Psychologists’ Advice as to How to Work Effectively from Home 

Owing to the new life situation in which we find ourselves, more and more people are working remotely.  Employers and employees worldwide are learning and establishing new protocols for working from home.   In order to keep the economy going new and innovative ways need to be found to maintain continuity.

The importance of maintaining continuity is also important for individuals who may be somewhat isolated.  There are people who are used to working from home and even enjoy many leisure activities like playing at an EasyBet Casino from the comfort of their homes.  But, switching to an economy where the majority of people are working remotely will not be easy for everyone.

It could be that you are used to working remotely, this may be your usual practice. However, the current situation we find ourselves in is far from normal.

According to Ravi Gajendran, a professor of management at Florida International University and reported by the American Psychological Association, “Even if you’re a regular remote worker, this is not a normal time.  The first thing to recognize is that work itself may feel different than before.”    The difference is that many of these workers may have children that are now at home and need looking after.  They may also be feeling insecure and worried about their job security and money as well as health issues concerning all their family members.   Gajendran goes on to say “Leaders need to recognize that employees are going through a lot. It’s not just work as usual but done remotely – it’s work done remotely while dealing with what may feel like an existential crisis.”

If we look at psychological studies, we can gain insight into how best to work from home for newbies as well as those who are experienced at working remotely but now are having to deal with additional demands.

According to Timothy Golden, Industrial/Organizational Psychologist at the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York “This is a watershed moment for telework.  Its popularity has been growing for years – and the urgent need brough about by this pandemic offers us the opportunity to learn from earlier lessons to continue to work productively through the crisis.”  He goes on to say that “It’s not a time to panic, but rather a time to harness the lessons we have been learning and to put them to good use.”

Below are some useful pointers which should help managers and employees to work more effectively in our current situation. 

Limit distractions 

In order to work effectively from home, it is important to have a separate work space, away from the other activities going on in the home.  Preferably with a door so that you can really distance yourself and fully engage with work tasks that need to be carried out. It would be useful to discuss the issue fully with family members to establish some rules concerning noise and break times and also to discuss when it is okay to be interrupted during work periods.

Living alongside a pandemic causes more stress than usual and it can be difficult to stay focused. Make sure to organize downtime in order to recharge, maybe going for a walk or doing some other form of exercise.   Spending some time during the day to focus on why you are doing the work you do and how that is important to your clients and to your co-workers.   Gajendran offers the following example when he says “I’m now teaching my class online. This is not only an opportunity for my students to learn, but also a respite from the ongoing disruption of their lives – and a way for them to feel a sense of control.”

Gajendran also suggests that those who are also involved in childcare at the same time as juggling work should make sure that co-workers and managers are aware of this.  It is useful to plan times during the day when there are less distractions, perhaps early morning or late in the evening, to do the most important tasks.

Set daily goals and clear boundaries 

It is really important to set out exactly what you plan to accomplish each day and what your managers or supervisors are expecting from you.  It is useful to share this information with co-workers and also family members too.  Golden suggests that “Sometimes making public commitments to others about what you will accomplish that day helps hold you accountable.”    There have been studies done that show that as opposed to office-based workers, remote workers have a tendency to write-up more hours and there may be a “blurring of boundaries between their home and work lives”. According to Gajendran “When you’re working from an office, there’s a natural start and stop time. It’s important to have similar boundaries and routines for your remote work.”

It is important to have a schedule and stick to it as much as possible.  It is also important to stop at the end of your workday and refrain from checking emails and messages.  The workday has finished.

Sharing and communicating plans and other issues 

Communication all round is vital. Employees and Supervisors should be open and forthright about expectations and when problems come up.  If there are issues making it difficult to perform a task, perhaps a new work arrangement has been introduced or there’s temporary internet problems, these need to be communicated.

It is recommended that a plan be put together so that there is way set way of communication between co-workers and colleagues.   As Golden points out in the APA article, “One of the most overlooked aspects for managers of new telecommuters is that they do not work out specific arrangements for when and how communication will continue to flow.” And according to Gajendran “If you are sharing information, reports or analyses, email may be the bet way to correspond.  But if you’re working with a team to make sense of complex shared information, schedule a phone call or video conference to discuss. Using synchronous media will likely be faster and less prone to misinterpretation.”

Make social connection a priority 

Studies have shown that telecommuters, for instance, often feel isolated socially and professionally.  This is not the case with people who work in an office.   These feelings of loneliness get exacerbated as “social distancing” rules become more rigid and people are forced to not only work remotely but are cut off from their usual social support systems outside of their work.

In the American Psychologist Association article, Golden argues further that “While it might be tempting to think of yourself as an island working from home, telecommuters need to provide a social and professional support system to each other so that the social fabric that occurs in the corporate workplace is replicated as much as possible when working remotely.”

A possibility would be for managers and supervisors to provide opportunities for dialogue via telephone or video conferences so that employees feel supported and part of a team.  Another idea is for online messaging platforms to be created that offer exchange of news, office updates and personal sharing of information.

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