How to Eliminate Distractions as Your Team Embraces Remote Work Due to COVID-19


Interruptions and distractions are one of the biggest obstacles to productivity. We deal with a steady stream of digital distractions, causing employees to feel constantly interrupted. This fosters frustration, stress, and lack of motivation. Employees who try to juggle multiple tasks at once can lose up to 40% of their productivity.


As the country adjusts to life during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies everywhere are sending employees home and trying to figure out new ways to work. Distractions can be even more frequent at home as workers deal with kids out of school, less-than-ideal work environments, and the challenges of navigating an entirely new way of doing their jobs.


Here are three ways to eliminate distractions during this period of remote work and put structures in place to help your team adapt:


1. Don’t check your phone during meetings. This rule is simple, but it’s quite important. If you’re taking time to be in a room — virtually or in-person — with other people, be present. Texts, emails, and phone notifications can wait until the meeting ends. Not only is it respectful to everyone in the room to keep your devices out of sight, but it also helps you be more efficient to finalize meetings and next steps faster.


As we shift to remote work during the coronavirus outbreak, consider setting up a daily meeting with employees that everyone uses as a distraction-free time. Whether it’s one-on-one or with your entire team, talk with your colleagues regularly to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine. Set the precedent that these meetings are phone free, and then use the time to collaborate and hear your employees’ concerns, questions, and discussions.


2. Prioritize quality over quantity. Quality should always be more important than quantity. If you create the expectation that higher-quality work is better than work done in a rush, you show employees that flipping between multiple tasks and continuously being available isn’t the way to do things.


As employees abruptly adapt to full-time remote work, acknowledge their stress and be empathetic to any struggles they have being as productive as they were in an office environment. Team members might not complete tasks and projects at normal speeds or frequencies at first, and that’s OK. Being understanding is the best way to support your teams. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, said the company would pay contract workers their full salaries — even if they can’t complete all of their usual tasks.


3. Set the tone. Leaders set the tone in any company. Just like you can create a precedent of no phones in meetings, you can set other standards that employees will follow. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved if you communicate your expectations consistently and effectively.


Remote work, specifically, tends to be much more successful with specific standards. Be clear about what you expect from employees when it comes to the frequency of communication and which channels they can use. Remember that you’re the one setting the tone for remote work, and it’s important to show that it’s OK to navigate the strange circumstances as needed. Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack, recently hosted an all-company video conference from his laundry room. Showing employees — not just telling them — that you, too, are doing your best to navigate the changes that accompany remote work can make a big difference.


As we adjust to remote work in the face of COVID-19, the need to ease distractions is more important than ever. Use your leadership platform to support your employees and establish ways of working that indicate empathy (we’re all in this together) while minimizing distractions.

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Author: John Furneaux


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