After 18 years as a telecommuter, I would characterize myself as a good virtual worker. However, recent shifts that focus employees towards on-site work have made me realize it might be time to challenge myself to think about how I might work more productively.
Working from home can lead to poor work habits. Here are some useful questions to help assess the way we work and come up with our personal virtual work fitness regimen.
Counting Wasted Calories – How am I really spending my time?
Like counting calories, simply keeping track will likely keeps us more focused on our work. Knowing how we spend our time makes it easier to tweak it in a positive way. We might apportion our time into categories such as: Uninterrupted, productive work; Thinking time; Connecting time; Administrative; yes, Distracted or unproductive work; Down time, breaks etc.
Setting a Weight Goal – How many hours do I want to be working?
Taking a look at the total number of hours we are spending “at work” is likely to reveal an imbalance, which could land on either end of the spectrum, i.e., too much time in the home office or too little time focusing on purposeful work. This allows us to set a goal for the number of hours in the work day. If time does seem in balance that confirmation is good to know too.
The Reward – What will increased productivity allow me to do?
It is useful to reassess what we are missing out on and what we can gain from an improvement in home work productivity. The incentive may be the accomplishment of work project goals or a promotion; job satisfaction; more time each week with our families or longer vacations; a three day work week or an early retirement.
Weighing In – How can I use peer/family support to help stick to the program?
Being accountable to others, especially people we care about, and sharing what’s working and what is not can be a valuable way to stay on track and get beyond good intentions.
Here is my list of things to pay attention to… What’s yours?
- Schedule all focused work activities in the calendar, not just meetings.
- Set the clock and commit to 45 minutes of focused work each hour and then take 15 minutes to do something else. Be strict about both.
- Never eat alone – using meal breaks to connect, network or recharge with others, whether in-person or by phone.
- Arrange social connection time with colleagues and clients inside of the work day.
- Arrange social connection time with friends and non-work activities outside the work day.
- Define each “work day” – allowing for flexible schedules with delineated work time.
- Avoid running in too many directions at once. Work on one project at a time while scheduling time each day to move all projects forward as needed.
- Set aside time for reading and research; make this a planned part of the work week.
- Schedule time for exercise.
- Get out of the house at some point every day.
- Set self-deadlines and stick to them; avoid expanding the work to fit the time available.
- Organize incoming emails into folders to do today, do this week or put aside.
- Let co-workers and family members know when you would rather not be interrupted – let them know a good time to connect with you.
- Schedule time in the day for bits and pieces including any emails you set aside for later.
- Keep a clean desk, PC desktop and email inbox
I remember the very good advice I was given when I worked as a consultant traveling 100% of the work week. The advice was to reassess the way of working every six months, in discussion with family members and with work colleagues. This has stuck with me and applies to being a virtual teleworker too. We don’t want to be second guessing ourselves every week, but a hard look at our work habits, goals and quality of life helps reconfirm our commitment to our work and ensures that we are getting all that we want to in our working day.
Posted by Editor