Tips for Staying Productive and
Happy While Working Remotely
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these are truly unprecedented times for America’s electric cooperatives and co-op employees like you. At GreatCo-Ops, we’ve been working with co-op employees for decades, and we know how dedicated you are to providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective power to rural America. Your dedication and professionalism are clearly on display right now, and co-op members like us are incredibly grateful to you for keeping the lights on and pushing ahead despite the severe challenges you’re facing.
We’re in constant communication with the senior leaders of electric co-ops across the nation, and we’re learning more every day about the disruptions co-op employees are experiencing, both in their jobs and in their personal lives. Thousands of co-op employees in America are working remotely today, struggling to be both excellent at their jobs and, in many cases, supportive of spouses and children at home who need their care and attention.
To help co-op employees like you be more productive and happy while working remotely, we have put together a few pieces of advice based upon our research and experience over the years. Clearly, not all of these are applicable to every co-op employee working remotely. However, many of these ideas will be helpful to a large number of co-op employees today.
1. Go through your normal morning routine regarding waking time, breakfast, dressing as you would for work, etc. if possible. Your routines will help you retain some sense of normalcy in your day.
2. Add extra lighting to your home workspace if possible. Better yet, position your workspace near a window. Research is clear that brightly-lit workspaces, especially when the lighting is natural light, boost our moods and our productivity, as well as enhance our sleep quality.
3. Despite all of the demands being placed upon your time right now, do what you can to ensure that you get adequate physical activity. We tend to underestimate the physical activity we get simply by going to work – walking from the car into the co-op’s office, taking a walk from our desk to the bathroom or break room (which are likely farther from our workspace at the cooperative than they are at home), and so on. When working at home, many of us will find ourselves sitting on a sofa, chair, or at our desks all day, sometimes rarely moving. This is clearly detrimental to our physical and emotional wellbeing.
4. Continue to maintain your relationships with co-workers using any means available – texting, email, phone, and videoconference. Our sense of connection with our coworkers is a key driver of job and life satisfaction, and working remotely can harm it. Schedule a virtual happy hour with your coworkers with a free account on your favorite videoconferencing platform. (We are fond of zoom.com’s free offering that allows up to 100 people to meet simultaneously for up to 40 minutes as often as they wish.) Above all, be there to support each other. And, if you see a colleague struggling to balance work and family, and if you just happen to have some extra time, offer to take on some of their work. They’ll never forget the show of kindness.
5. If possible, work in intense, uninterrupted bursts. If your job allows it, try to compartmentalize your day into clearly defined “work” segments, “family” segments, “chores” segments, and so on, even if those segments are short. Research has shown this approach to yield far more productivity. We realize, of course, that trying to balance work and family demands while children are home from school is a monumental effort. We have spoken with couples who are working from home and caring for children who have created shifts for themselves where one spouse is working intensely on work-related matters while the other is tending to the children, and then they trade off. Clearly, there is no “one size fits all” solution to this. The larger point is to simply do what you can to carefully compartmentalize your time so you can give your full attention to the multitude of tasks you’re now required to complete in a given day.
6. Realize that very, very few people are good at multitasking, likely including you. (This certainly applies to us!) This makes compartmentalization even more important. Research shows that, when we switch back and forth between tasks, part of our mind remains working on the previous task, and that reduces the quality of our work.
7. It’s going to be difficult, especially if children are at home right now, but isolate yourself to work intensely if at all possible, even if it’s only for short periods of time. This will significantly improve your productivity.
8. Be very clear about what matters right now and what doesn’t. As we all know, there are only 24 hours in a day, and the current environment for co-op employees means that some things are simply not going to get done. What is truly important in your role with the co-op and in your personal life are not for our team to determine. However, now, more than ever, some things are simply going to have to be put on the back burner. You have to be very strategic about how you invest your time right now. Talk with your supervisor to set clear expectations about the most important tasks you perform, what can be deferred until later, and what absolutely must get done despite the crisis we find ourselves in.
9. If you are concerned about whether or not you’re making a good enough contribution to the co-op’s success, talk with your supervisor about it. Let him or her know that you want to be of maximum value during this crisis.
10. Be patient with – and forgiving of – your peers, as well as those in supervisory, managerial, and leadership positions. These are tough times for all of us. Your peers and those in supervisory, managerial, and leadership positions at the co-op are struggling to keep all the balls in the air just like you are. And, like you, they are worried about the future, their families, and their finances. Now is the perfect time to practice patience and forgiveness. And, be sure to ask for their patience and forgiveness with you as well.
11. If you are struggling to deal with all the disruptions life is throwing at you right now, and many people at co-ops around the country are, get the help you need. If your cooperative has an employee assistance program (EAP) or helpline, do not hesitate to use it. Or, talk with your supervisor, a co-op leader, or someone in HR to get the help you need. You don’t have to face today’s challenges alone.