Although going into lockdown for a second time is frustrating, we’re (thankfully) all a little more prepared than we were the first time. The first lockdown was a real learning experience, and I’m sure you can attest to that as a leader. Working from home, leading from afar, and having to make things work in the most unusual and abnormal of circumstances was, I’m sure, a total first, but you can’t say you didn’t learn A LOT about yourself, your people, remote-working, employee emotions, productivity – the list goes on!

We at Inpulse have certainly learnt a great deal, not just about our own team, but those of our clients, and even teams across the nation – we ran quite a few research surveys this year and the results were astounding. So much stood out to us, from employee needs and emotions, to the interdependent relationship between leader and employee during times of crisis, change and uncertainty. (We highly recommend you take a look at our survey results).

But, as we enter into lockdown v2, it’s only fitting to share what we learnt about productivity and the unexpected remote working habits that promote it – and the great part is, you and your team can adopt them immediately!

1. Dress for the job 

It’s tempting to spend remote-working days in comfy PJ’s, but psychologists warn it’s not good for mental health, nor for productivity. ‘Enclothed cognition’, a term coined in the Journal of Expirmental Social Psychology published in 2012, refers to the affect clothing has on the wearer’s behaviour. In the study, behaviours and results were analysed between participants who wore a white lab coat and participants in casual wear. They found that those who wore a white lab coat performed better in attention-related tests. (Attention improves productivity, of course, so it’s something to think about).

However, some studies suggest dressing casually to work helps employees feel more relaxed, comfortable and productive. According to one such study, 61% of employees surveyed felt more productive when the dress code was relaxed, and 80% of people who worked in an environment with a dress code responded that they don’t find them useful.

Taking the two arguments into consideration, we’ve settled on the belief that dressing too formally just to walk 10 steps to your home-office desk is indeed a bit extreme, but we’re still reluctant to believe that PJ’s are the answer. For us, it makes better sense for an employee to stick to their normal in-office attire while working from home. There is certainly something to be said for getting dressed in the morning. Professor Cary Copper, an occupational psychologist says “Get dressed in the morning, make yourself feel like you’re going to work, but be comfortable.”

2. Maintain your usual morning routine

With all the change going on around us, it’s important to keep some things as ‘normal’ as possible, like your morning routine, for example. Of course, even morning routines have changed slightly especially if you’re used to commuting to work, (but hey, no one’s complaining about that). The reason it’s important to maintain your usual morning routine is because it sets the tone for the rest of your day, and if it worked before, it should still work now. Changing all that you’ve known and your usual behaviours is only going to make you feel out of sorts. Sometimes we just need to think of what makes the most sense – is working from bed in your PJ’s only to realise 3 hours later that you’ve skipped breakfast, haven’t showered nor brushed your teeth a sure-fire way to feel happy, healthy and productive? Of course not. Getting up, showing up, and beginning your day on a personally-productive note will reflect through your work, improve your mental health and wellbeing and make change and remote working a whole lot easier to manage.

3. Structure your day (and block out lunch hours)

Plan your day. It’s so important to work alongside a schedule or a calendar (which is likely how you worked in-office, and how you may still be working now – good on you if that’s the case!) Creating some sort of structure amidst the chaos is what you need to feel centred and organised. Without a structure you’re going to feel overwhelmed, you may find yourself overworking (missing lunch breaks or working till late into the evening which is NOT great for productivity, but rather a quick way to burn out and feel badly about your work/life balance). But without a structure, you may also slip into bad habits and under-produce. So set yourself up for success and productivity – plan your day!

4. Set up your workspace away from living areas

Living areas should be a no-work zone. Distraction is the quickest way to burst the productivity bubble and affect the quality of your work. Research at Michigan State University found that a three-second interruption can double the number of mistakes you make in your work. But beyond that, a poor and unhealthy work/life balance is a productivity killer too. It’s so important to separate yourself from your work when your work day is over – if you’re unable to spend time with yourself or your family without being reminded of the stresses of work you’re going to build resentment. And what happens then? You start hating your job, you become less productive, less enthusiastic and you’re forced to make healthy changes. 

5. Journal 

Journaling may seem highly unexpected but it is one of the most important exercises for improved mental health and wellbeing. Interestingly enough, it helps to improve productivity too. Reason being, productivity is impacted by emotions. If you’re angry, sad, confused, overwhelmed you’re going to feel less motivated and thus less productive. Only once you’ve identified your feelings, recognised the root cause of the problem and solved it, can you really begin to feel motivated again. During these exceptionally difficult times, emotions are running high. We’re feeling all kinds of things we’ve never felt before, and a lot of the time we don’t know what to do with these uncomfortable emotions. So we sit with them and they chip away at us – our behaviour changes, we start feeling less motivated, we don’t want to get up for work or even show up for ourselves…and so begins the spiral. Journaling, however, provides you with the opportunity to not only identify what you’re feeling, but gives you a place to put them. Getting them out, whether it be talking or writing will help clear your head and heart so that you’re able to think and work clearly, and begin to thrive again!

Have you taken a look at our list of employee engagement and wellbeing surveys?