The following is a guest article by Erin Wabol from Agency Ten22
As we begin a new year, remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. For many people working remotely, one of the biggest challenges is staying productive amid distractions and isolation at home. Time management and other survival skills are essential. The experts tell us to set specific goals for each day, prioritize work and adhere to a consistent structure. Sounds simple enough, but keeping the commitment is not always easy. In our experience, it requires discipline and ongoing connection with coworkers.
I recently had an opportunity to connect with long-time colleagues, clients and friends to talk about the challenges of remote work and explore ways to stay productive and avoid burnout. Beth, Shane and Jacklyn weigh in here with some helpful tips.
Wabol: How do you draw a boundary between work and home life?
Beth Friedman, Founder and CEO, Agency Ten22: Though remote work is not a new concept for our firm, we’ve experienced challenges during the pandemic. Drawing a boundary between work and home life can be difficult, even for a veteran virtual team. It’s important to be respectful of your own time while working to meet business commitments. Set home-life time away from the phone and computer. And let the team know your schedule. During the past year, people have become more flexible and respectful of personal boundaries.
Shane Johns, Senior Marketing Specialist, MRO Corp.: Before the pandemic, my office was a safe, creative space with no distractions. Now, balancing work and home life requires more discipline. I set priorities, make a list of projects to be completed, and establish concrete tasks and time frames. This helps to avoid overwork and allows flexibility.
Jacklyn Walling, Marketing Director, Book Zurman: Like a lot of folks working at home, I often feel that I work all the time. Creating work-life balance is absolutely critical. Here are four tips that I find helpful:
- Get outside often
- Have at least one meal away from the computer
- Take breaks physically and mentally
- Shut the computer down at night
Wabol: Managers and their team members are constantly facing new challenges. Talk about your experience and solutions you’ve found to be effective.
Friedman: For all managers, it’s helpful to fine-tune delegation skills and embrace flexibility. For marketing managers specifically, here are a few suggestions:
- Stay engaged with the executive team. Participate in meetings, brainstorm and stay abreast of the market.
- Connect with the sales team and work in lockstep to find new ways to generate leads. Keep prospects and customers engaged.
- Look at what other industries are doing—expand creative ways to support the sales team.
- Keep in touch with media.
Johns: One of the biggest challenges is maintaining ease of communication and collaboration. Before going remote, our manager’s office was located near everyone on the team so it was easy to connect informally and often. We’ve adjusted to connecting virtually, but communication in person is invaluable.
Walling: As a marketing director, I interact with an executive team and many subject matter experts. Managers need to remind people of the bigger picture, other than menial tasks, to encourage meaningful work. For example, a weekly Zoom meeting helps people adapt and stay connected.
Wabol: What are some support practices or routines to avoid burnout?
Friedman: Finding time for self-care is so important, yet hard to do. I take walks to break up the day and also devote time to volunteer activities outside of family and work life.
Johns: When working at home, some people tend to overwork. It’s helpful to create and stick to a schedule. Know when to start your day and when to clock out—learn to balance flexibility and discipline.
Walling: Seek out friends and supportive resources. Be kind to yourself. Some people are naturally disciplined with schedules, while others need time to pivot and adjust. Establish a routine, take breaks often and engage in activities that don’t feel like work.
Wabol: How do you stay connected with people outside of work and support each other? Advice for others?
Friedman: Generosity is a central theme of my life. I enjoy engaging and supporting others. Go to your contact list, Facebook or LinkedIn and reach out to professional peers. Attend virtual events. Network with people you would normally see only once a year.
Johns: We message each other often. Ask team members how they’re doing, how their families are doing. Play online games with friends and family. Engage in video chat or FaceTime games.
Walling: I call friends and colleagues, set up Zoom calls and send video messages. Use LinkedIn beyond professional purposes. It’s a great way to stay connected, strengthen relationships and share feedback regarding content strategy.
Wabol: How can managers support their remote teams?
Friedman: We have weekly video calls that mix business with fun things on the lighter side. It’s important to recognize the reality of a difficult time, ask how people are doing and share supportive messages.
Johns: Our manager is available for one-on-one connection, with an open-door policy even without a physical door. Specific ideas? Offer to help with projects, be lenient and flexible with time, and provide tools needed to succeed on the job.
Walling: Managers need to be disciplined about checking in with people to ask what they need. What works best for you? What makes you feel connected? How can I help? Empathy and understanding matter more than ever.