We’re living in a world where more leadership roles are going virtual. It’s no longer essential for teams to all work in the same space at the same time. However, while remote working has led to more opportunities for many people, it can also lead to overworking due to a lack of structure and routine.
If you’re a leader who works from home, it’s essential to remember that working, living, and resting all in one space isn’t easy. It’s completely natural for this to feel stressful at times and for fatigue to set in.
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In my remote role as Editor of Autism Parenting Magazine, I oversee the production of our publication and blog, while managing a team of in-house writers and hundreds of external contributors. I’d like to share with you the ideas I follow to prevent burnout and ensure my team thrives.
Have a dedicated workspace
My main advice for anyone who works from home, regardless of whether they’re a leader or a junior executive, is to create a dedicated workspace. This could be a spare bedroom, a garden shed, or a corner of your kitchen/bedroom. Find yourself a desk, utilise some storage options, and make this little nook your place of work. This is important because your home is your resting place, it is not really designed to be used as an office. If you use your whole home as a place of work, it’s difficult to relax when work is done for the day. Even just turning your whole bedroom into your workspace can pose difficulties as your bedroom should be a place of rest and relaxation—if you have no choice due to space limitations, try to keep your work in a corner (avoid working in bed!).
Take movement breaks
I highly recommend making time for movement breaks. Remember that getting active releases endorphins which boost your serotonin level and, in turn, can accelerate your work rate. So, ideally every hour, ensure you get up and move around the room. Also, try to go outside and get some fresh air at lunchtime or ensure you take a moment away from your computer screen indoors. I find walking in nature is highly beneficial when I start to feel overwhelmed but, for others, it might be yoga, meditation, reading a book or watching TV.
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Obtaining a good balance between working and unwinding should encourage a more productive mindset and stimulate your productivity. Never feel guilty when you take a break to recharge! Also, as a leader, you’ll want to ensure your employees feel empowered to rest when it’s needed as this will help maintain a healthy work environment and reduce stagnation.
Maintain structure and routine
Remote working in a leadership role often means you have no enforced hours, no designated workspace, and no set break periods. The solution is simple—create your own routine! I set my own working hours and follow them as a guide most of the time. These hours emulate traditional office hours and prevent work from bleeding into my nights and weekends. I also ensure I start my day with a shower, get dressed (usually into very comfortable clothes!) and walk my dog before sitting at my desk with a cup of tea. Outside my working hours I try to avoid looking at my devices: if you’re checking your emails on your phone 24/7, you’re going to overload your brain!
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It's also worth implementing a similar routine and boundaries within your team to help everyone become respectful and understanding of each other’s time. This will be super beneficial in the long run. We shouldn’t glamorise the hustle culture—filling your plates to the brim does not equate to productiveness.
Keep social: don’t lead in isolation
If you work remotely, especially if you work from home, you’re likely to spend most of your days alone. This is a big adaptation to get used to if you’ve previously worked in an office with colleagues.
If you’re leading a remote team, scheduling regular video meetings can help you feel more connected. I have a weekly team meeting and two one-on-ones each week which means I don’t feel alone in the projects I’m tackling. My team also uses a messaging app called Slack where we discuss projects and chat more generally. We even have a Slack channel called “Watercooler” for social chat, which helps build rapport.
You should also ensure you remain social outside of work. If you’re working alone all day, it really helps to meet a friend in the evening, get involved in a hobby or activity, or spend time with your family. When you’re working remotely, extra effort needs to be made with the people around you.
Ensure your team’s work is visible: communication is key
It’s challenging being a leader who works in a different space to their team. You can’t visibly see what tasks they’re working on and it’s easy for people to hide. I highly recommend using a project management tool like Asana where you can keep track of task progress. You can also use programs such as Hubstaff which have time tracking and visibility options (use with caution as you don’t want to become a micromanager or demonstrate a lack of trust).
Read more: How Communication Drives Digital Employee Engagement
As I’ve mentioned above, I also recommend scheduling virtual meetings where ideas can be discussed face-to-face just like they would in a boardroom.
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By creating all these modes of communication you’re removing the fear that your team isn't collaborating and it’s easy to see when someone isn’t pulling their weight.
Delegate and empower your team!
Following on from my previous point, as a leader, you need to delegate projects and empower your team just like you would in a physical office. Delegating and seconding tasks to team members will help expedite the project process, plus it’s rewarding to see others contributing and bringing their ideas to the table. The more you empower your team, the more you can maintain your own well-being while also building the confidence of those around you.
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A key focus of your management should be creating platforms and spaces where your team can share their ideas similarly to how they would in an office. Make sure you participate and hone their prowess, offering them the chance to enhance their skills in new areas. It’s great to see others learning and growing from your training. Remember, being an effective leader involves good delegation and playing a part in shaping the leaders of tomorrow, plus it always helps to share the load!
When your job starts to take over your personal life, your whole life can start to feel like it’s unravelling. If you feel that starting to happen as a remote leader, it’s time to reassess your approach and make some positive changes. Always remember to take a breather and take charge whenever necessary. Being comfortable but progressive is important during remote working. This can be a challenging, particularly when you’re feeling adrift or like you’re losing a sense of control and direction, but you should be resilient and persevere.
It’s not easy working as a remote leader, but good management can be achieved virtually as well as in person. I try to remember this quote from journalist Stephanie Ruhle: “Work-life balance is not just a buzzy, self-help term that real businesspeople laugh at. You need it.”
Supplementary read: Are You Headed for a Burnout?
Burnout and stagnancy can hinder your creativity. That can be super inconvenient. Resting is essential when even when you are a leader. So, why not spend your resting time enhancing your knowledge? There are so many interesting and brain-stimulating activities one can do whilst in repose. Well, look no further. Necole is a state of the art learning platform that curates personalised learning just for you. To find out more about necole, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org