Six ways to effectively work from home

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Enforced remote working is a reality that millions of us are adjusting to as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. It’s a cultural shift which Jane Sparrow, remote working expert and founder of The Culture Builders, explained during the APM Benefits and Value SIG webinar.

APM is organising lots of webinars, hosted by our online community, covering a wide range of topics to support the project profession. You can explore the full programme here.

Adjusting to this new way of working can be challenging, some of us feel it straight away and some of us feel it later as the weeks begin to drag on. Jane is passionate about enabling individuals and organisations to perform at their best. She and her team have been supporting organisations across the globe on people, productivity and wellbeing as they step into unprecedented virtual working territory. Jane explained that wellbeing is key to prevent silo working, reduced productivity and lack of focus. Here are some of her tips: 

1. Embrace the interruptions

Unpredictable things happen, we’re living proof of that right now through the coronavirus pandemic. “Interruptions aren’t worth getting stressed about; they’re beyond your control. Avoid frustration and just take a pause,” advises Jane. “If a child walks in on a conference call, say hello to them. Have a laugh with colleagues or clients when you hear the dog bark in the background.  It’s the little things like that help everyone feel valued at times like this, and the person on the other end will feel much better.” When you welcome the interruption, it’s better for everyone’s wellbeing as you can all enjoy the moment and simply move on. Similarly, if tech stops working, don’t panic, just try to get back online as soon as you can that’s not possible you can always reschedule. “People are really understanding, especially at times like this. Just work with it and let it go”.

2. Create a schedule for yourself

“Structure is vital for remote working so arrange your days to help you. Be disciplined about how you work and take breaks.” Some people find it easier to focus than others so remember to make a schedule that works for you. You can create a timetable, book in time on your calendar to make sure you eat and step away from your desk when you need to.

3. Value others and yourself

Jane emphasised how important it is for you as a leader and colleague to understand people’s lives throughout this period. “We need to feel valued. Be intentional and make sure you feel valued and you value others. Under a lockdown you may not feel appreciated by colleagues which can be unsettling so appreciate the human behind the screen, call out success and say, ‘thank you’”.

4. Enable communication

Think about starting a meeting asking how everyone is. “Saying ‘I’m fine’ isn’t enough. Fine is what the weather is, not a person; it’s not an emotion so allow people to express their emotions.” Some people might also struggle to speak up or maybe their communication style is different, “this time may be isolating for extroverts and introverts may need to be brought in. Making sure you address everyone by name to contribute so they’re invited to speak can really help. Don’t assume they have nothing to say.”

5. Have empathy

“Be mindful of other people’s schedules and the range of different pressures they are facing. Noticing the differences across the teams and reaching out to individuals can help someone who’s feeling lost and stressed.” Remember that some people may have young children, so try to be flexible and ask them when is right for them. “People are going to get touched in different ways, anything can suddenly destabilise them”. If we all practice empathy during the situation and what others are going through, we can work more collaboratively.

6. Take care of yourself

This is one of the most important things to remember. To help focus, productivity, the business and colleagues, it starts with you. “Don’t burn yourself out – it’s not productive. Reward sprints of work with a walk in the garden or a stretch by a window.” Make sure you’re working in a way that helps you and review yourself. What was working before may not later so think about your own time and wellbeing carefully.

Whilst we all adjust to this change together it’s important to stay mindful of everyone. Control what you can, do what you can for yourself and for others, and try to let the little things go.

Further resources

Image: Creative Lab/Shutterstock.com

Annie Mirza

Posted by Annie Mirza on 2nd Apr 2020

About the Author

Annie Mirza is the editorial coordinator at APM. If you're interested in writing a blog or article for APM check out the style guidelines and email: publishing@apm.org.uk.

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