In the year since “the great remote work experiment” began, you have likely developed new ways of tackling your daily tasks. Maybe you’ve discovered that you’re more productive early in the morning or, conversely, late at night. Perhaps you’ve nailed down the ideal routine for your working week or realized that you prefer working away from the bustle of the office altogether.
We’ve all had to adapt during this time of upheaval. But now that a return to the office is imminent, should we abandon everything we’ve learned from working at home? Not so fast.
A 2014 study from the University of Pennsylvania found evidence of a “fresh start effect,” which suggests that people have a higher likelihood to adopt healthier behaviors following temporal landmarks like the New Year, the first day of a new month, holidays, or birthdays.
Returning to work after COVID-19 could be seen as the ultimate fresh start. So why not use this opportunity to reassess your work habits — both new and old — and determine which ones to cast off and which to keep?
To get you started, here are some work habits we at Wrike think you should make (and some you should break) as the world returns to work.
How remote work has helped us form good work habits
The move to remote work during the pandemic has presented significant challenges for both employers and employees. Communication and collaboration are much more difficult when teams are dispersed across cities, countries, and sometimes continents. Distractions are rife with pets, partners, and children competing with work for your attention. Maintaining a work-life balance becomes tricky when your “office” also functions as your living space.
However, according to a survey by Edelman, this period of working from home has also altered the employee experience for the better. Video calls have helped to democratize meetings, with 33% of junior staff saying discussions felt less hierarchical when everyone occupies the same amount of space on screen. Employees also found themselves to be more productive, while 64% said that working from home helped them prioritize fitness and self-care.
Perhaps the biggest evidence of positive change is the fact that many employees simply don’t want to go back to the way things were pre-pandemic. A Citrix survey of enterprise business leaders found that 55% expect some form of flexible work to continue when offices open. A study by Slack shows that only 12% of employees want to go back to the office full time.
Whether you go back to the office, continue working from home, or decide to mix the two, you’ll want to keep these healthy work habits top of mind.
Habits to make as you return to work
Remember getting your supplies together for a new term at school? Apply that thinking to your return to work and get serious about organization. Keep on top of your to-do list, block out time in your calendar to work on tasks, and establish a system for storing files. Work management software such as Wrike can help you do just that, providing a bird’s eye view of progress and a central hub for collaboration.
Embrace asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication became indispensable for remote teams during the pandemic, and there’s no reason why this can’t also be the case when we return to work. Not requiring an instant response to messages and emails simplifies communication across time zones, allows for deep work, and encourages employees to switch off. Yes, you might be back in the office, but you can still communicate on your own terms.
Working from home has made it easier to practice self-care, whether that means pausing for a mid-day yoga session or taking the time to make a delicious lunch. While you may no longer be able to hop into a pre-meeting downward dog, you can still build healthy habits into your day at the office. These can be bigger commitments, like pledging to eat lunch away from your desk every day, or smaller (but no less meaningful) efforts like remembering to take regular screen-free breaks. Care for yourself, and great work will follow.
Habits to break as you return to work
Working while sick
It’s almost hard to believe now, but before the pandemic, you probably showed up to work sick at least once. According to a 2019 survey by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 89% of employees said they’d witnessed a colleague working while ill over the previous year. It’s been estimated that “presenteeism” (being on the job but, due to illness, not fully functioning) costs US businesses around $226 billion a year in lost productivity. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that having and using sick days is important.
Working from home, far from the watchful eyes of your colleagues, means it’s much easier to multitask. While tapping away at a spreadsheet during a Zoom meeting might seem like a good use of your time, multitasking is actually a productivity killer. Research from Stanford University found that focusing on a single task is preferable to switching from one job to another, as the brain can’t process multiple strings of information. The takeaway? Do less and accomplish more.
Being lax about boundaries
The move to remote work has had a huge impact on our work-life balance, and can sometimes be considered one of the remote work disadvantages. When your workplace is your kitchen table, it becomes harder to switch off — checking an email here, answering a Slack message there, and racking up longer hours than you would in the office. Try to firm up these boundaries as you return to work. Prioritize personal time, create morning and evening routines that don’t revolve around work, and allow yourself to disconnect.
How Wrike can help you return to work after COVID-19
Want to build (and stick to) positive work habits as you return to the office? Start by streamlining how you work. With Wrike’s versatile work management software, communication and collaboration are easy, no matter where you are. Stay in touch with your team members using @mentions, share files, and give feedback, all in one place.
Personal dashboards and to-do lists help you manage your workload, while customizable workflows show task progress at a glance. Start today with a two-week free trial and find out how Wrike can make returning to work after COVID-19 a breeze.