Effective Strategies to Combat Negative Impacts of Remote Work

Woman working from home on laptop.

In this post, we continue sharing the results from a recent survey on the Impact of COVID-19 and Remote Work on Early-Career Computing Professionals. Our survey included a question concerning effective strategies respondents had employed to reduce the negative impact of remote work on their own productivity. Of the 253 participants in the study, (61.6%, N=156) responded to this question.

There were several themes associated with strategies to improve productivity while working remotely. The most common response from participants was on strategies to improve time management (46%, N=71). The second most common response (20%, N=31) had to do with finding strategies to improve or maintain mental and physical health during remote work. Finally, the third most common responses (16%, N=25) were strategies to improve communication with co-workers during remote work.

Time Planning and Management Strategies

The most common time management strategy reported by respondents (N=21, 30%) was maintaining a plan for their day ahead of time, such as making a to-do list.

“Relying on my Trello board to keep tasking organized.”

“Writing to-do list to keep track of what I need to work on”

The second most common strategy in this category (N=16, 23%) was to keep a consistent schedule and routine. As discussed in our previous blog post on the negative and positive impacts of remote work, respondents were often negatively affected by work-life balance. Strategies proposed in responses to this question included keeping normal work hours or keeping a schedule that worked more effectively with other members of their household.

“To keep to a consistent routine and work normal office hours in a designated home office space. If I don’t, it’s too easy to get disrupted with other things like household chores, chatting with family and friends, getting stuck with TV and so on.”

“Keeping to schedule is most effective for me. Though I think that this works only because I have readymade breakfast, lunch and dinner available because I stay with my family, so I don’t need to worry much about it”

Mental and Physical Health Strategies

The second most common (N=31, 20%) types of strategies to mitigate negative impacts associated with remote work are strategies to maintain or improve mental and physical health. The most common responses in this category (N=10, 32%) were focused on remembering to take breaks.

“Schedule meetings with breaks between them.”

“Block time on my calendar, to avoid working 24/24”

“Listening to music to make sure that there are no other distractions when I need to get work done. Taking occasional breaks and walking around the house to make sure that I am not sitting in the same spot the entire time.”

Several respondents (N=7, 23%) also focused on establishing mental strategies, for example, to improve motivation, separate their work life from their home life, or to cope in general with the rapid change to remote work.

“I go out for breakfast from a drive-thru most mornings. I never did before but something about leaving the house to get a coffee and a biscuit really gets me feeling like okay I am an adult paid to use a computer. I will use the computer today. They will pay me. And it separates just the time I spend dicking around on a computer.”

“Trying to reassure myself everyone else is in same position”

“Getting dressed (no sweatpants/pajamas) and not working on my couch.”

Communication Strategies

The third most common set of strategies (N=25, 16%) had to do with maintaining communication with co-workers while working remotely. Again, as previously noted in our negative/positive impacts discussion, many respondents felt disconnected from their co-workers. These reported strategies included a variety of ways to mitigate that effect.

“Continual communication with the team over Slack, and reassuring everyone that this phase will pass”

“Advocating for conversations to happen more in video/audio calls rather than texted conversations. Allows for more rapport building and better exchange”

“We have implemented a number of daily calls for check ins. This gives us a designated time to talk to each other and ask questions.”

What are Effective Strategies to Address Challenges Specifically Faced by Early-Career Professionals?

Throughout this blog series, we have identified many challenges that early-career professionals are facing in their careers while working remotely during COVID-19. For example, the post on Remote Work’s Impact on Work Duties noted how early-career professionals are especially affected by a lack of team communication and collaboration. Additionally, the post on Diversity & Inclusion documents how the feelings of isolation that many early-career professionals experience may be magnified in a remote work setting. Some of the communications strategies presented above can go a long way to mitigating these problems.

In the posts on Work-Life Balance and Diversity & Inclusion, survey respondents also noted some of the challenges faced by early-career professionals who are often juggling caring for their family with building their career. Some of the time planning and management strategies above can be effective in helping to balance these responsibilities. Organizations should also encourage strategies that support separation between work and home life. Doing so can encourage a healthy work culture and support these employees, reducing turnover and burnout.

Plan your day out, keep a routine, schedule breaks, separate home and work, and check-in with your team.
Survey respondents suggested strategies for success while working remotely.

Stay tuned to learn more about the results of our survey and how working from home has affected young computing professionals!

Wellness Team, ACM Future of Computing Academy

Jessica Hair, Software Engineer, SmartFile, jessica@hairsquaredsoftware.com

Jaelle Scheuerman, ACM Future of Computing Academy, jaelle@gmail.com

Gürkan Solmaz, Senior Researcher, NEC Laboratories Europe gurkan.solmaz@neclab.eu

Pamela Wisniewski, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, pamwis@ucf.edu

Image Credit: Working From Home Vectors by Vecteezy

Effective Strategies to Combat Negative Impacts of Remote Work was originally published in ACM Future of Computing Academy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.