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Making the most of workplace distance

by Liz Ashley

These are strange times for all of us, and for those now working from home, there are benefits to collaboration and productivity when working remotely. However, it may be helpful to modify some workplace practices to maximize efficiency.   Below, I’ll share some tips that may enhance collaboration, productivity, and well-being. These practices can be integrated into a remote or office environment to create greater connectivity in meetings, foster knowledge-sharing, and even lead to an improved mindset.

In order to create deeper connections with colleagues and contacts while working remotely, you’ll want to create an ideal space for work, conference calls, and a video conference.  Set aside a functional workspace, a comfortable seat, and for your video camera, a stationary arrangement. Adjust lighting and position yourself close to the camera so you can read a document on the screen.   Every participant’s proximity to the camera is essential.  

In a time when social distancing related to COVID-19 has created a new challenge for collaboration, direct eye contact and body language encourage us to listen intently, remain present, and seek understanding.  Video conferencing also allows us to see ourselves and ensure that our body language reflects our thoughts and intentions. By making small adjustments like investing in a comfortable seat and a close stationary camera, you’ll be physically prepared to deepen your connection to others and build a stronger foundation for collaboration. For business, I recommend Zoom, which offers both free and premium subscriptions.

The second tip for enhanced productivity when working remotely is to practice time blocking and shared calendars.  Time blocking is a compartmentalization technique used for identifying blocks of time to complete work assignments. This technique creates a sense of flow in your work and can be used to incorporate breaks as well as planning, collaborative, and creative efforts.   By using an electronic shared calendar, other colleagues get to see what we’re currently working on and the best times to collaborate or connect. G-Suite (or Gmail) is great for small business, and Outlook Exchange is a great option for larger businesses.

When we have more meaningful meetings with our colleagues, clients, and contacts, and when we organize our time effectively with time blocking, we automatically have more time.  Furthermore, when working remotely we remove commute time and the “in between” meeting time.  

To enhance our well-being, we can choose to reallocate that extra time to positive activities that promote our joy, creativity, and wellness.  In contrast, we can choose to reallocate those valuable minutes to negative thoughts or social media consumption, which may dull our senses and make it hard to remain productive while working remotely.   If you leave the office at 5PM, consider taking a walk from 5PM until you would typically arrive home. If you chat with colleagues for 15 minutes before the start of the day, take that time to set an intention for your day or to meditate.  If you find that you’ve completed 75% of your tasks halfway through the day, you could schedule 30 minutes for a creative project. The idea is to choose wisely and to choose activities that enhance your well-being, which in turn will increase productivity.

Working remotely encourages us to focus on our outputs and our completed tasks rather than on the number of hours we spent working.  Leverage this shift to increase productivity and integrate self-care, physical activity, and other endeavors that bring you joy.   

When we are faced with new challenges related to working remotely, we can find opportunities to learn and grow, personally and professionally.  I hope you’ll consider these practices to deepen your conversations by adjusting your camera, increase your productivity by allocating time on shared calendars, and enhance your well-being by taking time to care for yourself.  We don’t know how long this health crisis may last, but here’s hoping we all make the most of it in terms of work efficiency and our shared well-being.

Liz Ashley is a senior consultant at Positively People, where they meet with clients remotely every day. Prior to her consulting career, she spent over 10 years as a field executive managing teams located across the U.S.

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