The shift to remote working in 2020 has caused many of us to change the way we work. We?ve set up home offices, dealt with new distractions, and had to find new ways to switch off from work. But what impact have these changes had on our?productivity? During lockdown,?more than 80%?of Hong Kong workers felt pressured to be more productive?, and while productivity did?increase for some, this wasn?t the case for others 36% of employees reported their?mental health?had suffered as a result of working longer hours?.
While many of us continue to work from home, others are returning to a different kind of workplace than the one they knew before lockdown. So how can you increase your productivity, regardless of where you are working from? Here are five ways to work smarter, not harder.
1. Cut down on meetings
With video calls becoming the new norm, meetings on apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have? taken up a significant proportion? of workers? time in recent months. And a March 2020?study by Clockwise?found that the average worker was spending 5% more time in meetings, and 24% more time in one-on-ones. But is this really the best use of your time?
During these uncertain times, many employers are understandably making more effort to communicate frequently with their staff. But before you accept that calendar invite, think: is this meeting essential (for work or social purposes)? Could it be shorter, or you attend only part of the meeting? Will agreeing to this appointment prevent you from achieving an important deadline?
If meetings make up a majority of your day or week, ask yourself and your manager if you really need to attend the meetings if the answer is still yes, then set a strict time limit and ensure there is an agenda (and that it?s stuck to). If you?re invited to a meeting that is just for information purposes, ask if you can have the information shared via email instead, saving you time that you can use to focus on tasks instead.
2. Set clear priorities for the day
Whether you?re a morning or afternoon person, you have to set clear priorities for the day if you want to be productive.
Write down your to-do list for the day or use digital tools such as Trello to organise your tasks. If you work better during the mornings, get your main tasks done during that time, and save the afternoon for the simple tasks that you can easily achieve during your middle-of-the-day slump. You might want to take advantage of your organisation?s flexible working hours, too (if they offer them) and start early each day while you?re feeling at your best.
Similarly, if you find you work better in the afternoon, save those periods for your deep work and try to schedule meetings earlier on in the day.
3. Invest time in self-care
Taking the time to focus on yourself and your physical and mental health is crucial if you want to be more productive at work.
Eating well, drinking water, getting enough sleep, and downloading (and using) meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace can?help you de-stress and refocus. This is particularly important at a time when, research suggests, we are turning to unhealthy behaviours to cope with stress; one study found that nearly?two-thirds of Hong Kong adults?struggled with their weight during lockdown as they increased snacking, exercised less and suffered from anxiety.
4. Take regular breaks
When working remotely or in the office, it?s important to get away from the screen and take a break.
A tea break in the office was previously the best way of getting us away from the desk and socialising with other colleagues, but social distancing makes that much more difficult. Instead, try taking a walk either on your own or with socially distanced colleagues to get a fresh perspective. You could also try virtual ?coffee dates? with colleagues or peers, to have an informal catch-up and check in to see how they?re doing.
5. Communicate with colleagues and managers
The pandemic has proven the need for clear communication. When working remotely or in an office, you?ll need to be in regular contact with your colleagues and managers to get on top of tasks. Think about the most effective means of communication: should your query, or piece of information, be passed on in a chat message, quick phone or video call, or an email? Choosing the right medium can help you work more productively try to avoid meetings that could have been emails, and phone calls about issues that could have been resolved with a quick chat message.
On the other hand, you won?t want all your various communications channels pinging with notifications all day; consider blocking quiet time in your diary, and muting app notifications, to help you concentrate and get more done.