If you work at home some or all of the time, you’re likely more reliant on technology than ever before to communicate with your training team — the very technology that threatens to divert your attention from doing your most important work on a regular basis.
But if you work remotely, pings and dings from devices probably aren’t the only threat to your productivity these days.
Working from home introduces many other unique challenges that threaten to tank your productivity. If you’re a learning leader, you may be wondering how you can help your employees stay productive while working from home.
Here are four fundamental strategies to help:
1.) Clearly Define Business Hours — and Respect Them
If you lead a remote or hybrid training team, chances are that your team members are logging on to do their work at various times of the day. And if you work in a global company, then teams may feel they need to be connected at literally all hours of the day and night.
The problem is that when working from home, many people feel pressure to respond quickly or even immediately to any emails or other communications they receive.
But this contributes to burnout as workers are checking their smartphones around the clock so they “don’t miss anything important.” When you and your employees never truly disconnect from work, your brains don’t have a chance to rest and refresh, and symptoms of burnout, like irritability and negativity begin to set in.
Help your team members get the break they need — and stave off burnout — by clearly defining when each time zone’s work hours and when you expect them to be off the clock. The whole team needs to respect work hours in different time zones, and this requires a rock-solid and publicly-demonstrated commitment to work-life balance that starts at the top.
Encourage employees to schedule their emails to be delivered during the hours when their teammates are officially “on.”
Lastly, actively discourage team members from sending emails after hours and most importantly for learning leaders: Model this behavior yourself. Research shows this is not only harmful to the recipients but also to their loved ones at home.
2.) Model Work-life Balance
When working from home, it’s much easier to blur the lines between our professional and personal lives. However, research shows that productivity decreases after about 50 hours of work per week and plummets after about 55 hours. This means your direct reports need complete time off from the job to be their most creative, productive selves … and so do you.
Show your team that you take work-life balance seriously. This means that not only do you refrain from sending emails on weekends and after hours, but also you take all of the vacation time that you’ve accrued.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Time Off found that the majority of Americans had unused vacation time. When asked why they don’t take all their vacation, workers frequently report being afraid of the mountain of work that will greet them when they return.
Since the pandemic, with increased remote work and decreased travel, people are working more hours than ever. A study of 2,800 workers conducted during the pandemic found that 70% of remote workers are clocking time on weekends.
So, help yourself and your employees take a stress-free vacation (or at least a staycation) by assigning others to take over critical tasks while a team member is away. And when you’re on vacation, whatever you do, don’t check in with the office — not even for a few minutes. Try to fully disconnect to set a good example for your team members and to boost your productivity when you return to work. After all, you can’t get a fresh perspective on something you never step away from.
3.) Learn to Manage Your Attention
I hear from clients all the time that “if it weren’t for multitasking, I’d never get anything done!” But the truth in fact is just the opposite: You would get more done, at a higher quality. Multitasking is harmful to your productivity.
Did you know that when you shift your attention between tasks, it can take anywhere from two minutes to two hours to get back to what you were doing? This is why it’s common for people to have dozens of windows open on their desktop, and to spend their days jumping from one partly-done task to any number of other partly-done tasks.
While many interruptions we experience while working from home come from your own thoughts —”Oh! I forgot to feed the dog!”— many others come from your technology or from the people who share your space. So, how can you help yourself and your team members stay focused on what’s most important? It starts with Actively develop your attention management skills.
Attention management is a collection of behaviors that allows you to control where your attention goes, and reduce the tendency to have your attention taken away from you. Attention management offers the ability to consciously direct your attention in any given moment, to be more proactive than reactive, and to maintain control rather than inadvertently relinquish it.
When you put your attention management skills into practice, you will be able to control all types of distractions and optimize your attention to empower your productivity.
4.) Use a Workflow Management System
When an entire team or company uses the same workflow management system, they create a common language, similar to a sports team all following the same playbook. This exponentially increases the success of the team while proactively increasing engagement and job satisfaction.
While you can find many productivity tips from experts with a quick search online, there’s a huge difference in the results you can achieve when you use a system of strategies designed to work together.
A workflow management system can be especially useful for remote and hybrid workers, as it teaches the skills — and provides the system — for balancing professional and personal responsibilities.
If you use a workflow management system rooted in attention management, you will not only be more productive but also you will feel more energized and fulfilled.
Lead Your Remote Team to Success
Working from home presents unique challenges to productivity and overall work satisfaction. However, you can confidently lead your remote or hybrid training team to success by clearly defining business hours, modeling work-life balance, helping team members learn attention management skills and training your team to use a workflow management system.
Taken together, these strategies will ensure that you and your team members are not only maximizing your productivity, but that you enjoy working together — even when you are physically apart.