By Olga Dubanevych
One of the many challenges COVID-19 pandemic brought us was finding a way to stay productive. Of course, each person’s situation and circumstances are different. Some people had to homeschool their kids, others were laid off and looked for a job, and several had to change their career paths completely (for example, if they were employed in hospitality or civil aviation unfortunately), or if they had to work from home permanently.
While many received more “downtime”, first-respondents and some other essential service employees dealt with increased workload. The new reality made some people more productive and allowed them to work on endeavours they had not allocated time for before. Some were encouraged to launch new businesses, learn new languages, attend virtual conferences or renovate their homes. And some of us didn’t feel more productive and preferred to have well-deserved rehabilitation: spending quality time with family and concentrating on health and well-being. One in three office workers are less productive in their current work from home situation than they were in their usual workspace (32%). Everyone had their own unique experiences.
I should really dive into the factors that enhance our productivity in the pandemic. Exploring the underlying reasons for improved or poor performance during the pandemic is crucial for both individual employees and employers/organizations. Nearly half (48%) of office workers say their employer has a lot to learn when it comes to setting employees up for success as they work from home.
One of the major killers of productivity is distraction, coming from other people, pets, notifications on the phone. If you are working from home, it’s best to set up your working area in a place where you could close the door and be insulated from any noise. Advise people in your household of your schedule, especially of video conferences, so they know not to disrupt you unless it’s absolutely necessary. Another great idea for avoiding disruptions at work is placing your phone in your pocket or bag and turning off notifications to avoid any temptation to use it for social media scrolling or binge-searching. If possible, set up a time in your day when you will be checking and responding to your rising inbox, so that way you can tackle all e-mails in one sitting and don’t have to switch your attention between other tasks and e-mail. It’s also recommended to have only current / minimal tabs open to avoid unnecessary browsing online. An even bigger step on this would be to apply ad-blockers, so you see only the information you need, or setting up applications which allow you to use only particular sites and prohibit access to social media platforms in a given time frame.
While some people might feel proud that they can do so many things at the same time, it only creates the illusion of productivity, and this is something many “housewives” get made fun of – for being effective multi-taskers. In reality, we are simply moving back and forth between tasks through time leading to diminished focus, reduced performance and declining productivity. It’s scientifically proven that it takes time and energy from our brain to switch in between various tasks, like checking an e-mail or responding to a text message while completing a report. If you are working from home, there is also the big temptation to do household chores, like cooking and cleaning or taking care of kids, which can be very cathartic, frankly. The most efficient solution here would be to dedicate a particular time slot for each task and keep focused on a single assignment or chore at a time. Otherwise, there is too high a risk of getting tired quickly and not being able to complete anything.
Good communication is becoming even more critical now than ever. In a situation when the majority of people have to work from home, it’s important to make sure that everybody in the organization stays on the same page and knows what their focus should be. It can be challenging to produce meaningful outcomes and reach required milestones without knowing what the next steps should be or how the final results might look. Collaboration tools such as dashboards, messengers, project management applications, shared access to documentation and drives, help ensure that everything is on track. Understanding the immediate impact of our work (measuring progress) helps us to see the value in it (metrics), improves the motivation and overall performance. Besides, it allows us to prioritize and ensure no important tasks were missed. Another less-prevalent aspect of effective communication is helping people to feel engaged and united by fostering community and collaboration.
This helps to provide clear instructions on the role an employee plays, what goals they’re expected to meet and how they can remain a critical part of the team. Collaboration tools create a culture of accountability and encourage employees to stay motivated, while getting to know their colleagues better. This would not only show the employee’s value but also demolish barriers in communication and allow us to reach out for advice, help or recommendation. So, needless to say that proper communication is one of the core stones of productivity, especially when in-person interaction is limited.
It’s difficult to achieve great results without proper motivation, especially when everybody has so much on their plate. Such feelings as uncertainty, fear, informational overload might be the leading causes of procrastination. It’s important to remember that simply worrying doesn’t change anything, and only takes away valuable time and energy. The best strategy here would be to acknowledge your feelings and concentrate on what can be changed and the actions needed for that. This would help to cope with anxiety and boost motivation, since it would be clearer what the next steps should be.
