A team of nine members, each wth strange teleworking backgrounds
The GLOBIS Unlimited Team

Just a few months ago, remote work was something most of us had as a limited option, if not an impossibility. There were too many tasks that could only be carried out in house, too many managers and team members who relied on face time, too much infrastructure that still needed building…and no rush to change any of that.

Enter COVID-19.

If you’re new to working remote, you’re probably facing some common challenges: constant distraction, pent-up energy, and communication breakdowns. Extroverts are itching to be in rooms full of other people. Introverts are running out of motivation to work in their safe space.

The best thing to do when facing any new challenge is ask the advice of people who have faced it before.

The GLOBIS Unlimited team, which runs a digital platform for online business courses, are seasoned in the ways of remote work. Over the last few weeks, the team’s nearly two dozen members—engineers, designers, marketers, and content developers, among others—have gone completely remote.

Some of them have kids. Some are trapped in tiny apartments (this is Japan, after all). Some just really want to go outside.

But they’re still on the job. In fact, to help people in self-isolation or quarantine continue to expand their business knowledge, they’ve accelerated the release of their B2C product and are now offering it free for anyone who signs up by April 10:

How do they manage productivity working from home? Here are their four key tips.

Tip 1: Keep a Routine and Manage Your Time

Chinatsu, Front-end Engineer
Pre-coronavirus remote work: 1 or 2 days/week

Advice: Do chores between your work tasks to refresh yourself, especially when you’re feeling blocked. I also go jogging after work—it’s kind of like meditation for me. Most importantly, keep a routine.

Chinatsu’s routine

Alex, Instructional Designer
Pre-coronavirus remote work: 1 or 2 days/week

Advice: One of the perks of working from home may be that you can stay in your pajamas all day, but lots of people are learning it’s better to get dressed like you normally would. (Feel free to ditch the suit for something more casual, of course!) This acts as a kind of mental anchor to help you get into the mindset of work. I also take a bit of time at the beginning of each day to list up a few tasks I need to get done. This, too, helps my mindset and keeps me productive and motivated.

Now, if you need a total reset of mindset (or sense that someone on your team does), download Snap Camera and join your next online meeting as a potato!

The infamous Snap Camera potato filter

Tip 2: Find New Ways to Focus

Ting, User Researcher
Pre-coronavirus remote work: 3 days/week

Advice: I use an app called Forest to keep me focused on work. It is so distracting to work alone in my small room, and I just kept checking my phone every five minutes. With the app, I grow lovely trees or flowers as long as I’m not touching my phone. The longer I leave them alone, the more they’ll grow—oh, and the more work I get done!

Ting’s Forest plants from March
With the Forest app, select a plant, set a time, and let it grow. But touch your phone, and the plant dies!

Mai, Product Designer
Pre-coronavirus remote work: 2 or 3 days/week

Advice: I use some aroma oils before starting work. Each one has different benefits. For example, when I want to boost my concentration, I select lemon, peppermint, or rosemary because it helps me stay awake and feel refreshed. Jasmine or ylang-ylang are better when I want to de-stress. So the smell acts as an easy trigger to switch my mood, depending on what I need.

Okapi, Engineer
Pre-coronavirus remote work: 3 days/week

Advice: I use the Pomodoro Technique. It helps me manage my time by understanding how long certain tasks take, including recap and review. I also have some tea with sugar, take twenty-minute naps, and spend time with my child. These all help me to stay focused and not feel the weight of working from home.

Tip 3: Get up and MOVE

Alex, Team Leader
Pre-coronavirus remote work: NEVER

Advice: At least once every hour, get up and move around! Do some jumping jacks, take a breath of fresh air, or get some water. At the office, we’re constantly moving between meetings, and it’s easy to forget to take that time to move around at home. It can be exhausting sitting in one place!

Javier, Instructional Designer
Pre-coronavirus remote work: A few times/month

Advice: Without commuting, I have no excuse not to exercise. I try to do something every morning (safely), whether it’s jogging, exercising at home, or walking with my kids (again, remember the 6-foot rule!). If you don’t like exercise… Ever say to yourself, “If I had more time, I’d clean my room”? Now’s the time to keep your room clean! A clean working environment can keep you motivated.

Tip 4: Don’t Forget, You’re Still Part of a Team

Adam, Content Team Leader
Pre-coronavirus remote work: 1 or 2 days/week

Advice: Lack of face-to-face time and limited access to information are two big issues. Just being in the office resolves a lot of misunderstandings, and it’s easier to get information when you’re surrounded by people. On top of that, distractions are amplified at home with family and children around. If you’re a team leader, it’s important to understand that your team members may not have an optimal workspace. To counter this, I’ve been trying to heighten communication through different media: Slack, Zoom, Hangouts, etc. We also use online collaborative software, like Google Docs.

If you’re leading other people remotely, you need to set up regular check-ins and make yourself available to your team—collectively and one on one, in meetings and on breaks. Offer understanding. This is less tangible, but awareness of the challenges you and others face is paramount.

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