Remote workplaces are here to stay. 57% of employees would even consider a new job if their current one did not allow for this digital working set.
Nonetheless, only 35% of remote employees feel they are more productive in a fully remote workplace. In this article, we will present the solutions to the problems that have come with remote working.
During COVID-19, many companies moved from the familiar office-based work environment to remote or hybrid models. Although this shift has brought advantages, e.g. allowing people to utilise the time that was reserved for commuting between home-work for other activities, it has also come with drawbacks.
People are used to their homes as a place to spend their free time and recharge their batteries. By moving to remote working, the home suddenly has to become something else. While still being a place of comfort and relaxation, home needs to now be a place where you get great work done.
Interruptions are the new obstacle
Being that remote working is all about focus, interruptions have changed from regular communication to disturbing distractions in the modern workplace. They disrupt focus, hinder progress, and often leave individuals feeling frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
Research from the University of California, Berkeley, underlines the impact of interruptions on performance, illustrating how these unexpected disruptions can significantly disturb your workflow - to recover from a simple interruption, it can take about 8 minutes, if the task is easy, or about 25 minutes in case of a complex one.
Two seconds is long enough to make people lose the thread. Erick Altmann
While interruptions are universally disliked, leaders seem to benefit from them due to less need for preparation. However, for the majority of employees, interruptions pose a real challenge, pulling them out of the state of flow crucial for optimal performance.
Well, how will we get rid of this world-wide challenge?
Cycles help you structure your remote work
Enter the concept of cycles, a structured approach to work management that aims to minimise all interruptions and enhance your remote work productivity. Cycles involve planning ahead for specific timeframes, allowing you and your team to navigate work with a clear focus on achieving objectives.
A cycle typically comprises two distinct phases:
- The planning phase - the focus is on generating and selecting the best ideas or strategies to tackle tasks within the designated cycle duration.
- The execution phase - it revolves around the implementation and completion of tasks based on the established plan. This is the time for your team to shine!
Find the right amount of time for planning your work cycle
The effectiveness of work cycles relies on selecting an appropriate cycle length that aligns with the complexity of the work at hand. The rule of thumb here is straightforward: simpler tasks warrant shorter cycles, while more intricate or complex projects necessitate longer cycles.
Choose a cycle suitable for the assignment, no longer than that! This is because if you reserve a whole day to do a 2-3h task, you will most likely procrastinate. Imagine the effects poor planning can have in a whole cycle of work…
For instance you can have:
- Short cycles (e.g. 1 week) that require 1-3 hours of planning.
- Longer cycles (e.g. 2 months) that may require 1-2 weeks of planning.
This means that you need to scale up your planning time in relation to the project and the time it will take to complete.
Use fixed cycles for remote work productivity
Assigning fixed cycle lengths to specific positions within the organisation streamlines your workflow. By assigning everyone their tasks and giving a clear deadline you create a stable and focused working environment for the task owners.
Once your planning phase is complete, the execution phase begins, during which plans remain unaltered. By making plans concrete and easily accessible, your team knows exactly what to focus on.
While tasks can be dropped if necessary, you adding new tasks during execution disrupts the cycle and completely defeats its purpose of clarity and focus.
Work cycles help you be more present and calm as a leader
Your role as the leader shifts from frequent interruptions to being available for your teams asynchronously, minimising disruptions like meetings.
You will be able to help your team faster with issues, not blocking them, while the team still knows which tasks to do in the meantime.
Cycles are for planned work
Cycles work exceptionally well for planned and controlled work but may not accommodate constantly ongoing tasks like customer support or finance requests. Allocating separate time slots for ongoing work within the cycle planning ensures these crucial activities aren't overlooked.
Interruptions can be detrimental to productivity, but cycles offer a structured solution to combat this issue.
- Start a cycle by getting to know the project at hand and decide the appropriate length for it.
- Plan the project's education, which will last a fraction of the entire project's timeline [Planning phase].
- Focus on doing the tasks assigned to you [Execution phase] - during this phase, the plans do not change.
- Make sure you are available to help to reduce your team’s disruptions. By being available and everyone having assigned tasks, you won’t block anyone from work.
Remember that by implementing well-defined cycles with appropriate lengths, leaders, organisations and individuals can effectively manage their workload, maintain focus, and achieve higher levels of productivity while minimising the adverse impact of interruptions.
Make a plan, do not add to it, and stick with it through the cycle.
Now let’s get productive!