While it’s important to be informed, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to check every single news release, speech by authorities or articles. Information overload especially during the pandemic was incredible. It’s best to stick with a few trusted resources. Our brain has a limited capacity and can’t process so many things at a time. So, we should leave some room for creative ideas that motivate us and improve the productivity.
Thinking about the end-game or desired outcomes and how great would you feel seeing your goals accomplished also ignites the desire to act, to get closer to your dreams. It would provide greater meaning to the steps you take along the way, lowering your likelihood to delay.
In times of uncertainty, it might seem too complex to achieve ambitious goals like launching a new business, re-thinking your e-commerce strategy and engaging your customers online, writing a book or learning an additional language. Overly ambitious goals can be intimidating lowering your motivation and increasing procrastination. However, a dream with a well-developed strategy plan becomes an achievable aim. Let’s not forget that the path of a hundred miles starts with the first step. If we concentrate on one action, one day at a time, big goals will look accessible.
COVID-19 triggered mental health issues. According to Statistics Canada, recent immigrants responding to a crowdsourced survey were more likely to report symptoms consistent with moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) more often (30%) than established immigrants (21%) or Canadian-born participants (26%).
Recent immigrants responding to a crowdsourced survey were more likely to report symptoms consistent with moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) more often (30%) than established immigrants (21%) or Canadian-born participants (26%).Statistics Canada
It is no secret that even if we have enough time, without energy we can’t accomplish anything. To stay productive, we need to take care of our health and mind. At the top of this checklist is having enough sleep. Humans are the only living creatures who voluntarily deprive themselves of sleep, and nature doesn’t offer our bodies a coping mechanism to battle the sleep deficiency. Physical activities help blood circulation throughout the body, delivering more oxygen to our brain. Therefore walks, exercising, maintaining your body leads to better intellectual capacity and productivity.
Another important pointer is drinking enough water. Water constitutes up to 80% of our bodies. Keeping a proper hydration level makes you feel well and prevents fatigue through dehydration or illness. You will definitely see a good return for ingesting enough liquids. Likewise, cold and sporadic 30-second showers could boost your energy levels, making you feel more awake and pepped up.
Making a little pause in between big and important tasks helps you remain productive. A great idea after a long working day would be treating yourself to something you like, whether it’s a walk, chocolate or sweets, chatting with your friends or a nice YouTube video. Having something you look forward to in your day benefits your mental health, allowing you to unwind from the routine, filling your body, soul and mind with positive emotions and productivity.
Nearly half (48 per cent) the respondents reported needing some form of mental health support, either from family members, friends, coworkers or mental health professionals. Nine per cent reported needing support, but not having sought it.Megan Delare, Toronto.com
Taking care of yourself also means reaching out for help when needed, whether it’s for career-related advice, resources for homeschooling, mentorship or mental health support. We shouldn’t feel shy or embarrassed to ask for assistance. Megan Delare’s article reports that seven months into the pandemic, nearly half (48 per cent) the respondents reported needing some form of mental health support, either from family members, friends, coworkers or mental health professionals. Nine per cent reported needing support, but not having sought it.
Proper planning and prioritizing
Proper planning reaps productivity. The energy we have each day is limited, and we don’t want to waste it simply trying to decide what we should do and chaotically switching between tasks. One of the things that helps me personally is planning my day the night before. Doing that helps to jumpstart the next day easier and faster, so you don’t have to worry about what should you wear, or if there is an important document you should take to work on or trying to find your keys when you already have them by your lampshade. When you make all decisions the night before, we can use our full energy for doing the work.
Planning also helps us work on long-term goals. There are lot of daily administrative things which we all have to do, and they all might be urgent and important. But if we don’t assign some time to think about the big picture, to work on something non-urgent but really important, we risk drowning in the river of daily routine, losing focus without knowing why we move forward. While you may need to respond to an important email to a client urgently, you may never launch a new business, learn another language or upgrade your education if you don’t make time in your day for special projects.
Dedicate blocks of time for deep, creative work, like writing a proposal, article, working on a business plan or launching a webinar. At this time, you must not be disturbed. It is best to select that part of the day when you feel most productive and energetic. All administrative tasks and meetings could be grouped together at other times of the workday. It’s also important to plan some time to take care of yourself, stay in touch with your relatives and friends.
Olga Dubanevych is an Agent at Bill Gosling Outsourcing, is passionate about new technologies and marketing experiences, and has published a book of poems in her college years in her hometown in Ukraine.