In March 2020, the work world was turned upside down like never before when the pandemic forced thousands of employees to leave their offices and to set up remote offices at home. Though many said they were much more efficient at home, there was still a major challenge: you had to (re)learn to manage your schedule.
A study published by Statistics Canada in April 2021 showed that the vast majority of people new to remote work were at least as productive at home as at their usual workplace. However, 35% of respondents (half in the case of managers) admitted that they had to work more hours per day.
Myriam Gervais is Human Resources Manager at NJM Packaging, a subsidiary of US-based ProMach, a Montreal company specializing in the production of packaging and labelling machines for the pharmaceutical industry. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, remote work was only allowed occasionally in this company where there are office workers – engineers, project managers and application specialists, as well as factory positions. “It was a lot of coordination and communication work,” she recalls.
The human resources manager quickly trained all the team leaders to apply best practices for remote work. The solution adopted? Manage by projects rather than by the number of hours spent in front of the computer. “We have what we call ‘core’ hours, where pretty well everyone is on line in view of being available to their colleagues”, says Miriam Gervais.
“Apart from that,” she continues, “employees can start and end their day whenever they like and absent themselves as needed, as long as projects are delivered on time.”
Knowing how to disconnect
Other solutions are available to help you manage your work schedule better at home. For example, most online teamwork platforms, Slack and Teams in particular, offer “sign out” modes. That way you can pre-set times when you’ll be “absent”. In this case, you do not receive notifications, and your colleagues can see that you’re not at your computer.
It’s also essential to take breaks, go out for a walk at noon and to allow yourself to eat away from your screen. At NJM Packaging, Myriam Gervais explains that her managers have set up a weekly “coffee break” call with their employees. “They talk about their weekend, their projects, everything and nothing, as if they were in the office,” says the human resources manager. “This is important for maintaining good communication.”
Using task management apps can also be a good way to manage your schedule and projects. These tools allow you to see what has been done during the day and what needs to be done the rest of the week.
Finally, it is essential to have a room dedicated to work. At the end of the day, you close the door, as if you were leaving the office.