Gaining The Most While Working Remotely

The transition from working in an office environment to working at home has shifted from an employee perk to a necessity mandated for non-essential businesses and workers in many states to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although working remotely certainly lessens the risk of contracting the virus, it brings about a series of new challenges. Staying organized, preparing for change, focusing on the future amidst the uncertainty and creating a workspace that is conducive to efficiency are some of the main issues that promotional products professionals are facing during this time. But many businesses are doing their best to promote a shift to this new “temporary” normal that’s as steady and productive as possible.

Cindy Chapman, MAS, founder and brand builder at distributor Plan-It Promotions in Ontario, Canada, explains her company’s new workspace akin to the opening credits of The Brady Bunch as employees communicate via the video-conferencing app Zoom. She says that despite the stay-at-home orders and social distancing, it is important for team members to continue feeling like they are part of a community.

“What’s critical to our mental and emotional health right now is to continue feeling a sense of community, being supported by one another and having some fun together,” she says. “Internally, prior to social distancing, some of us saw one another daily in the office and our sales team met once a month face to face. We’re now going to meet weekly for shorter periods via Zoom and [we] did meet last week for our first remote Plan-It team meeting, complete with awards and time for sharing how we’re feeling about our personal challenges at the moment. It’s amazing to have the technology to share the love, have some fun in tough times and cheer each other on, personally and professionally. Knowing we’re there for one another creates an important sense of continuity and stability that we’re committed to maintaining.”

Bobby Lehew, chief content officer at business services company commonsku in Toronto, Ontario, offers additional insight, “Today, with much of our population suddenly working from home, we’re facing new challenges many of us have not experienced before (limited mobility, restricted socializing, a barrage of news reports that change by the hour, etc.). And while your inbox and social feed is full of work-from-home advice right now, what’s lacking is more conversation around the two most important factors that will keep you sane and productive: mastering your mind and emotions.”

The mental component, Lehew says, refers to “being productive and mentally sharp to work alone.” The emotional component, he explains, is “learning how to compensate for the lack of in-person interaction and investing in my well-being.” To do so in business, Lehew offers some key tips on how to take control of your focus—and yes, one of those suggestions includes refraining from monitoring the ever-constant news updates every few minutes. But other suggestions include using a tracking tool, like Toggle, to monitor what you’re working on, and using time-blocking techniques, like setting aside designated to work on an article, a podcast or a presentation. Lehew also advises to “block out those damn mosquitos,” or the social media and news alerts that are continuously buzzing with new content, posts, photos and activity. “I know we live in scary and tumultuous times, but keeping your head in the news does not help you; it hurts emotionally, physically and financially.” Lastly, he advises to “create a distraction list.” Lehew personally uses an old-fashioned artist’s sketchbook, he says, and draws a line down the right-hand side, about three-fourths down the page, and reserves the remaining one-fourth of space for “distractions.” “If I’m working on something and a thought enters my mind, instead of doing just a ‘quick’ Google search, I write in in my notepad. Examples of literal distractions I just read from my notebook: ‘I wonder what the most peaceful incense is?’ ‘Didn’t Winona Ryder start a new website on Squarespace?’ ‘What can I make with arugula, shiitakes and olive oil?’”

We all get distracted—it’s normal. The challenge is how to overcome it. With community support, according to Chapman, and some organizational and attention-focusing techniques in place, Lehew suggests, the work-from-home transition can be both effective, efficient and productive.

Suppliers and distributors are encouraged to use PPAI’s new status page to post and view updates and status reports regarding supplier company’s operations.

filed under March 2020
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