How to overcome the negatives of working remotely

For some, working from home is a breeze. For others, it’s a nightmare. And for most accountants, working remotely has involved a sudden shift in the way they work. They need to rethink how they approach work, when they work, where they work, how they collaborate with their team, how they communicate with clients, and how they can set boundaries between work and home.

But perhaps the biggest, and often overlooked, struggles are more personal factors, such as:

  • Isolation

  • The temptation to be ‘always on’

  • Dealing with distractions

  • Staying physically and mentally healthy

Here are some tips on how you can tackle these pain points, and refresh your mindset. 

Switching off

Remote work means a non-existent commute. In theory, you can keep those hours in your back pocket to use how ever you wish.

Though for many people, it’s nearly impossible not to use them for additional work.

Whether it’s getting a head-start on tomorrow’s emails or getting to those items you missed that day, the ability to switch off when you don’t have to catch a train home or beat peak-hour traffic is difficult.

As a result, you risk becoming overwhelmed, overworked and unproductive.

It takes discipline to switch off. Here are some suggestions to make things easier:

1. Find a way to physically move away

In an office environment, you have a clear ending point when you walk away from your physical space. But that’s not so easy when you’re working from home—your desk is only a few steps away.

Clearly define your start and finish times for the day, and when it’s time to end your day, physically move away from your desk. Leave the room if you can, close the door and shift your focus elsewhere.

2. Turn off your notifications

Technology has blurred the line between work life and personal life more than anything else. Just about everyone is now constantly accessible and ‘always on’, which can have serious impacts on mental health.

Occupational psychologist, Dr. Christine Grant, explains these implications:

"The negative impacts of this 'always-on' culture are that your mind is never resting, you're not giving your body time to recover, so you're always stressed.”

"And the more tired and stressed we get, the more mistakes we make. Physical and mental health can suffer."

It’s important to force yourself to take regular time to wholly switch off from all things work-related. For many accountants, this requires switching off your devices, or at the very least—putting them in another room and walking away. 

Dealing with isolation

Feeling connected is essential to our make-up as humans, so it’s only natural that you feel isolated when working remotely. 

Social connections take more effort and coordination, but are more important than ever before.

Tips for encouraging connections in your remote accounting team:

  • Use an app like Donut that randomly connects colleagues, encouraging them to book an informal Zoom call to introduce themselves and/ or catch up.

  • Create a recurring Zoom meeting for your team or department that is strictly not work-related. Use this time to chat about each other’s personal lives.

  • Organize themed video calls, where each month, you play an online game or trivia using an app like Kahoot.

Overcome distractions

From interrupting family members, to the doorbell ringing, navigating distractions can be difficult when working from home.

Like switching off, limiting interruptions and distractions takes work. It’s useful to separate these into physical and digital distractions because each type needs a different approach.

Physical distractions

  • Let family members know about meetings and focus sessions: Help them understand exactly when you will be busy each day.

  • Set household expectations: Let your household know what they can and can’t do during these times.

  • Turn a room into your office: Helps you to enter ‘work mode’.

  • Invest in noise-cancelling headphones: Sometimes, you just need to drown out the noise.

Digital distractions

  • Snooze notifications: Give yourself a real chance at delving into your tasks distraction-fee.

  • Close apps and windows that distract you: Use website blocking apps that will deter your temptations to check social media or ESPN.

  • Let your team know when you’re unavailable: They will know they need to wait to call or Slack you until you’re free to answer questions.

  • Work in time blocks with scheduled breaks: Taking frequent breaks will keep you on-track and focused.

Stay physically and mentally healthy

With reduced commutes, remote work can often lead to an increase in sedentary behaviour.

It’s important that you take the time to be physically active throughout your working day. Not only will it improve your physical health, but you will clear your mind and help yourself to think more creatively.

Consider the following incidental and intentional suggestions:

  • A 30 minute walk before you start your day, after lunch, or at the end of your day

  • An online yoga class

  • Taking a walk to a local cafe to buy your lunch

Take the time and make the effort

Dealing with the negative impacts of remote work won’t come easy. In fact, chances are they won’t come at all unless you make a concerted effort to address them.

You might not be able to implement all of these suggestions every single day, but it’s important that you make the choice:

  • Choose to be active

  • Choose to limit distractions

  • Choose to pause your notifications

  • Choose to make meaningful connections

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Jess Marcello
Managing Editor, Karbon Magazine

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