Pandemic Productivity

During the lockdown I’ve learned how to work remotely more effectively and you can do too

When you’ve been working for yourself or running your own business for so long, you learn how to work efficiently. There’s no 9 to 5, you don’t work till it’s quitting time. You work until you reach your goals. Sometimes that means working night and day, sometimes that means calling it a day at 10am. But how has the coronavirus pandemic changed the way we work and will that change last when the lockdown is over? 

In a study conducted by YouGov, 54 percent of surveyed people said their productivity has changed for the better, the main reason being not having to commute to work. Fewer meetings and fewer distractions are also positively impacting productivity, the survey found

Of course there are more downsides to working from home. Axios has analyzed multiple surveys and found that lack of focus, isolation and the blurred line of work and home life are the most mentioned negative effects. Harvard Business Review goes so far to state that workload has increased by 40 percent per day, taking in account that people took over workload from laid off staff and also have to do childcare during lockdown.

How to create a new work environment

I can definitely identify with those feeling isolated and have trouble going from work to private life at home. Having a place to go to and collaborate with co-workers in person was the most rewarding experience of being employed again. So when I decided to quit my job last year and go back to being self-employed, I knew I wanted to set up my very own work routine differently than I did when I was freelancing years before. 

Since a lot of you are going through similar changes and need to transform the way to work, I’m sharing some of my learnings and new habits I’ve developed over the past year: 

  • Communicate and collaborate: To avoid feeling isolated, I actively reach out to people I want to collaborate with or talk about our experiences
  • Plan and track work progress: As we’re moving from a time-oriented to a more output-oriented way of working, I suggest defining short- and long-tearm goals and tasks and break them down into monthly, weekly and daily to-do lists. 
  • Work tools: I use a tool called Notion to do all my work scheduling and messengers to communicate with clients. Once you’ve found tools that fit your style of working, you’ll be more efficient and productive
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you get distracted: As mentioned above, office life also comes with lots of distractions. So don’t feel bad if you seemingly procrastinate at home. For me, procrastination is a part of my actual work. And your brain can still be in work mode while unloading the dishwasher and cooking pasta. 

I’m convinced that these past few months will have a long-lasting impact on the workplace. Leaders are now challenged to adapt and learn how to lead companies remotely. I recently talked to an HR manager who was concerned about how employees will adjust back in the office, now that they’re not used to a 40-hour work week anymore. Maybe soon they actually don’t have to anymore.

Elisabeth Oberndorfer covers the intersection of business and technology in her newsletter Smart Casual. She has worked in digital media and journalism for 15 years and founded her own tech site Fillmore. After covering startups and technology in Silicon Valley, she moved back to Austria and joined media startup Addendum as its founding editor-in-chief and head of digital products. In 2020 she decided to pursue her own business ventures.