Optimize Your Remote Work

Optimizing The Joy of Working Remote

change and transition emotional intelligence - stress tolerence joy and the power of awe Jul 01, 2022

Have you found your zone in remote work?

According to several surveys and articles presented throughout the pandemic, some of us have continued to struggle with the mindset and logistics of remote work. The encouraging news is that many of us have adapted and are now thriving in our zone of remote work. We must acknowledge that surveys and polls do not include everyone and the myriad of work and home situations. However, my observation and personal accounts from within my network of women entrepreneurs and executives reflect a progressive shift over time. There is a stabilizing consensus that we are enjoying the flexibility and that we want to continue to at least have the option to choose what's best for us.

As we overcome the initial challenges, we are settling into our ideal environments and flourishing.

The following surveys, demonstrate how remote work has evolved over the past two years. I notice that even our terminology has evolved from "tele-commute" to "work-from-home (WFH)" to "remote work".

  1. Canadian survey: 
    • December 2021 - Only 50% of Canadians currently working from home envisioned returning to the office with any regularity in 2022. Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News1
      • 64% agree that they achieved better work-life integration (balance) in 2021 
      • 88% agreed that they enjoyed working from home MORE OFTEN in 2021
      • 58% agreed that they miss being with their colleagues in person, while 42% do not find this a significant concern
  2. U.S. survey:
    • April 2020 - (Two years ago) 42% of remote workers were new to remote work and reported difficulties with creativity, stress, and fatigue2.
      • Some adjusted to their new pace or were re-entering their previous office environments
      • Many who remained working at home were struggling to keep up. Worse, they feared sharing their struggles with colleagues and managers. They were not asking for help.

When the future of work comes up with my clients, we talk about working remote as an opportunity. In many cases, it's what we have always dreamed of: an opportunity for asserting self-agency with flexibility to integrate work, life, and Self. Our discomfort and anxiety is a natural response to ongoing crisis and uncertainty. The uncertainty is unsettling especially with the shift in options and pressure from outside our sphere. Allowing ourselves to feel, name, and claim those feelings, is the first step in finding a new pace. Engaging self-agency and self-management is critical. Developing a few key psychological skills can help us.

Remote Work Self-Management Skills

Think positively. While this sounds simplistic, our negative thoughts, mind chatter, and self-talk are self-handicapping behaviours that erode our efficiency, happiness, and confidence. Notice when you are thinking negatively; when you frame a situation as a problem; and when you distort into catastrophe or sense of being hopeless. Then, rethink, reframe, and revise your thoughts to the positive possibilities. Make a choice to come from a positive place.

Practise relaxation. Although relaxation may seem counter-intuitive, make time for an intentional practice: a stress management practice that works for YOU to decrease the effects of stress. For example, I find morning meditation using my Calm app to be very effective as a daily habit. I also find my guided yoga practice - especially restorative yoga - to be critical for maintaining stress tolerance.

Another relaxation technique is to imagine a peaceful setting—you’re happy place—and focus on your breath, or mentally scan your body from toe to head. I practise "Awesome Time Tripping"3 to take me to my happy place.

Other people find Tai chi, a walk in nature, a bike ride, a good physical workout, or a lounge with a good book or crossword puzzle to be relaxing. Whatever works for you; the key is to make time for your relaxation practice. Whatever works best for you - make the commitment to yourself.

Create SMARTER goals4. Most of us have goals at work and most of us understand the concept of SMART goals. But, have you been introduced to the concept of SMARTER goals4? Do your goals integrate work, life, and Self? Do your goals reflect your own interests and align with your values? Integrated SMARTER goals help you stay focused on what truly matters to you as a whole person which supports healthy integration for overall well-being versus trying to balance work and life, the precursor to burn-out. SMARTER goals are exciting, relevant, and provide an element of risk to move you out of your comfort zone. SMARTER goals help you to identify the incremental steps you need to take to reach your goal.

Minimize distractions. This is the most frequently reported challenge with working remote. Whether external (noises, interruptions, tempting low-value tasks such as social media) or internal (feelings and thoughts), here are two tips you can implement immediately to help protect your focus and concentration. Enjoy the stimulation and rewards of engaging in deep work:

  • Use a 30 minute timer. We know that extended sitting is detrimental to our health (Mayo Clinic 5). Add tiring mental tasks and it’s no wonder we are easily distracted and feel exhausted at the end of the day. According to recent study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 6, breaks from one to nine minutes can help you bounce back from tiring tasks. Get up, stretch, move around, take a break outside or look out a window. Other studies also recommend giving our eyes a break to refocus from near to far and in different lighting.
  • Rethink the need to meet. We might not have the option to decline a meeting invite, but before responding to an invitation or sending an invitation, consider the meeting purpose, the time needed, and desired outcome. Engage your superpower of intentionality. For example,
    • INFORM: If the purpose is to share information, send the information via email.
    • DISCUSS: If the purpose is to have a conversation, send relevant information via email with a request to discuss the subject on the phone. Use a calendar scheduling application to avoid the annoying distraction of back-and-forth date/time options.
    • MEET: If the purpose requires a virtual or in-person meeting - only if critical to the desired outcome - create an agenda that includes: purpose; goals; outcomes; plus relevant references and resources with instruction to be read prior to the meeting; action items; and meeting agenda timeline. Most meetings, when well-structured and well-facilitated can be effective under 30 minutes. Longer "strategic" meetings also benefit from being well-structured and well-facilitated. Again, use a calendar scheduling application to avoid the annoying distraction and frustration of back-and-forth date/time options.

Do you have other skills that you engage optimize your remote work? Have you found your zone? In the next post, we will investigate the mindset and A New Zone Focus.


  1. What Canadians Say About Returning to Workplace, Canadian Survey - Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News
  2. What we've learned about how remote work is changing us, CNBC - U.S. Economic Survey
  3. The Power of Awe: How to Cultivate Awe. Be Intentional, 4. Awesome time tripping! Encore Blog, February 25, 2022
  4. SMARTER Goals. How to Set Goals You'll Actually Achieve, Michael Hyatt
  5. What Are the Risks of Sitting Too Much?, Mayo Clinic
  6. Examining the Interplay of Micro-break Durations and Activities for Employee Recovery. Abstract: The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol 25(2), Apr 2020, 126-142

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