a brisk walk.

Talking, listening and supporting each other is key

The ups and downs of lockdown has meant burnout has also become a greater risk, and both employees and employers must be aware of the red flags and be ready to act on them.

It’s been proved that for many businesses remote working works. But employers need to use the anniversary to ensure they are still checking in on how staff feel and whether they are coping, as well as encouraging employees to do the same with colleagues.

The pandemic has humanised the workplace – we now see our bosses juggle home life and work in the same way we do. The masks have dropped and made us all more empathetic to each other. It’s a great opportunity to use the dropping of such barriers for a more honest discussion.

A year of remote working has proved the importance of communication. But it’s also proved we don’t necessarily need to have all the answers – whether as employees or employers. Just asking the questions of how staff are feeling and keeping communication lines open throughout the business – regardless of hierarchy – has never been so important.

If employers are able to act on the feedback they are receiving and make changes or show positive intent for change that will benefit the team then that’s great.

But even if they can’t they must communicate why and manage expectations.  After a year of uncertainty clarity is essential and will be appreciated by employees, whether you have the answers they want or not.

It will show that you care. And that’s needed now, more than ever.

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