Motivation in a remote working world (during a pandemic)

Guten Tag, dear Reader.

I trust you have been well and staying healthy. Depending on your location and age demographic you may have gotten your CoVid-19 vaccine already?! If not, I hope you’ll get your jab soon, so stay patient and keep safe.

In an earlier blog post on communication I announced that I would be writing this column on motivation for remote workers and remote companies.

In many ways the pandemic that we’re living through has taught us a lot about mental health and our relationship to our own wellbeing. The pandemic has revealed to us how, during unprecedented levels of uncertainty, we cope with work that needs to get done and work that we want to do. While few people in my network have been flourishing (a term that describes the opposite of depression and translates to being at the peak of wellbeing), most have struggled at times with motivation and productivity. While there are no sure-fire scientific ways to guarantee motivation, there are some very useful tips that apply to both our lives and our (remote) work during the pandemic.

In a way, we’re setting the groundwork today towards how we feel and master our remote work tomorrow.

Create a routine and a schedule. Dedicate specific times during your workday for meetings, emails and uninterrupted focus time to concentrate on completing your tasks. Often times meetings will dictate your schedule, so try to build the remaining categories around them. Make a point of taking breaks at the same times too and if possible, try to eat your lunch within the same 60 minutes every day. The more pillars you build into your day that guide your workday journey, the less you become sidetracked which translates to higher productivity. A routine and schedule will help you to get into a state of flow (more on this later) which will lead to some of your best work and a sense of accomplishment. Pro-tip: Try to bookend your workday with a routine. Perhaps it’s a breathing exercise, a series of stretches or songs that speak to the mood of starting and ending your workday.

Make focus time mandatory.
If you manage staff or a company, then you hold the keys to helping yourself and your team in a very profound way that will increase their motivation and productivity: Introduce focus time and schedule it for everyone. The same way you would schedule a meeting, send invites for focus time or simply block a certain amount of time (like 2 hours) of focus time in your team members calendars for every single day. The reason why scheduling focus time is so effective is because employees take company mandated initiatives and meetings more seriously than they do their own. Weirdly enough, these subtle pressures lead to greater productivity and motivation to complete tasks than adhering to self-scheduled focus time. Pro-tip: Try to discourage your team of communicating amongst one another during this time (unless a certain project or an emergency warrants it) to allow everyone to get their most pressing tasks completed.

Achieve “flow” state. If we are able to stick to a schedule and routine, while also carving out company mandated focus time, then we are set up soundly to work uninterruptedly & to get a sense of control of our workday. The missing ingredient now is to achieve a lightness and flow during the focus time. In a way it is an attempt to work freely within the confines of the focus time and studies have shown that stimulating our senses can lead to multiple benefits for many situations in our lives. The same way quick paced, up-beat music can increase our physical performance and cause us to run faster, ambient sounds at the right speed can lead to higher levels of effortless concentration. As a matter of fact, I am writing this post while listening to some great lyric-less ambient music. I have experimented with this within my network of friends (some of which are not necessarily music connoisseurs) and their feedback was overwhelmingly positive; so much so that the ones who haven’t used this technique yet made it part of their routine. Pro-tip: Be the source of motivation at work and share playlists with your team and colleagues that you enjoy “flowing” to.

It is my belief that for all of us that remain remote workers, either full- or part-time, the past 16 months have taught us how to set boundaries for ourselves, implement tactics to get the most out of the time we spend at work and to feel motivation towards it. After a day’s work, you’ll not only feel a sense of accomplishment, but soon again you’ll be able to meet up with your friends at that bar you’ve been meaning to go, return to your favorite restaurant, go to the gym or watch that play you’ve been wanting to see. In a way, we’re setting the groundwork today towards how we feel and master our remote work tomorrow.

Auf Wiedersehen and take care.

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