Staying on tasks in a workspace that involves kids playing around, mobile phones buzzing with notifications, and an infinite number of other distractions can be tough. As the shift from in-office to at-home work arrangements becomes prevalent during the global health crisis of Covid-19, workers are challenged with managing disruptions and staying productive. A solid plan and intentional focus are obligatory to take control of the day and maintain a work-life balance.
Distractions are inevitable, either you are in the office or at home. However, knowing how to cut out the noise and get the best of your time can be the key to WFH success. Joey Lim, Lark’s Vice-President of Commercial for Asia region, is here with HR in Asia to share her secrets on how to block out distractions and get work done. Stay tuned!
Question: Ms. Joey, it has been more than a year that most of us are working from home. Personally speaking, what has significantly changed between the first time you work remotely versus now?
Answer: I first started working remotely more than ten years ago. Having long worked in tech companies, remote working arrangements were introduced to us early on, and I was fortunate to be given the option to work from outside the office on occasion.
A lot has changed since then. Digital collaboration platforms have become more advanced and streamlined. In the past, we would rely heavily on emails, phone calls, or conference calls as our primary modes of communication. Now, there are many ways in which teams can collaborate and communicate remotely, such as instant messaging and video meetings. Additionally, instead of attaching documents in emails and keeping track of the different versions, shared documents saved on the cloud now allow people to work simultaneously.
Besides accelerating the shift to digital, the pandemic has also shown that teams can work remotely too. The success of the biggest work-from-home experiment of our time has made companies more open to allowing employees to telecommute. This sentiment is shared among Singapore employees too. According to a Lark survey on over 1,000 Singapore Professionals, Managers, and Executives (PMEs), 94 percent noted they want flexible work arrangements to continue for the long term.
Question: Even the slightest things can distract our concentration when working at home, such as phone calls, email notifications, or app alerts. Do you have any tips on cutting out the noise?
Answer: One tip I have is to use your shared calendar to your advantage. Before each week, I recommend blocking out time for specific tasks in the day, such as two hours of focus time or half an hour to catch up on emails. During these periods, refrain from checking your phone, email, or messaging platforms, and allow yourself to focus on completing the tasks on hand. If it helps, you can disable notifications on your laptop or phone too. Most importantly, putting these timeslots on your calendar will prevent others from scheduling meetings during these protected times.
Clear communication is also essential. For example, inform your team that you will be busy working on a particular report, proposal, or presentation at a certain time. That way, they will know when to avoid reaching out to you or following up for a response.
Question: Streamlining the number of collaboration platforms is said to help reduce distraction. So, what are must-have features when we are choosing a collaboration tool?
Answer: Our study found that the top three most used collaboration features among Singapore PMEs are: chat/messaging, video meeting, and email. Therefore, to make work more enjoyable, it would be wise for business leaders to deploy a tool that can cover all three major tasks and other needs such as file sharing, calendar, cloud storage, and more. In addition, having an all-in-one platform would reduce the distraction of switching back and forth between platforms and help increase workplace productivity on top of eliminating the frustration of not finding something.
Question: As a working mom, what’s your secret to stay productive while working from home, with all your kids around?
Answer: As a working mother, I rely on three factors. Firstly, a solid support structure both at work and at home. Having a strong support system helps me feel assured and allows me to do my best – whether that’s being a mum to my children or a dedicated leader to my team.
Secondly, I practice time dedication, which means that when I’m at work, I try to be as productive as possible, and when I’m at home, I will be as present as possible for my family.
Thirdly, Lark’s digital collaboration capabilities allow for increased productivity. Instead of catching up through multiple communication channels, I’m able to log on to Lark and conduct video conferencing, update my team on the chat group, or work on a document, all in real-time. As a result, more time is spent on delivering solid work instead of navigating through endless channels or platforms to find what I need.
Question: A study by Microsoft revealed that multitasking during video meetings has become common practice to balance multiple workloads, making many attendees fail to focus. What is your opinion about this finding?
I agree that multitasking during meetings can cause participants to lose focus and thus reduces the effectiveness of those meetings. To help overcome this issue, Lark has developed a best conferencing method called the SamePage Method.
Before each meeting, the host will prepare the relevant meeting documents and materials and share them with the team. Once the meeting starts, all participants will read the document for 15 minutes silently, leave comments and raise questions for further discussion. Once finished reading, participants can click the ‘Finished Reading’ button to synchronise their reading progress with the meeting host. When most participants are done, everyone will then discuss the comments one by one, solve the issues immediately or clarify confusions. Finally, at the end of the meeting, the presenter will add to-dos to the document, clarify upcoming tasks, expected timelines, and make assignments. Each task owner checks off their to-do list after the assignment is completed, keeping the team updated.
I find this method systematic, efficient and allows everyone, including the meeting host, to focus on the discussion. For more information on the SamePage Method, you can watch a video here.
Question: It is believed that distractions lead to people spending more time on “shallow work” during the day, thus many choose to work late nights to get the “deep work” done. In what way does such a phenomenon affect one’s work-life balance?
Answer: Just as it’s important to do your best at work, it’s equally important to finding time to rest and recuperate after work ends. Staying up late to complete a task eats into your personal time and isn’t sustainable in the long run. Instead, as I’ve previously shared, try to carve out focus times during work hours, where you can focus on getting “deep work” done without any distractions.
Working from home has resulted in blurred lines between work and leisure, and some employees working remotely struggle to strike healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives. Lark Calendar’s working hours feature can help you to maintain a work-life balance. For instance, you can set your working hours from 9 am to 6 pm from Monday to Friday. Then, if someone tries to book a meeting outside of your working hours, they will immediately be notified that you may not be able to attend the meeting.
Question: Now, for the last question. If anything, what should be sacrificed to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Answer: I don’t think that we should sacrifice anything. Work-life balance is personal and could mean different things to different people. I believe that over time, with proper planning, practice, and experience, we will be able to find a method that works for each of us.
With a wealth of sales and marketing experience, Joey Lim has been part of the cloud computing wave since 2007. In a span of 15 years, Joey built her market experience through a myriad of large enterprises including ServiceNow, Salesforce, Singapore Press Holdings, Bayer, and United Overseas Bank. Her vast experience has honed her strength in business acumen and people management.
As the Vice President of Commercial for Lark in Asia, Joey leads a team of sales professionals, helping customers in the Asia Pacific region enhance their internal work and transformation processes, bringing joy and efficiency in work collaboration to organisations big and small.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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