In the fall of 2020, the world of work as we knew it in Quebec was turned upside down by a global pandemic. The effect of COVID-19 was to rush companies into teleworking, otherwise known as telework. Zoom meetings, pyjama days, the intrusion of the workplace into our family environment: the transition of work from the office to the home has left many shaken.
What is the situation today ?
While it may have been a bit of a misfit at first, some workers are getting used to it and today’s workforce is learning to take advantage of working from home as much as possible. While most of us can now return to our workplaces, many will choose to stay at home and take advantage of teleworking.
This abrupt change (literally overnight) has caused many workers to question what it means. Even today, telework brings many questions about its merits.
What jobs can be done by teleworking ?
The pandemic will have shown that, in a hyper-mediated world, a large proportion of jobs are achievable from home. Our computers and screens allow us to stay connected, no matter where we are in the world, and to carry out a variety of tasks without the need to be physically present in a common workplace. Various techniques can be implemented to enable teleworking for a variety of occupations.
Disadvantages of teleworking
Teleworking, like office work, can have some disadvantages and is not suitable for everyone or for all types of jobs. Among other things, teleworking can lead to isolation, a blurred distinction between work and private life, or the presence of distractions at home (children, pets, delivery people, television) that are usually removed from the workplace.
Moreover, there are several cybersecurity issues related to teleworking that need to be anticipated: malware infiltration or cyber-attacks are all the more common if you use your personal equipment (even if this should also be secured to the maximum). In order to avoid any risk related to BYOD (bring your own device), your employer should provide the required hardware and use a VPN (virtual private network).
But teleworking also brings several benefits: for some, it is easier to concentrate at home than in the office and it avoids costly and time-consuming travel. This is one of the reasons why, on the eve of a return to “normal” life, many companies are deciding to allow teleworking for a few days, combined with a presence in the office, thus favouring a hybrid formula that could well suit the vast majority.
When will telework end ?
Teleworking is probably not going to end anytime soon, which is why it is important to have a sound and sustainable teleworking policy! For many, telework is beneficial and fun. However, on a more pragmatic level, if work standards apply in the office, they should, as much as possible, also be respected at home, whether it be in terms of working hours, workload requirements or the nature of the work environment.
So, while at home there is nothing to stop you from having a glass of wine around 4 pm or starting the day in your bed in your pyjamas, how do you make teleworking a pleasant and productive “place” to work?
How to optimize productivity when teleworking ?
Each person is different. The threshold for productivity varies from person to person and according to the mental state of the person. Moreover, since teleworking has taken over the lives of workers, there seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to finding the optimal way to work from home: there are those who try as much as possible to replicate the work atmosphere at home, and those who take advantage of the fact that they perform their duties in the comfort of their own home.
In our case, we will opt for an in-between position in order to offer you solutions to optimize your teleworking productivity:
- Establish a teleworking routine that is similar to your office routine so that you don’t overload your day and still remain productive. The advantage of teleworking is that your schedule can be a little more flexible (depending on your field), but don’t abuse the flexibility of a teleworking arrangement or you’ll underperform. Try to keep the same set hours as if you were physically coming to work and the same lunchtime. The danger of working in your personal space is also that you don’t know how to stop, whereas in the office, at noon, everyone eats and at 5 pm, everyone shuts down their computer!
- Therefore, set alarms or remind yourself to take breaks. Of course, at your workplace, you have conversations with colleagues at the printer, go for coffee, etc. All informal moments when you’re not working, but you won’t have them when you’re home alone! And take advantage of your established break times to do things you might not normally do at the office, like go for a walk, do a meditation, go for a bike ride or read a chapter of a novel.
- Set up a separate work space from your personal living space. By separating sections of your home, you can ensure that you are productive when you need to be and more relaxed when you need to be. This way, you can work efficiently when you need to without dragging the stress and worries of your professional life into the living room!
- Here again, the two schools of thought clash: work in pyjamas or dress more conservatively? Some choose the in-between “shirt and pyjama bottoms.” Regardless of whether you feel more productive in your workout clothes or in a jacket, we suggest you wear comfortable clothes. No one is at their most productive when they feel tight or uncomfortable in their clothes!
- If you need to make sure you eliminate distractions (e.g., childcare if possible, or putting your phone away), you might as well take advantage of the more flexible atmosphere made possible by teleworking. You could make work fun by listening to soft music, lighting a candle, making yourself a cup of tea, etc.
- If you plan to telework for a long time, a good way to be more productive is to invest in the ergonomics of your workspace. Make sure you have a good comfortable chair, a keyboard at the right height, a source of natural light nearby, etc. Being able to look away, being comfortable, having good light and being surrounded by beautiful things will encourage you to be more productive.
- To counteract the loneliness that can result from your teleworking situation, make sure you keep in touch with your colleagues. Video conference calls and chat tools are great ways to communicate with your team and can help you stay productive by clarifying any questions you may have about your work or simply to give yourself a beneficial break.
- When teleworking, it is even more important that expectations from superiors to employees are clear and defined in advance. Your tasks and responsibilities, especially at a distance, must be marked out so that you know exactly what to do and when to do it. With the intermediaries that are added to human relations in telework (telephone, video conferencing, texting, e-mail, etc.), any ambiguity should be avoided.
- This tip is about the basis of productivity in telework (even in the office): it is very useful to make a to-do list so that you don’t forget anything and deliver everything in the time allowed. At home, you can be more focused, but also more distracted! In addition to not being surrounded by your work environment where everyone is busy with tasks related to yours, it becomes easier, unfortunately, to forget certain tasks.
- As a CEO or manager, the best thing you can do is to support your employees in a healthy transition to teleworking. Offer recognition when your employees deserve it, take the time to listen to them, get your opinion on your telework arrangement and create a company culture that will make them motivated to work for you, even remotely. If your employees feel valued, their performance will increase tenfold, even when teleworking. A strong team can grow from any change.
In short, there is no recipe for being productive when teleworking. You have to get on with it and think about what is not working so well in order to deliver optimum performance and feel good about yourself. Telework has not so much created a problem as it has revealed the underlying shortcomings of a system more or less adapted to contemporary individuals. That is why the motto of this article is: take care of yourself! Be good to yourself in order to get the most out of your telework experience. Call your friends and colleagues, do some sport, clear your mind by working outside, change the scene from time to time (coffee shops, work dates, etc.), get a good night’s sleep, don’t burn out at work, etc. It’s all in the balance, and with our tips you’ll be hyper-productive while teleworking!
Play for yourself and create the optimal conditions for your good performance for the company. And don’t be afraid to talk to your team: everyone has their own tips for increasing productivity at home! Your environment has a lot to do with this balance of well-being and productivity: the two influence each other more than you think.
Do you know the risks of teleworking and the good safety practices to put in place and respect?