The Art of Staying Focused in a Remote Workplace
Graduate Student, Strategic Communication at Columbia University
Turbulent times like these often allow us to discover life’s simplest yet most profound ironies. Flashback to a pre-pandemic world — most people were fantasizing the idea of being able to work from home. For some of us, it meant a few more minutes of being wrapped in our fresh linen sheets and for others, it meant having unrestricted access to a fully-stocked fridge. This concept of working remotely seemed like an absolute blessing until it was no longer a choice. Fast forward, 90 days in, when we successfully ‘caught up’ on all the lost sleep, binge-watched a few too many Netflix shows, and indulged in all of our guilty pleasures, all that is left is a blurred line between work and home.
Let’s face it: Logging onto work calls in the contentment of our pajamas or loungewear is subject to the law of diminishing, marginal utility. For the majority of us, working remotely without a definite end for such a long period of time hasn’t been as effortless as we had imagined and requires a newfound discipline. After a long process of trial and error, I found two simple yet powerful ways to stay focused and productive when ‘no one is watching.’
1. Dress Up to Work Up
Believe it or not, the work-from-bed vortex is real. The good news, however, is that to prevent yourself from being sucked into it, you just need to start your day right. First and foremost, fight the urge to reach for your phone and catch up on emails the moment you wake up. Instead, engage in the act of getting ready as though you would for a regular day at work. While it might seem silly, the simple act of freshening up and wearing an outfit that suits your role can signal a mental shift from home to work mode for yourself and those around you. If you want to go one step further, you could walk out of your home once you’re ready for work and walk back in as though you were entering the workplace. Remember — visual reminders are immensely powerful in framing perceptions and boundaries.
2. Structure the Day
To successfully balance the various roles and responsibilities that demand your attention when at home, put a flexible but predictable routine in place. The first step is to schedule a set of solid working hours during which only appropriate exceptions are entertained. Don’t forget to include predetermined breaks for the essential recharge methods of your choice. The second step is to outline one or two crucial tasks, objectives or goals that you want to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis. This doubles down as an effective strategy for keeping yourself productive and accountable but also ensuring your contributions are concrete and meaningful to your manager and colleagues.
Last, But Not Least
Remember that in discipline there is freedom. Experiment and find your center and the balance will follow.