How to help your team beat procrastination while we’re working from home

Header image showing two photos of people working remotel

Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to work from home during this pandemic, to actually have the opportunity to keep earning money through the turbulent times, all have one thing in common – we procrastinate. 

The word “procrastination” comes from the Latin verb procrastinare – to put off until tomorrow. There are many reasons why we might not feel like working at the moment. To start with we have all experienced losses. Whether that’s a loss of routine, a change in lifestyle or for many unfortunately, the loss of someone close to us. 

Secondly, it can be hard, especially for extroverts, to work with the same energy, enthusiasm and speed as we might have been used to in an office environment. As well as the boost we gain from being with our colleagues, for many of us our commute sets us up for the day and acts as an effective separation between home life and the world of work.

As a manager, as well as managing your own motivation you might be looking for ways to help your teams to get things done. Procrastination will impact productivity, but can also have negative effects on our mental and physical health. Having the tools to eliminate it, or at least to reduce it so it only appears ahead of doing the most boring of tasks, will help both your team and your business output.

We are hard-wired to be social, but we don’t need to be together face-to-face in order to have a genuine interaction. If you help your team to buddy-up to get their work done, it will increase their levels of oxytocin, the brain chemical involved in connection, empathy, trust, generosity and sharing and will help keep you all physically and mentally healthier and more productive.

Here are a couple of ways you can help your team to beat procrastination, both of which involve working alone but together. 

Working alone but together in pairs

This is really simple to set up. You might like to put your team into pairs, perhaps a more experienced team member with a new recruit; or maybe you think there are people who should get to know each other better. Once you have decided on this, simply share this simple guide. 

  • Arrange a time to meet and clear your diaries for an hour
  • Make sure you have everything you need on your desk (water, snacks etc.)
  • Each spend 30 seconds describing the task you need to do
  • Write your plan in the chat box
  • Set a timer and get to work (cameras can be on or off)
  • After 50 minutes ask each other how you got on and congratulate each other

This is really simple to set up, and if you suggest everyone works like this a couple of times a week, then over time you will see a rise in productivity and improved collaboration and trust amongst your team members.

Working alone but together in groups

As well as running the BookMachine community, we run a marketing agency working with book-related businesses. One of our favourite ways to kick-start a new project is with a marketing Sprint. The way we work is based on a book called Sprint, written by Jake Knapp and published by Transworld Publishing. 

It is a time-constrained process which allows publishing teams to collaborate ahead of launching something new. The format worked well face-to-face but serves even more purposes now that we are running these virtually.

The process we use, which can be read about in more detail in the book, or we can explain if you hire us, gives each person on your team time to analyse, think and create on their own first. Once they have their ideas on paper they share their best solution with the team, resulting in better ideas and less groupthink. 

As a general guideline this is how it would work:

  • Decide on a problem that you, as a team, need to solve
  • Arrange a time to meet online and clear your diaries for 90 minutes
  • Make sure you have everything you need on your desk (water, snacks etc.)
  • Each take 20 minutes to gather and organise the information you have for the problem you need to solve
  • Take a further 20 minutes to generate a list of ideas that solve the problem
  • Each person now takes 30 minutes to draw a sketch which illustrates the solution they have developed so that anyone can read it without needing an explanation
  • Showcase your visual solutions on-screen (use Mural, Miro, Google Slides) and vote and discuss each solution

Getting the balance between working together and working alone is critical to successful teamwork and getting the best results. I hope these ideas are useful and give you ways to inspire and motivate your teams at home. Do let us know how you get on!

Laura Summers runs BookMachine, the fast-growing community and agency specialising in book publishing. Our mission is to provide every publishing professional in the UK knowledge, ideas and connections to help them to progress in their careers. We have designed a virtual Sprint for publishing teams that takes less than a week to complete. If budgets are tight, we also have mini virtual Sprints that can be delivered in just one day. Click here for more information.

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  1. Love the concept of working together but alone. Keen to try it and see how it affects my work! Has anyone tried this method already? I’ve definitely been struggling for the past month or so (and on and off throughout the pandemic) to focus so it would be great to know if this has helped any of you 😊

    1. I know that @becprolifiko uses it and loves it. She actually uses a site for writers that sets you up with others and you fix a time to do it with a stranger (who also writes). Great concept.

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