Tips and tricks for staying productive when working remotely

1 April 2020

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces agencies to move to remote working, keeping staff motivated and productive is essential, so your business can continue to run efficiently.

This article was updated on 31 March 2020. Although we endeavour to keep our coronavirus (COVID-19) content as up to date as possible, the situation is rapidly changing, so please ensure you refer to gov.uk for the latest advice and information.

With agencies now obliged to close in keeping with government legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many of your agents will now be working remotely. While working from home can be a nice change of pace and, for some, even boost their productivity, being away from the office - and your team - for extended periods can take its toll on your motivation. It’s important you and your team have some strategies in place to make sure they’re staying productive when they’re at home.

Act like you’re going into the office

You don’t have to sacrifice your entire morning routine just because your commute is from your bedroom to your kitchen and, indeed, you probably shouldn’t. So, when you’re working from home, stick to as much of your morning routine as usual: set an alarm, make a coffee, read the news, get dressed. “The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there's no reason that feeling should be lost when telecommuting,” suggests graphic designer and remote worker Anna Faber-Hammond.

Make sure you have a dedicated workspace

Maintain a distinction between your work life and personal life by setting up a dedicated workspace in your home. You don’t need a home office to do this, either: choose a spot in your home where you can set up a desk with everything you need to be productive - your laptop, phone, notebooks, pens, and any reference guides or books you need to refer to during your day. Having a dedicated workspace helps with the sense of “going into the office” each morning, and creates some mental distance when it’s break time or outside of work hours.

Take breaks and don’t overwork

Despite the myriad distractions of working at home, it can be all too easy to find yourself powering through your workday without a single break and, even worse, working well beyond your normal office hours. It’s important you’re still taking regular breaks, just as you would in an office environment, and physically moving from your desk - even if it’s just to make a cup of tea. Similarly, make sure you take a proper lunch break.

Up your levels of communication

Being away from your teammates can be a struggle for many and even take a toll on your productivity. In the office, you would check in with our colleagues and managers throughout the day, and it’s important to maintain this level of communication when you or your staff are working from home - to the point that it might even feel as though you’re over-communicating. Send regular updates to your team about what you’re working on and have regular check-ins - preferably by phone or even video chat. Make sure you have frequent catch ups with your manager, too.

Reward your employees

You can find ways to recognise your employees based on the company values that they represent and offer them an incentive to boost morale. Make sure that you have a structure in place for how the person will be nominated, and the type of reward. Rewards can also go beyond work performance; you can keep it light. Set up daily companywide challenges and competitions - such as best drawing of a house - with the winners chosen via general employee consensus.

Create remote socialising opportunities...

Social distancing is for the physical, not digital, space. Why not set up remote coffee breaks, where you can take a pause during the day in a video chat together, or even a remote pub quiz - trusting that no-one will cheat. This goes beyond simple communication, and will help to maintain and grow the sense of community and company culture amongst employees.

...but stay away from the news and social media

Levels of anxiety will be understandably high during the coronavirus pandemic, and there are ways to avoid becoming overloaded by the abundance of information being shared, often negative, about the current situation. Sarah Edmundson at Allstars Group suggests limiting the time you spend reading the news to 10 minutes, and using OFFTIME or Moment to restrict your social media usage. This will help you focus on your work, and be more productive in the long run.

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