Dad WFH Hero

Many of us have worked from home, at least on an occasional basis. But few were prepared to transition from in-office to remote work as abruptly as we did during the spread of COVID-19. Yet, here we are: the pandemic has thrust us into a situation tha's proving to be much more challenging than anyone expected.

It's common for newly remote workers to find it difficult to stay focused and productive. Those who live alone face the additional challenge of dealing with the effects of extreme isolation. On the other hand, people with families struggle with almost zero quiet time as they share limited space with house-bound kids and spouses.

When team members can't perform at full capacity, tasks take longer to complete and projects get delayed. If a colleague works at odd hours to accommodate a busy household, their colleagues may not get the information they need to perform their job in a timely manner. All of this creates a drag on productivity.

Over the past few months, we at Mitel have come to embrace the work-from-home culture, putting our unified communications technology to good use. In this time of social distancing, we've learned that embracing self-care and mastering virtual collaboration are the keys to getting our jobs done.

To help our customers and partners deal with isolation, work-life balance and productivity, we've gathered our best advice. If you work even a few of these tips into your daily routine, you'll be well on your way to a less stressful and more productive remote-work life.

Feeling isolated? Here's how to connect

Even those with spouses or children at home can suffer from loneliness. We miss interacting with friends, going to the gym or grabbing a bite to eat at our favorite restaurant. Not being able to go into the office, see our co-workers and engage with them face-to-face only adds to our sense of loss.

How can remote workers overcome their feelings of isolation? We recommend the following:

Video conference whenever possible.

Video conferencing is one of the most effective ways to maintain a face-to-face connection with your co-workers, and thus feel less isolated. In addition, video participants learn 200% more than with audio-only calls and absorb up to 40% more. That makes video conferencing good for our emotional state as well as our productivity levels.

Schedule working meetings.

Gather colleagues in a virtual meeting to collaborate on a project in real-time. With the ability to share documents on-screen, team members can provide instant feedback, brainstorm solutions to problems and apply their collective knowledge to fill in gaps. Shared workspaces, where employees can exchange files and documents, make collaboration easy – especially when working remotely. Team members can keep track of all work on a given project in one place and access it with one click.

Look for connections in your surroundings.

A simple walk in your backyard listening to the birds chirp can give you a sense of connection to the living world around you. Mitel's Regional Vice President Sue Anders makes it a point to do this periodically. Recently, she shared a photo of baby bird eggs in a nest and captioned it: "Change your perception of what a miracle is and you will see them all around you." Sue's LinkedIn feed includes more inspirational quotes and ideas to help you find joy and live in the present.

Schedule virtual connections.

If you plan for the times you're most susceptible to loneliness, you'll find it easier to avoid its trap. For example, if you're loneliest in the evening, be sure to schedule a call with a friend or family member.

Kids and spouses? Find that work-life balance

Even while you feel isolated from your friends and extended family, you may also find you can't get a moment's peace. Perhaps you and your spouse are sharing the only home office space, and you're distracted by their phone calls. Maybe your children are in constant need of your attention – either to help with virtual school or to act as a referee for yet another argument. Though it may seem impossible, there are ways to carve out some time for privacy.

Rearrange schedules (and stick to them).

One of the few perks of virtual school is that you don't have to follow the traditional school day precisely. If you need some quiet time for morning work calls, consider setting a schedule for your kids that puts some free time first, so you can participate in meetings without interruption. Alternatively, you may be able to adjust your working hours, logging some early morning or evening time that's quiet, productive and just for you. Once set, be sure to stick to the schedule you've created. Kids thrive on routine, and they're less likely to cause disruptions when they have clear boundaries set for school time, work time and playtime.

Use call recordings and mobile.

If you need flex hours to tend to your kids, a unified communications solution allows you to record calls. That way, if you need to step out of a meeting to help with schoolwork, you can catch up immediately by listening to what you missed. You can also bring your mobile phone with you if you need to take your kids for a walk so they can let off steam. Even though you're away from the house, you can still join in the meeting.

Create a designated workspace.

It's all too easy for the lines to blur between parent, employee and spouse. A designated workspace can help set boundaries. When you're in your "office", ask others to knock before entering. When you step out, be sure to leave the work behind. After all, it'll be waiting for you on your return.

Keep your kids socially active.

Social interaction is just as important for kids as it is for you. When they miss their friends and activities, encourage them to stay in contact through technology. You may very find less dissension within the ranks when they're able to have virtual play dates.

Single parents have the additional challenge of navigating these waters solo. For example, there's a greater chance their schedule may go out the window. You and your employer should keep in mind that communication and collaboration with your kids is just as important as it is with your co-workers. We have a special set of tips for single parents working from home to help manage it all.

For all parents, here are some additional tips to help you create a saner work-life balance.

Struggling with productivity? Say no more

Before the pandemic, employees often said they were more productive when they worked from home. Why? Fewer distractions and meetings. But as they share their home office with family and cope with the anxiety of COVID-19, workers find daily distractions are more plentiful. As a result, it's more challenging for them to stay productive.

Here are our top tips for staying on track and finishing that daily to-do list.

Carve out blocks of time.

It's hard to stay focused with so much whirling around you. Setting aside designated blocks of time to work can help. Time chunking (or time blocking) is when you turn off your email and other messaging apps to concentrate on a specific task or project. Eliminating distractions will help you to get the job done faster, and often with a better result. A recent study found that when people can block out interruptions, there's a 67% chance they'll feel like they had a successful day, compared to a 44% chance when they're interrupted frequently.

Create a to-do list.

Before signing off for the day, write up a list of what you need to accomplish tomorrow. When you have the workday mapped out in advance, you're more likely to stay on track and get things done. The same concept applies to meetings. A unified communications solution with an integrated agenda tracker will keep conference calls on schedule. You can even assign tasks to yourself and teammates, and track progress virtually.

Schedule breaks.

It's easy to lose track of time when you're working from home. Before you know it, you've been at your desk (or dining room table) for several hours straight. Many employees fear being too distracted by household tasks, like laundry. But the opposite is also true: we spend all of our time at our desk. That's why breaks are essential to productivity. Scheduling them into your day ensures you'll actually take a breather and prevents them from getting out of control. We recommend 15-20 minutes to recharge without losing sight of the work still at hand. And make sure your breaks include stress-free, fun activities.

Other tips, such as a daily digital detox and focusing on the positives in your day and life, can help alleviate today's overall stress and anxiety. We dig into these and other issues around the new work-from-home life in this post.

It's an anxious time for employees around the world, and we're all struggling to grapple with what comes next. The good news is that when it comes to your remote workday, there are things you can do to keep connections going, stay focused and be productive. The right combination of communications technology and daily habits can help you adjust to the new normal.

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