As we plot our course for the evolving scenarios relating to our professional lives during and after this pandemic I took some time out recently to think about how I have personally been affected by the change. To put it into perspective my career to date has been one about interaction with people be it engaging with internal teams and colleagues or having an external physical presence with my clients and most recently over the past six years with the talented candidates that I have represented. Time management is integral in my daily workings to make certain that I use the time that I have effectively in order to achieve that elusive work/life balance. Sometimes I am a champion time manager and at other times my professional life overtakes my personal schedule through merely not adhering to my own timetable that I set for myself. Let’s fast forward to 2020 and this is where it gets interesting! 

We are all in this together experiencing lockdowns and varying levels of the lockdowns with business continuity arrangements in action like one day a week in the office as a team to full remote working from home. This takes flexibility in the workplace to an all-new level and with that highlights one’s ability to time manage their day effectively as the “work from home” scenario can if you allow it really encroach on your work/life balance you strive to achieve. Time management becomes more challenging when you’re surrounded by the many distractions of home. There are many distractions to be found when working from home: pets, kids, partners, snacks — all of which may be competing for your attention throughout the workday. Some of us overcorrect for these distractions, working longer and later into the night, a habit that can lead to faster burnout and low morale.

With many of us still adjusting to working from home for some professions, working from home may be here to stay. So with these distractions in mind, I thought about some tips to stay productive while working remotely, which I am now attempting to follow a little more rigidly.

Adjust your Expectations

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Don’t expect that the workday will look exactly the same when you are at home as when you are in the office, especially if you are sharing your home and workspace with other family members. Focus on outcomes, not input. My solution is to break down my allocated work block of time for the day into simple measurable categories: Admin/repetitive tasks | Internal meetings | Strategic work/writing (in the recruitment world this speaks for sourcing of top talent for our clients) | Meetings with clients/external stakeholders.NB: Take breaks!

Have you set aside office space for yourself?

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It’s important to create a boundary between your home life and your work life, even though the physical space might be the same. During the first lockdown, we (my household) were in the process of moving house (it took a while) and my ‘office’ space was affected by the upheaval of packed boxes and having to ask for the TV sound to be turned down when a call came through (it was a long 6 weeks). During the most recent lockdown thankfully we are now in our new home and my physical office space is set up for conducive “work from home” situations and at the end of my day I get to close the door behind me and work is then over.  Unless you are careful to maintain boundaries, you may start to feel like you’re always at work and losing a place to come home to. 

Top tips: Try to carve out space in your home dedicated to work. This can be a corner of the kitchen table, a desk in your guest room, or a chair in front of a sunny window.

Use technology tools to help

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The best tool to help manage your time is your calendar. Instead of just using your calendar as a way to schedule events, be proactive about how you need to structure your day. It is advisable to block off time so you can get your work done, set parameters for when you are available to meet with team members, clients, or other parties, and allow for flexibility should it be business-critical. Manage everyone’s expectations in your business by sharing your calendar to truly give yourself the time to get work done. NB: Don’t forget to track a personal calendar to make certain you are giving yourself “me” and “family” time.

Burnout! What is burnout?

This risk is a biggie and something which we have all experienced at some point in our lives and for workers under normal conditions, this can be exacerbated when working from home. If we are at home 24/7, there’s an increased assumption that we should respond immediately no matter the time, and people are putting in many more hours than they did at the office. A suggestion to prevent burnout with your team if you are a manager/leader is by creating a “boundaries agreement” with your team to clarify your expectations around availability, working hours, and response times to enhance collaboration and communication. It is also sensible to share your boundaries with those who are cohabiting your space, such as your partner, roommate, or family members which will help ease any guilt around trying to be always-on while still juggling caregiving, homeschooling, and other responsibilities. NB: Take Breaks!

There is no way to sugarcoat the fallout from Covid-19 as we are entering an era of unprecedented disruption and likely also a structural reshaping of globalisation and of many political-economic systems that will impact both customer behaviour and business models. We as a recruitment business witness the change of customer behaviour and business models daily across many sectors from small business to corporate New Zealand and with the agility of our business, we are adapting and finding new ways to work whilst also developing new skills. Through the changes of 2020, I have personally honed/improved upon my technology and digital skills which through the use of the various platforms at my disposal has allowed me and our business to adapt effectively. It’s not all doom and gloom as it is good to take stock at times and go back to basics to reshape and evolve. My personal takeaways: Learn to manage your time effectively; learn to take time out of your busy day and learn to make time for you and your family.