As we bravely face another month of shut-down in many parts of the country, working remotely has become the norm. And while it may have taken some adjustments in the beginning, with a few weeks of practice, you’ve likely found a set-up that keeps you focused.
Many professionals prefer commuting to an office where they can have face time with colleagues and management, but others may actually thrive in a working-from-home environment. If you’re part of the latter group, you may consider asking for a more flexible arrangement after the pandemic has passed. To win their approval, you’ll need to prove your productivity when you’re not in the office. Though, hey, you’re already doing that, there are ways to illustrate your success and effectiveness. Here, career experts explain the best practices to implement into your routine:
Be honest about your time
Part of the struggle of plugging away remotely is accountability. No one is there to ensure you sign on at a particular time, complete your deliverables, and stay present. While some people go to the extreme and work around the clock, the senior vice president of People Strategy at Vettery, Samantha Friedman, says it’s better to be transparent and reliable. And sometimes, this means sharing that you have a conflict—even if it’s wrangling your children to eat, take a bath and get to sleep. “If you don’t have the answer or the bandwidth right away, that’s ok. Be sure to respond and communicate your timeline clearly,” she explains. “If you are unavailable at certain points in the day, mark it in your calendar and change your status on Slack, Gchat, and so on, so others know where you are and when to reach you.” When you are candid about your life, you build trust with higher-ups, and they understand they can count on you, to be honest.
Use to-do lists to your advantage
Rather than battling sleep for an hour, do you sometimes get up and write a list, so it’s out of your head? It helps, right? To remain present during working hours, career expert and keynote speaker, Carla Isabel Carstens says to make this old-fashioned technique part of your modern-day routine. They also help you to prioritize what’s urgent and what can wait a few days. It also creates a safety measure, so you don’t let anything slip through the cracks while your healthy professional life is disrupted. “Lists give you a clear outline of what needs to be done. Without them, tasks will just keep piling on, and not necessarily handled most effectively and efficiently,” she continues. “Your list will just become a source of anxiety, rather than a source of structure.”
She recommends making a list at the end of your day for the following day. When you wake up, you’ll know what needs your attention—even before you’ve had your first sip of coffee.
Use collaboration tools
Shea Keats’s company, Breakaway Bookkeeping and Advising has been 100% remote since day one. This policy has forced her to get creative with workflows and processes that encourage and foster productivity. She encourages companies and individuals to invest in a digital tool, like Asana, that keeps everyone engaged. “Work management platforms help to illustrate our productivity by assigning actionable, specific tasks with clear deadlines and deliverables. Utilizing this system, everyone knows what to expect, what is expected of them, and when it is due,” she continues. “The platform also provides my team with robust capabilities, easy to build templates and easy communication with my colleagues. Being able to check in on where a team member is on a project without having to bother or pressure them is hugely helpful in measuring productivity.”
Provide regular recaps and updates
What worries most executives and managers is the ability to track projects from afar. Since they have to report to someone as well, they don’t want to be left hanging at the last minute, without anything to show for. This can cause some to micromanage, which typically only infuriates most professionals. Instead, industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert, Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., suggests providing regular recaps to ease nerves. As she puts it, you can create a simple table with the task, anticipated due date, and date completed. “This approach lets your boss know that you understand what you are required to do and keeps him or her aware of where you stand on your respective assignments,” she shares. “You might even keep a running list of tasks in the order of priority and ask her to shift them to a different order if needed.”
While multitasking is always a threat to your work, it’s even more so during a quarantine. After all, so many areas of your home beg for your attention: your couch, your kitchen, your backyard or patio, your children, your partner… and the list goes on. That’s why the chief brand and engagement officer at EHE Health Joy Altimare recommends trying even harder to cut back on this habit to prove your productivity. The best way to master this is to time block your schedule, including breaks for food and segments where you dedicate your attention to personal tasks, too. “Knowing that it takes fifteen minutes for your mind to refocus when you switch tasks, try your best to avoid multitasking as it limits my ability to be the most efficient with each task,” she adds.
Send out a weekly progress email
Go a step further to keep your superiors in the loop by creating a weekly update email. Carstens says this should include your top five accomplishments, what you’re working on currently, and what’s on the pipeline for the near future. “Your email doesn’t have to be a novel, just highlight the mid-to-large scale things you finalized,” she shares. “It may not be an entire project. Rather, it may be something as simple as finishing the first draft of a monthly client report, or compiled and organized imagery that had previously been saved in random folders, making it difficult for your team to access files quickly.”
To make it seamless, consider a Google Doc with a rubric, so it’s easy to access and update. You can also use it as a way to keep up with your deliverables. “This simple email clearly shows your boss that you’re staying on top of your work, especially when you’re in a more senior position and don’t need to keep them in the loop of everything you do,” she adds.
Lindsay Tigar is a frequent contributor to Ladders News.