All this time in pandemic-induced solitude has put me in a more reflective frame of mind. The COVID-19 outbreak is forcing many of us to abruptly adopt remote-work practices.  

For the last five or more years, I’ve lived in Singapore and worked remotely with our team in the Indianapolis area. Here are several practices I’ve refined over the years to allow remote work to be effective and efficient (and even enjoyable):  

  1. SET TIME BOUNDARIES AROUND YOUR WORK. Coming into the office at a set time, under the watchful eye of your supervisor, serves as a natural boundary. When you’re at the office, you work; when you’reat home, you engage in other activities. When working remotely, that natural boundary dissipates and must be replaced by somewhat artificial boundaries. Blocking out times on your calendar when you’re working and time when you’re not working enables you to maintain healthy rhythms of work and rest. It also enables you to communicate with family when you’re working and when you’re more available. Boundaries help you to be more effective at both work and rest. 
  2. CHOOSE A SPECIFIC LOCATION FOR YOUR WORK.Choosing a specific location helps you mentally engage and disengage. Our family lives in a relatively small space by American standards, so we do not have a dedicated office area. Instead, I have a table in our bedroom that serves as my office. Avoid working from your bed or from the kitchen table if possible. This will make the transition from work-time to off-time easier psychologically. 
  3. INTENTIONALLY SHARE WEEKLY PRIORITIES WITH YOUR TEAM.Every Monday morning, each member of our team shares a list of their weekly priorities with the rest of the team. The exercise of sitting down to write out priorities helps each member navigate through the whirlwind and focus on the most important goals. It enables supervisors to know how they can best support their team members. It also helps to avoid any impending train crashes from competing priorities. 
  4. USE A TECH TOOL TO VIRTUALLY MONITOR TEAM PROGRESS TOWARD GOALS. Remote teams do not have the luxury of popping into each other’s workspace to ask a question or get a status update on a project. Thankfully, there are a lot of technological tools that can virtually achieve these same purposes. Our team uses Asana. This platform allows us to track each member’s responsibilities and their progress toward the team goal. It clarifies who is working on what and when they expect to complete it. Asana is certainly not the only such tool; there are many that can achieve the same results. What matters is that your team agrees on a tool and uses it consistently.
  5. SCHEDULE VIRTUAL STANDING TEAM MEETINGS AND ONE-ON-ONE CHECK-INS WEEKLY. Finding the right rhythm of virtual meetings will provide social support, build team morale and ensure projects continue to move forward. Knowing we have a meeting coming up enables us to better manage our anxiety that often surrounds complex tasks. Also, a regular meeting routine can replace endless email threads with helpful 3D conversations. 

Teams that can master the art of remote work become more resilient. And when it comes time for a new hire, remote-capable teams also discover that they have more candidate options and are not limited by geographical considerations. 

In this challenging season, may we all discover some of the unique opportunities that remote work offers. 

Rev. Ben Ward is Asia-Pacific Area director and director of Development and Communication for Global Partners.