As COVID-19 struck and many organizations sent most or all of their staff home to work remotely, many worried their employees would lose productivity, focus and engagement. But many have found that workers maintained — or even improved — levels of engagement and productivity.
For example, in a survey of 120 company executives, 44% said productivity improved when employees switched to remote work, according to PwC’s U.S. Remote Work Survey, published in June. Among the 1,200 employees surveyed, 43% said their productivity stayed the same, and 28% said they were more productive while working remotely.
In other polls of 600 U.S.-based remote workers conducted from mid-March through May, researchers found that even though workdays grew 10% to 20% longer than before the pandemic, these same workers reported at least a 10% reduction in stress levels, negative emotions and task-related conflicts, as well as about a 10% improvement in self-efficacy and an ability to pay attention to work.
Many organizations have decided that, once life returns to normal, they’ll keep large numbers of employees working remotely. According to PwC’s survey, 55% of executives intend to extend options for office workers to work from home at least one day a week once COVID-19 is no longer a concern, while 72% of employees surveyed said they’d like the option to work away from the office for at least two days a week.
This new work paradigm offers you, as an existing employee or someone looking for a new job, an opportunity to show that you’re a dependable worker who can stay engaged with team members and take initiative to meet deadlines and solve problems. You can thrive as a remote worker and be prepared for future roles by adopting smart strategies that will help you stay engaged and productive. Consider the following eight strategies:
[Read: Tips for Using Zoom Conferencing]
Don’t Just Communicate … Overcommunicate
Don’t limit yourself to scheduled or required check-ins with your supervisor or with team members outside of scheduled calls. Make it your practice to regularly email or instant message them about your progress toward meeting goals. Perhaps it’s a daily email with a chart assessing how you’re progressing on each deadline. Discuss with your boss whether it’s too much communication and adjust accordingly. Overcommunicating is better than keeping anyone guessing about a project’s status.
Without face-to-face interaction and reminders, it will be up to you to prioritize your workload and complete projects on time. If you find this is difficult, schedule a biweekly check-in with your boss or your project team so you can review and set your agenda.
Say No to Distractions
Distractions are a big productivity-stealer for remote workers. In fact, about one-third of 327 professionals working from home polled in a May 2020 Valoir survey, said the No. 1 distraction is social media. To avoid this and other tempting distractions, start your day by creating a schedule of projects or tasks to be done at specific times. Then, stick to your plan. If you just can’t help yourself, check out software — such as the Google Chrome extension StayFocused — that lets you set time limits on certain websites and blocks your access after time’s up. Additionally, tell your roommates, friends and family when you’ll be free and when it’s off-limits to contact you. Try a white noise machine that reduces distracting noises.
Return phone calls and emails promptly or as soon as feasible. Since you don’t have the luxury of casual in-office conversations, to say, “Hey, I’ll have that for you by tomorrow,” send an email that states when you’ll be able to respond if you need more time to prepare information. Be attentive to co-workers’ calls, emails and chats.
Adhere to Remote Work Culture Etiquette
Even though it’s not uncommon to see kids and pets make an appearance on video calls, do your best to create a separate, professional workspace in your home. If your job will require you to video chat with customers or colleagues, make sure you create a background that is organized and as close to looking like an office or professional space. Also, it’s always smart to dress appropriately. For example, if you’ll be on camera, choose a button-down or polo shirt versus a tank top or your bathrobe.
Be a Team Player
Physically, you’re on your own working from home. But when you run into project stopgaps or encounter technical or software problems, you shouldn’t feel that you have to figure it all out alone. Take the initiative to consult with other team members or project owners to navigate around issues or find additional resources. Keep contact information for tech help at your fingertips. This way, when your virtual private network, email, access to shared documents and other corporate productivity software fail, you can quickly take the initiative to find a solution. This is a good way to ensure you stay productive and show your boss you can think quickly on your feet.
Get a Life
In Owl Labs’ 2019 State of Remote Work study, remote workers polled said they logged more than 40 hours per week, 43% more than on-site workers. Carving out some leisure time to enjoy nonwork activities can enhance your work life. As a remote worker, it can be tempting to extend the workday into off-hours or not use all your vacation time. Make leisure time a priority to improve your work-life balance. It’s good for you and your job.
Unhappy? Speak Up
Discuss issues as they arise instead of letting them build up to the point where it’s harder to address them. Before you quit and face an uncertain employment future, give your boss an opportunity to meet you in the middle. Fortunately, organizations are implementing post-hire surveys and other solutions to gauge engagement with their employees.
The pandemic has changed — and will continue to transform — how businesses, organizations and institutions operate. Even after the COVID-19 crisis subsides, many organizations are expected to keep some remote workers at home. Take steps now to become a more effective remote worker, and that will boost your value to employers.
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Tips to Stay Engaged as a Remote Worker — Now and After the Pandemic originally appeared on usnews.com