Adaptation to The New Normal – Practical Challenges & Tips
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened uncertainty around the globe, over the economy, health, finances, travel, and employment. While many factors during this period remain outside of our control, it is key to adapt to these changes and navigate the future proactively.
Embracing the current situation, widely known as the ‘new normal’, requires confronting uncertainty and incorporating it into our decision making.
Recently, Intuition delivered a webinar on resilience and remotability with Owen Fitzpatrick, a global expert on high performance. On the day, Owen shared some strategies to help optimize our abilities to work away from the office and boost our resilience during these unprecedented times.
Below are some of the key challenges, mistakes, and some advice to help you adapt to the new normal.
While remote working may be a welcome change from a long commute to the office, it does not come without its challenges. A recent United Nations report stated that while remote workers were more productive outside the traditional office setting, they were also vulnerable to long working hours, a more intense work pace and in some cases, greater stress. Often organizations may steer away from remote working models for fear their employees may become less productive, however the opposite tends to be the reality.
Employees Burning Themselves Out
During the webinar, Owen spoke about ‘burnout’ as a key challenge of remote working. Remote employees are in fact more likely to overwork and this leads to fatigue and burnout. When your work and personal life are in the same place, it can be challenging to understand where these boundaries start and end.
Remote working may result in feelings of loneliness as day-to-day interaction with co-workers in the office are absent from your routine. Even with access to instant messaging applications and other pieces of collaborative technology, feelings of isolation may appear.
To avoid burnout, it is important to incorporate breaks into your schedule, perhaps grab a virtual tea break with a colleague or get lunch outside your home with a friend.
Owen also spoke about communication issues and how it can be a challenge while working remotely.
In the book, REMOTE: Office Not Required, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier analyze how small miscommunication while working remotely can create unhelpful narratives among colleagues. It is critical, especially if some parts of your team are based in an office, your organization creates a culture of inclusion for remote workers.
The key is to communicate as much as possible. Include remote workers in key decisions and meetings, and clarify anything that could be misunderstood.
Owen also took us through some key mistakes often made while working remotely and how to avoid creating these unhealthy habits.
Not Creating a Work Space
Firstly, it is critical to create a workspace, where you go to work and stop working here each day. For example, if you work from your living room couch, it may become more difficult to relax in the evening as your body and mind associates this space with work.
Not Checking In With Your Team
It is also important to check in regularly with your teammates. It is easy to slip into an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality while working remotely, so be sure to see how your colleagues are doing during these unprecedented times. This will also improve lines of communication and avoid creating any unhelpful narratives or misunderstandings.
Not Taking Breaks
Finally, there are often more distractions at home, for example, family members interrupting your workflow. It is difficult to remain focused 24/7. Be sure to give yourself regular breaks, so upon your full return to the office you feel revitalized and ready to work to the best of your ability.
Motivation, Routine, Structure & Focus
Owen also explained some effective strategies to optimize your productivity while working from home.
Focus on Your Motivation
Firstly, focus on your motivation. Explore what makes you feel motivated as there is no one size fits all solution. If you are motivated by deadlines and consequences of not completing your action, structure your schedule around milestones to increase your motivation while working from home. Others may be more motivated by the positive responses and feedback they received upon completing a project.
Create a Repeatable Routine
Next, it is critical to create a routine when working remotely. Set start and stop times for your day when you take breaks. Time triggers will help create healthy habits for each working day.
Take a Structured Approach
Create structure around your environment, as mentioned above, create a work-only space in your home and set yourself ground rules. For example, let your co-workers know when you plan to respond to their enquiries.
Work on Your Focus
Finally, if you are struggling to focus at home, create a time box strategy where you work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break. This is called the Pomodoro technique and is discussed extensively online.
Returning to The Office
As the world slowly starts to open, individuals are now starting to wonder what a return to the office means for them.
Many employees are anxious about their return to the office. A recent survey found that only 13% of employees want to return to the office full time, with many expressing concerns around safety. Owen shared some advice for individuals returning to their office after a substantial period of remote working only.
Owen suggested individuals try focus on the advantages of returning to the office. On the days you work from home, focus on the advantages of this option. This will help alleviate feelings of anxiety, while focusing on the benefits of both models of work. It is important to note it is natural and normal to feel anxious about returning to work and to express these concerns to your organization so they can better support its teams.