The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many of us to working from home. At first, virtual meetings can be exciting and liberating (who doesn’t like not having to dress for work!?), but if you’re anything like us, the novelty has definitely worn off. There’s the challenge of setting a background, finding a flattering angle, and making sure you’ve located the mute button, let alone actively listening and contributing to the discussion at hand. If you’re one of the 50% of employees globally who regularly works outside the office for 2.5 or more days a week, video conferencing is not just the new normal, it’s often mundane. If you find that your focus and productivity often suffers, reboot your enthusiasm with these simple techniques.
Why Working from Home is Different
The average employee spends 13 days a year in meetings. That’s almost two weeks of ‘Flagging up’, ‘Circling back’, and ‘Thinking outside the box’. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm and passion can wane. In fact, a study in the Harvard Business Review found that 71% of managers view meetings as unproductive. Having to work online from home rather than in the workplace, makes the relentless onslaught of meetings even more exhausting. The lack of structure at home – the change in dress code, rituals, and formalities – also takes some adjustment. Without that break between work and home, stress can even accumulate to the point where insomnia becomes an issue and impacts focus.
How to Stay Focused While Working
- Create an Office Environment – Many experienced mobile workers reclaim their schedule by ‘suiting up’ at home and dedicating a fixed area as their home office. Keep things tight and focused by sticking to a schedule, choosing a routine, and checking off tasks as they’re completed. The Pomodoro technique is a great way to boost productivity by breaking down work into 25-minute bursts (which is also great for parents who are juggling work, school, and entertaining the kids).
- Beat the Afternoon Slump – The post-lunch or mid-afternoon slump that strikes in your workplace can hit especially hard while you’re working from home. If you’re working on the couch or sitting up in bed, your body is particularly primed for an unexpected nap. Stay alert with a round of stretches or yoga to keep you feeling revitalized, boosting your endocannabinoid system in the process. Rather than reaching for another coffee, you can stay alert and productive with a Focus Shot, which gives you a focus boost and helps you feel productive for hours without any jitters or side effects.
- Minimize Distractions – It might feel that joining a scheduled video call interrupts your flow, but it’s important to be fully present during conversations. That means using active listening to focus on clear, useful goals, and allowing each person time to finish speaking without interruption. It’s also a good idea to put away your smartphone, close down any open tabs, and switch off notifications because these are all potential distractions. When it comes to refreshments, think about what you would do in the office. Bringing a cup of coffee or a cookie to a virtual meeting shouldn’t be too distracting but showing up for a call with a bowl of hot wings might be taking the “work from home” approach a little too far.
- Set an Agenda and Time Limit – If you’re the host of the meeting, help everyone maintain a sense of focus by limiting meeting participants where possible so that everyone can be actively involved. Set an agenda and a time limit so that each participant feels a sense of accomplishment as the meeting progresses. It can also help to open up the chat function of your virtual meeting platform to allow people to chime in with thoughts and questions that can be circled back without interrupting the flow of the conversation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has focused the spotlight on working from home, but virtual conferencing is likely to be a permanent solution in the future as jobs become more mobile. The trick is to make working from home work for you, and that means staying productive. Try these simple tips and you could be the star of your next video call.