Five steps in finding a way through the “new normal” workday

Five habits to help teams get the most out of a remote collaboration workday and overcome the “new normal” challenges of working from home.

At first, working from home was awesome. But after so many weeks away from the office, many home workers are now struggling to stay focused and productive. For some, working alone can put a strain on wellbeing and mental health. We have highlighted three tips to overcome the challenges and help teams get the most out of remote collaboration.

“Your neighbor using power-tools at 8 am to build what has to be some sort of submarine is now just plain annoying.”

portrait of Chris Costello
Chris Costello
HR Business Partner, Spire Global

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Are you missing the structure, routine, and interaction of office life? That coffee break or bite to eat with your colleagues that we used to take for granted now seems like a memory. The thought of returning to work from an office as normal, away from your protective bubble, can be a daunting prospect.

Highly engaged teams are more productive, happier, and have lower absence rates. But for managers, maintaining team engagement without regular in-person interaction can be challenging.

At first, working from home was awesome. Replacing your commuting time with a workout or catching up on sleep is, often quite literally, the dream. Over time though, the endless cameo’s from your cats or kids, occasionally both, during video calls becomes a bit tedious. Your neighbor using power-tools at 8 am to build what has to be some sort of submarine is now just plain annoying.

Many home workers struggle to stay focused and productive. For some, working alone can put a strain on wellbeing and mental health as the weeks of isolation mount up.

Whether it is employees reading too much into the tone of emails or staff turning off their cameras during video calls, managers have a vital role to play in identifying those who are struggling or disengaging, and in providing them with the support they need to overcome their challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities home working offers. Below we have highlighted five key tips that help get the most out of remote collaboration.

Stick to your workday routines

Get up and ready like you would during your office daily routine. If your morning consists of a morning jog, meditation, yoga, or reading the newspaper over breakfast make sure you take time to be prepared for your workday. What started off as a few weeks of remote working has now been around for several months and it’s important to make sure you are setting yourself up for a productive day.

Set your calendar to reflect daily meeting times, lunchtimes, and the end of your workday to help prevent burnout. I maintain my normal daily schedule, getting up at my normal time (6 am), preparing breakfast for the family, working out, and then sitting down at my desk for a normal day full of meetings and tasks. I usually end around 6 pm and then spend time with the family before going to bed around 10 pm.

Communicate your schedule

Make sure your partner, spouse, kids, parents, siblings, and pets know what your workday consists of so that you are able to focus on meetings or tasks at hand. If you prefer sharing your calendar on post-it notes on the fridge or whiteboard notes on your “office” door then do it. Your loved ones should respect your space during work hours. This is the hardest to do. Even though I let everyone know my schedule each day, my kids will still come in and ask how many phone calls I have. But now they are used to it and they have learned that just because I am “working from home,” doesn’t mean I’m home.

Consistent check-ins with teammates

Much the same as you would at the office, managers and senior team members should arrange to catch up with colleagues regularly. Whether that is a phone call or video call on a one-on-one or team basis, make sure people feel involved. Each individual case of WFH comes with its own challenges and people like to feel understood so take the time to support each other. If this is talking through a work scenario, or your latest Netflix obsession, make sure that you keep talking throughout isolation. I have weekly one-on-ones with my team members and the peers with whom I partner closely. The first part of the conversation is always about how they are doing and what is going on in their life.

“Take advantage of the options available and join us during this global effort to adapt.”

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Matt Allmer
Content & Brand, Spire Global

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Take time to disconnect

Without a distinct physical separation of work and home, many find it increasingly challenging to log off and establish an end of the workday. Coupled with the decrease in travel plans due to current circumstances, managers and employees across the globe are struggling to keep themselves and their employees from burning out. Taking time to refresh and recharge while working from home is critical for long term success.

Visit the office!

“Work from home” will forever be etched into the lexicon of the business world but it will never be a permanent replacement for many working dynamics. Some experiences are only possible in person, with other teammates. For many, it’s still not possible to go to the office. For others, limited access is possible. No matter the case, follow mandates and guidelines from your local government and office policies, and explore different routines that involve socially distant interactions with colleagues. Try looking at “trips to the office” with different lenses. It’s new for all of us. The first step in overcoming a disruption is to embrace it with curiosity.

Whatever you do to make sense of the new normal workday, give yourself the best possible chance to match your office day productivity and manage your own expectations. Across multiple sectors and countries, we’re all adapting to this new routine. Adapting to the much-maligned “new normal” has been a whirlwind that can go from you being happy to struggling with the enormity of it all.

Expecting to get as much done as usual—for work or around the house—just isn’t realistic. Take advantage of the options available and join us during this global effort to adapt.


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