7 remote work sins – and what to do instead

How do your remote work habits rate? Check out this expert advice on routines, self-doubt, meeting cadence, and more
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Multiple months into the work-from-home reality, most IT leaders have fallen into some kind of routine (even if, let’s be honest, that routine is having no routine). However, some aspects of those regular routines may be unhealthy ­– for both them and their teams.

As everyone settles into remote working for the foreseeable future, we all need to nip some bad habits in the bud sooner rather than later. As with any vice, one of the best ways of breaking free from the negative behavior is replacing it with a more positive one.

7 remote working habits: How to improve yours

To that end, we’ve gathered seven of the worst remote working habits and offer some substitute behaviors for each.

1. Bad habit: Failing to develop a new routine

“Work-from-home life can quickly become unstructured and chaotic without a strong daily routine,” says Andrew Upah, head of marketing for digital transformation consultancy Theorem. “To ensure top productivity, employees should work hard to create and stick to a schedule.”

"Remote work can take over life if you don't set boundaries."

Routines are also an important protection against over-working at home. “Remote work can take over life if you don’t set boundaries, leaving leaders and their teams without a reservoir to respond to both challenges and opportunities as they come along,” says Suzanne Bates, CEO of at executive coaching and assessment firm Bates Communications.

Good habit: Creating a full agenda for your day and refining it over time

Commit to specific work hours and factor in breaks throughout the day. Commit to waking up and going to sleep around the same time every day. “It doesn’t have to be seamless, but if you can accomplish everything in a day you set out to, you’re going to feel great and stay on track,” says Upah. And don’t forget to use your now free commuting hours for good: working out, cooking nutritious meals, reading books, or catching up with friends. “Leaving this to chance means making sure it won’t happen,” Bates says, “and you won’t be the better for it.”

Stephanie Welsh, senior director for IT strategy and enablement at Red Hat, recommends you create a shutdown ritual for the end of the day. “My shutdown ritual includes one last look at my list for the day to see if there was something critical I missed, checking to see what my day looks like tomorrow, and then physically putting my computer and notebook in my backpack (just like I used to do when I left the office!),” she writes.

[ Read the full article by Stephanie Welsh: COVID-19 leadership lessons: 5 ways to help your team recharge. ]

2. Bad habit: Micromanaging others' work routines

“It can be hard to shift the mindset away from needing to see people working to believe they are, but there is no more important shift in leading a successful virtual team,” says Bates.

Good habit: Learning to let go

The IT leader’s time will be better spent modeling their own remote leadership and working habits. “Don’t waste timing worrying about how much people are working,” Bates says. “Now is the time to trust in the team and focus on outcomes. You will be surprised at how well people rise to the occasion, and how much they care about the success of the company.”

[ How do your virtual meetings stack up? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]

3. Bad habit: Not creating a dedicated work space

Failing to divide your space into work and relaxation zones can erode boundaries and make work-life balance even harder.

Good habit: Build physical boundaries at home

“Having a dedicated room for this might be ideal but not realistic,” says Upah. “Try building desk blinders or dividers out of cardboard, or even roping off some space, and asking your family and children to steer clear of it. Even these simple attempts at delineation can trick your brain into knowing when it’s in a work zone.”

4. Bad habit: Negative thinking and self-doubt

"Limiting beliefs come back when we don't get the social validation we are used to in the office."

“When working remotely, it’s so easy to fall into bad habits or patterns in terms of the way we are thinking,” says Josh Christopherson, CEO of leadership and skill-building platform Achieve Today. “Doubts creep in about our abilities. Limiting beliefs come back when we don’t get the social validation we are used to in the office.”

Good habit: Retrain your brain

“Your ability to learn how to silence these patterns or limiting habits and retrain them into productive thought patterns will make the difference between a good day or a great one,” Christopherson says. “High performance absolutely depends on this ability.” In fact, self-reliance is a major component of emotional intelligence, and one of the primary building blocks of that is self-belief: having confidence in yourself. (For tips on strengthening self-belief and other EQ-building exercises, check out Emotional Intelligence: 11 ways to nurture your EQ now.)

Let’s look at a few more habits to break:

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.