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Productivity—a two-sided coin: The biggest issue surrounding remote work is productivity. For managers, accountability can sometimes be a concern. If your organization is not used to having employees work remotely, both managers and non-managers may find accountability challenges. There are some useful tools to track project statuses with time-tracking software tools. Excel spreadsheets can work, but there are better tools out there.

And it must be said–in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, your productivity will be challenged throughout the day even if you don’t have kids at home. The news, family discussions, your needy pet, and other distractions will come up. You may feel like you’re trading the time you spent listening to your chatty co-worker go on for 20 minutes with disruptions of a domestic sort.

Let’s dive in and discuss how to best set yourself up for effectively getting work done and dealing with stress.

TIP 1: Leverage your high-functioning window

Most of us know what time of day we are most productive. Whether it’s early in the morning, later in the afternoon, in the evening, or sometimes in the middle of the night, we find ourselves better able to focus and “get in the flow” where we can be most effective. If you have kids in the house and your partner is also working remotely, discuss the timing of your high-functioning windows and have a plan of how to help support one another during those times.

In these unique times, however, we might find that those windows might need to evolve. If you are not used to working from home and have kids, you will notice your workday might start much earlier than normal, and it could extend much later. Your breaks will be more frequent and longer to juggle homeschooling. We will all be operating on the “we’re doing the best we can” level right now, and depending on your line of work, there may be temporary shifts with project deadlines and expectations. Flexibility, planning, and teamwork both at home and between your virtual colleagues are of the utmost importance right now. That, and constructive ways of managing stress (yoga, meditating, walking, jogging, etc.)

TIP 2: Take Brain Breaks

Unless you’re working on a complex project with a looming deadline and you just need to power through it, work in stints of 90-100 minutes at a time and then move your body and do some deep breathing for a few minutes. A couple down dogs, jumping jacks or a stroll around the house is crucial for blood flow, replenishment, and increasing endurance.

According to an article in Inc., a growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves creativity and that skipping breaks can lead to stress, exhaustion, and creative block. As stated above, with kids around, breaks will be built in.

TIP 3: Take Advantage of the Tools

When you need to work on a project that involves a good deal of focus, interruptions can significantly increase not just the time it takes to complete it but will affect your ability to “get in the flow” and do your best work. It’s recommended to set aside time for those focus-needy tasks and to not check emails during that time of heightened productivity. In this era of increased team collaboration and virtual collaboration software, these types of tech apps are quickly growing in popularity as companies need a solution for attempting “business as usual.”

Before getting into those, I have to plug my favorite free tool for conference callingfreeconferencecall.com. There is no cost associated, no ads served, your data is not sold, and you can access a free recording of calls if needed. You set up an account and receive a number, passcode and host code and can make calls without any type of pre-call logistics. I’ve used that service since 2010.

Tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Wrike, Trello, Asana, and many others facilitate team collaboration and team-member input. Virtual meeting software solutions are numerous and offer a wide span of options. If you need platforms where one can present to a large group of concurrent viewers and record a presentation in a live setting with interaction, there are webinar tools like GlobalMeet, On24, Cisco Webex, Adobe Connect and others. Some in that list also offer smaller-scale virtual meeting options and many are free, like Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoTo Meeting, Jitsi.org, and many others. Just googling “virtual meeting service” turns up an overwhelming number of options. You will notice a variation of free options, free trials and product pricing options depending on product complexity and the needs of your organization.

The other tech tip for productivity is a way to track time. Some companies may already do this, are just getting into this with so many people going remote temporarily or may not have a need for it. The upside to time tracking is that you have access to much more data on how long specific projects take.

For companies that bill hourly, tracking time is necessary, and many time-tracking tools like the one we use, Harvest, will let you know when you are close to reaching budget. Zapier provides a thorough review of 10 of the top tools of 2020 for tracking time.

For organizations that don’t bill hourly, time tracking tools are still worthwhile and allow managers and other team members to access valuable information on project timeframes that can affect future business decisions based on time investment.

That sums up our top 3 productivity tips. We hope you can gain some worthwhile takeaways to help you get through your day and feel productive by the end. And if you need help, CIB Planning is here for you. We have the capability to assist with virtual meetings and can host meetings of up to 150 concurrent attendees. Reach out to us; we’re happy to help.

*In this uncharted time of COVID-19 it’s important to mention that simply saying the words “thank you” to our health care workers, grocery and pharmacy employees, and all other essential employees does not suffice. We recognize the challenges you are facing, the sacrifices you are making, and we can’t express enough how grateful we are for all you do. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your service.

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