Remote Working from Home: The Insight of HR during Quarantine

Quarantine has been an unpredictable change in nearly all of our lives. Even the biggest of companies have had to close their offices & facilities practically overnight & rely on remote work to continue their operations. 

We gave our colleagues the choice to continue working in the office in accordance with all disinfection & isolation rules, but the majority took the conscious decision & moved to work from home remotely to minimize the risk of contamination.

Cooperation between dedicated international teams has long been familiar to our company. Our employees have excellent knowledge of remote job tools & principles. These principles and methods are well written on thematic resources.

Before quarantine came into effect, the vast majority of our employees worked from the office. Consequently, staff suddenly found themselves isolated working from home; burdened with family members & involuntary distractions. Homelife & work was blended together which certainly came as a shock & in need of assimilation.

In our company, 80% of our colleagues noted that their working day started earlier than usual, despite not having to commute, while also their working day finished way past the normal clocking off time. 

53 % admitted that their business hours had been disrupted when working remotely from home. 47% said there was a lack of physical activity, meanwhile, as many as 40% of employees reported having involuntary distractions, including being interrupted by family members.

As HR at the company, it was important for me to ease the transition of staff working from home while encouraging such suitable conditions :

  • a way to organize a comfortable workspace at home
  •  new ways to maintain warm & collaborative relationships with colleagues
  •  ways to cope with the blurred schedule, distractions & overtime, maintaining a work-life balance
  • ways to stay active & to avoid voluntary or involuntary distractions

 

In this article, I will share with you the “idea-pills” of the HR-Department here at Forma Pro. 

The problem: The Blurred limits of Working, Time, Distraction

When I started working remotely from home, it was difficult for me to understand what to do with eight to nine hours of work, which at home accounted for a third of the 24 hours spent in isolation. In the office there were clear working rituals – come to work, have a coffee, open any documents & tabs in the browser, messengers, list of tasks, etc. At home everything is completely different – on one computer display there can be both screens for work & my own life on another tab.

The office has the atmosphere of work as well as the ability to mingle among colleagues. Whereas at working from home, there is always that itching to do an extra chore, especially when the brain still has to put a «dopamine check» on the completed task – even on the most mundane tasks like washing dishes or doing laundry, & other involuntary distractions like raiding the fridge.

Advice Pill №1: Time Segmentation

The first place to start is to break up time into segments. Whether you want to work in the morning, in the evening, or at night, it is absolutely fine, but you should have a set time for the execution of work tasks.

Dividing time will help to establish some external dependencies, which will support your schedule with things like meetings, calls, & the working hours of colleagues with whom to maintain in constant contact with. 

Keep focussed here & the working hour frames will be easily identified. Disconnect work & housework completely because an excess of different activities during the day will ultimately take you more time to engage back into actual work.

Advice Pill №2: Sequence of Actions

The next step after segmentation is a sequence of actions. We are not multitasking as shifting from one task to another repeatedly reduces our ability to concentrate. It’s kind of like gypsy hypnosis – when under the influence of a lot of external impulses, at some point the victim loses the ability to concentrate on what’s going on and goes into a trance. That’s pretty much what happens to us when we start switching from tab to tab, from messenger to calendar, back & forth from task to task. 

The distribution of activities during the day will help with this inefficiency. For instance, in the morning check your mail, view the task manager, check messengers, then tasks. 

Advice Pill №3: Task Prioritization

Many tasks are a headache as it’s hard to know from which of them to start with. Without prioritization, the work will become chaotic while the tasks will become snowy. Therefore, what can be done quickly, do immediately.

When something is urgent or important, but you have to think about it – remember the ‘frog rule as toads jump from lily pad to lily pad. Jump on the small lily pads first with the larger pad in plain sight, or in layman’s terms, break a big & complicated task into sub-tasks, understand how to solve them & start the processing them.

Always keep in mind the main goal of the day, but get rid of the trivial jobs first & not the main task, because if not done first you’ll forget about the small jobs eventually leaving no time to resolve them. 

I like to put down on paper my priorities & planning. A pen & the brain are on the same team. Jot down one task at a time when working from home. If you see that one of them is very difficult, do your best to solve it. You could ask for help from a colleague who is also working remotely, then move on to another task. 

Advice Pill №4: Working with Distractions

To remove distractions from the workflow, have one work-browser & one home-browser. When this isn’t done, you will be forced to constantly trap yourself in the process of slipping down to simpler, but no less «dopamine» pleasures, such as shopping for a new pair of shoes or a fitness bracelet.

Of course, there are messengers. Do you use Slack or Discord for work? Telegram, Whatsapp, and FB Messenger will have to be closed otherwise notifications will distract you from the working from home mode, while taking away your attention, & causing annoyance because receiving a message is an easy source of dopamine & much more compelling than work.

What’s more about distractions & concentration. We can hold our attention on four to seven objects at the same time. More objects require switching from one to the other resulting in our inner monkey saying, “something important is missing,” but keeping attention even on five objects is mind-boggling, so take away all the extras from the table, from the room, from the browser, from life. Keep as few tabs open at once as possible.

Advice Pill №5: Hunger, Sleep & Other Means of Recovery

Sometimes the workflow when at home can be so engaging that you can find yourself 4-5 hours later starving, in need of the bathroom & still in your pajamas. And yes, every voluntary or involuntary distraction requires 10 to 30 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration, so sometimes you just want to stay focused until you get desperate. 

In addition, after working four or five hours in a row, you can run out of drive & find yourself needing a break. Attention to the question, what’s the bottom line when working from home, a four-five-hour job, or an eight-nine hour shift?

There is no clear answer here, as it depends also on what we do, but let such «clicking» be more a necessary compulsion than a daily rule. At least because 4-5 hours sitting in front of a monitor with no active motion is not physiological well at all for our body equalling a sedentary life. 

This is what we’ve been getting at, how to not let working from home take up too much space in our lives. What to do if it’s very interesting, but you see that you’ve been working remotely for more than 10 hours? Make a decision based on your own personal circumstances, but if it happens every day, the payback is unavoidable.

“We’re depleted! We need a shift in activity as we can’t bear the thought of working from home anymore because our hopes, dreams, desires are now non-existent.”  

A lack of enthusiasm with mounting frustration & longing, which people call «the syndrome of emotional burnout».

The Convenience of the Workplace

Having a quiet space set-up is essential for mental well-being & productivity when working from a remote location. Trying to avoid involuntary distractions can be a challenge, but stay concentrated on the task at hand.

Take some time to consider & digest the following ‘Advice Pills’:

  • Segment time, rebound from external factors; 
  • Define the sequence of actions; 
  • Prioritize, start with details, hop along with the «toad»; 
  • Eliminate distractions; 
  • Do not mix work with household chores (they are simpler and the temptation to do them instead of work is high);
  • Take breaks; 
  • Make the decision to work longer consciously but not every day; 
  • Remember the «dish for the brain»: every day in your life leave a place for sleep, physical activity, communication, relaxation, play and question to yourself «How are you doing, dear?» 

 

To finish, please never ever dine in front of the screen 🙂