Resigning with immediate effect: Not as simple as it sounds
September 8, 2021

Staying engaged while working remotely

Written by Angela Goemans-Leith

“Taking charge of your engagement at work can be incredibly rewarding…”

Although some individuals have been working remotely for years, due to the nature of their work, the COVID-19 pandemic has made most people familiar with the experience. Remote work has a unique set of challenges, one of which is staying engaged with one’s work.

Employee engagement is an “emotional commitment to your organisation and its goals” (Kruse, 2012). In other words, it refers to your feelings towards your work and employer. Employers have many reasons for pursuing employee engagement. However, employees should also invest in their engagement themselves, especially when working from home.

Why?

Working remotely can make employees feel disconnected and alienated from their work and employer. This can negatively affect their experience of work.  As such, employees should care for their engagement and not leave it to their employer.

Below are some tips for staying engaged while working remotely.

Self-development

  1. Keep Learning: Keep improving your skills and knowledge. As you develop and learn, you increase the elasticity of your brain and physically change its shape. This can help you to beat the day-to-day monotony, develop personally and increase your professional abilities.
  2. Get Creative: Look for new ways to do your work, which will exercise different parts of your brain and require novel thought. This will make your work more interesting and prevent autopilot.

Burnout recovery is a difficult process that can take a very long time and is better avoided completely.

Self-care

  1. Routine: Keep a good routine of sleep, exercise, meals and when you start and end work. Include regular breaks where you step away from your computer. This will help your concentration and efficiency when working for periods of time and improve your productivity.
  2. Your Workspace: Make your workspace comfortable and pleasant, ensuring that you have plenty of light, a good desk and a comfortable chair. Take care that your computer monitor is the correct height to prevent slouching. This will help your eyes, back and neck, improving your longevity during the working day/week. If possible, have a workspace that you can leave at end of business. This could mean a designated office/desk or packing your computer away into a bag or cupboard.
  3. Healthy Work-Home Boundaries: The temptation when working remotely is to blur the work-home boundaries. The trouble is this does not allow you to focus on what is important at that moment. Let work hours be the time that you devote attention to your job and spend other times concentrating on other areas of life. This way, neither side is at the mercy of the other.
  4. Keep Healthy Snacks: Snacking during the day (in moderation!) can help you to sustain interest in your work because the sensation and flavour of food/drink activate different areas of the brain. However, be wary of consuming highly processed and sugary foods like biscuits and chips, since you are likely to crash a short while later, leading to sleepiness and lethargy. Also, avoid boredom snacking as you may lose track of the quality and quantity of foods you are eating.
  5. Take Your Annual Leave: In today’s fast-paced environment, the expectation can be that we work as intensely as possible before (or despite) burning out. Burnout recovery is a difficult process that can take a very long time and is better avoided completely. As such, keep in touch with your physical and mental wellness and recognise your need to take leave periodically to give yourself the rest you need.
  6. External Interests: Although work can be draining and feel all-consuming, it is important to continue external activities. Whether this is meeting with a friendship or religious community, having a date night with your spouse or participating in a sport, other activities help us to keep a holistic sense of self. We work more effectively when we are better rested and more balanced as individuals.

Stay connected

  1. Sociability: One of the trickiest parts of working remotely is the potential to become isolated. As such, it is important to connect with colleagues/clients as and when you can. Leaving your home and engaging with other people can be refreshing and give us a new perspective on the impact of the work we are doing.
  2. Check-ins with Your Boss: Don’t wait for your boss to initiate catchups because they likely have a million other things on their mind. Initiate regular chats to remember the value of your work and recognise areas for improvement. Be sure to apply any feedback you receive.
  3. Building Relationships with Colleagues: Try to engage with your colleagues in person or non-work settings (e.g., socials, informal conversations and team building). This is a great way to boost team morale, build connections and receive recognition.

“Be aware of how you think about your work and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.”

Mindset

  1. Get Dressed for Work: This acknowledges the objective truth of being at work even while you’re at home. You can wear sweats and slippers every day, but this won’t help you to have a professional mindset. Even if every second day, get your mind in the game by donning your work clothes in the morning to get psychologically prepared for the day.
  2. Positive Thinking: While working remotely, we can spiral into negative thinking when something goes wrong, we have an unpleasant encounter or start to feel bored with our work. Be aware of how you think about your work and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  3. Consider the End Goal: Remind yourself of the effect and contribution of your work. Be mindful of its long-term effects on your career and personal/professional development. This will help you avoid being bogged down by the day-to-day details and keep a broader view of your work, helping you with perseverance and motivation.
  4. Recognise Signs of Checking Out: If you begin each day dreading work, just go through the motions and find the least challenging way of doing things to the point of sacrificing the quality of your work, you have likely checked out psychologically. This creates presenteeism, where you’re technically at work but mentally elsewhere. This can snowball, with work you find unexciting becoming more so, due to low-effort shortcuts. Prevention from checking out is easier than checking back in, so be alert and take the necessary steps if you notice it.

Planning/Organisation

  1. Prioritise Your Tasks: Sometimes we have a million things on our to-do list, and when we get to the end of the day and have only completed 3 of them, it is incredibly discouraging. When you look at your list, select the most important/time-dependent tasks and leave the rest for another day. This way, when you get to the end of the day and have accomplished the tasks you prioritised, you will feel a sense of accomplishment rather than failure.

If you are struggling

  1. Address Disengagement: If you find it difficult to stay engaged, talk to someone about how you are feeling. They can help you recognise truths that you did not consider and give you advice. Additionally, strategize ways you can better engage with work and consider what tools/resources are available. If necessary, speak with your boss so that they can help you.

Taking charge of your engagement at work can be incredibly rewarding. It can increase your job satisfaction, improve your attitude and motivation, and enhance your work relationships. It can help you to feel more connected to your work and employer. If you find engagement challenging, try these tips and see if they help. If not, it may be time to consider a bigger change.

Bibliography:

  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/?sh=6ab7a9267f37

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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