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October 1, 2020

5 Tips to Help Your Remote Team (and You) Stay Focused

A global pandemic, an economic recession, entire families working and learning from home, political discord, and an upcoming presidential election… 2020 has more widespread distractions than any year in recent history. We’re all stretched thin mentally and emotionally, and that can make it difficult to stay focused. Now that many teams are working remotely, helping employees stay focused has become even more difficult. But it’s worth improving: US businesses lose up to $300 billion each year as a result of workplace stress leading to diminished productivity and increased health risks. Here are some tips that can help you help your employees remain focused and keep their sanity – and yours - intact.

Tip #1: Pencil Yourself In

Between Zoom conferences, kids’ virtual lessons, and a barrage of bad news, finding time in your day for a breather is nearly impossible. But it’s also essential. One in three US adults suffer from symptoms of depression or anxiety. Especially in the face of a global pandemic, the uncertainty of our health and financial wellbeing is foremost on our minds and is exacerbated by the fact that we are largely left to deal with it alone due to social distancing.

You’ve probably heard the airplane safety analogy of putting on your own mask first before assisting others with theirs. The same goes for your team. If you’re running yourself ragged, juggling until you drop, and forgoing lunch to meet ridiculous deadlines, you’re setting an example for those in your charge. If you are going to talk the talk, you should also walk the walk, so to speak. Start by modeling how to prioritize your health and foster a productive mindset. Put down time on your calendar that your team can see—lunch, walk break, etc. When you take time off for a doctor’s appointment or to have lunch with your kids, let your team know, and then take it a step further and remind them to do the same. Set an example you’d be proud for others to follow, and you’ll likely see the return in a healthier, happier, more productive team.

Tip #2: Short Sprints for the Win

Admit it: You’re proud of your ability to multitask. But the truth is that being able to juggle multiple tasks at once doesn’t mean you should make a habit of it. In fact, trying to handle two tasks simultaneously, such as writing an email response on your smart phone while attending a meeting, can reduce your total productivity by 40%. One thing we can guarantee about this new remote-work model is that there are going to be distractions. If you can accept that and plan for it, you’ll be better able to stay focused between them. Rather than sit down at your desk for a marathon day of work, group your day’s tasks into buckets and work in short sprints. One study from Florida State University found that taking frequent breaks give our minds a chance to rest, recover, and reset. Set your timer for 90-minute intervals and allow short 10-15 minute breaks between each. Have your employees do the same, and you’ll all likely feel more focused and calm—and accomplish more—as a result.

Tip #3: Check In

Even the most conscientious managers are having a more difficult time checking in with their teams on a regular basis. Modern communication tools like team chats, email, and text messaging still require you to read between the lines a bit to truly understand how each of your employees is feeling: Is anyone overwhelmed? Exhausted? Confused? Stressed? By the same token, Zoom call after Zoom call can leave people feeling burnt out from being “on screen” all the time. Everyone has a favorite way of communicating and shows their feelings differently. Pay attention to cues such as delayed responses, averted eyes, and less-than-perfect work. Starting and ending each week with a video call to get face time with your team is a great idea, but it shouldn’t replace daily individual check-ins. Remind your employees that they can (and should) take lunch away from their computer, and that they should still schedule and take vacation time, even if they stay home.

Tip #4: Delegate Thoughtfully

Now that commute times are taken out of the equation, you might expect your employees to be ‘on the clock’ earlier and to work later than normal. But remember that each of them is likely dealing with the same distractions you face in your home. Family member interruptions aside, at the office we are rarely parked in our desk chair for hours at a time. Frequent stretching, refilling coffee mugs, or a quick walk around the block all help to keep us focused. Employees are 68% less productive when they feel overloaded, so rather than expecting more from them, try delegating less to each person so that they can fully focus on one project at a time. If you’re feeling short on resources, consider calling for backup. Especially as we get closer to the holidays and employees want to take time off, adding part-time or temporary help can ease not only the workloads but also the stress everyone’s feeling right now. Staffing companies understand the end-of-year rush and likely have temporary workers at the ready. Could some of your routine tasks be delegated to these professionals? If your corporate legal department or law firm could use an extra hand or two this season, JurisTemps can help!

Tip #5: Celebrate Small Wins

Most companies take time to celebrate big wins—landing a new client, opening a new branch, winning a prestigious industry award—but those tend to be few and far between. These days, if we can make it through a work week without a toddler having a meltdown in the middle of a video conference or fit in a daily walk or yoga workout, we’ve accomplished something. Go ahead and celebrate it! And when we talk about these experiences together, we recognize their importance and give our teams a sense of accomplishment and shared empathy.

There’s no getting around the fact that a global pandemic has an impact on productivity levels. But with a bit of planning, you can help each of your employees bring their best self to work every day. And that means your team can accomplish more and improve their ability to stay focused when it matters. While we’re all looking forward to 2020 being in our rearview mirrors, if we can finish out the year on a high note, we’ll be more likely to start the new year feeling invigorated and invincible. And that’s something we all want!

Need extra help this holiday season? JurisTemps has you covered! We have a large pool of temporary, temp-to-hire and direct hire professionals and can handle your legal recruiting needs. Learn more about our recruiting process, submit a staffing request or view our current job openings—we look forward to assisting you.

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