Monday 6 April 2020 9:00 am

Coronavirus: What Olympians can teach us about working from home (seriously)

Jamie Mackenzie is director at Sodexo Engage.

 After spending four years laser-focused on a single goal, last week world class athletes woke up to the news that the Olympic Games has been postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes will now have to keep up the momentum until June 2021 which will no doubt take some readjusting and a fresh wave motivation. As all of us get used to the “new normal”, of remote working on a national scale how do we get inspiration from athletes and keep motivation in a world where “business as usual” feels a long way off?

The “new normal” for Britain’s workers

Many sectors have transformed many of us into remote employees, which might well be a completely novel experience for a lot of people. Working from home or flexible working wasn’t necessarily the norm for everyone and it’s definitely something we all need to make work right now.  

Whether it means 20-somethings in cramped London house shares with nowhere to soak up the spring sunshine, or parents with frustrated kids desperately wanting to see their mates, everyone is making compromises somewhere. So, how to stay motivated when your living space really isn’t conducive to working? Well, just like an athlete training for a marathon on a living room treadmill, work with what you’ve got: 

  • Wake up on time and stick to your work hours – this is a key to maintaining momentum and rigour. 
  • Don’t work from your bed. It’s bad for your posture, and it’ll make it hard to sleep at night when your room is associated with deadlines and frenzied keyboard tapping.
  • Have breaks and get out. Just like athletes overtraining and causing physical injury, an overworked brain will be no good to anyone. Setting aside time for chilling or a quick home workout can work wonders.

Take care of your mental health

The Olympics being postponed will have been a major disappointment for athletes, and it won’t have been helped by the prospect of being holed up in quarantine.

When we think of maintaining our health, we often think exercise and diet, but we can forget just how important regular interaction is.

Keeping a rapport and friendships going with colleagues will help enormously. Take advantage of video-conferencing apps like Zoom to have meetings so staff don’t start to feel adrift. 

Equally, without having a kitchen to gather and natter in, you might fall into the habit of only contacting your team for essential business. Don’t forget non-work related chitchat is still essential and should be actively encouraged. 

How to keep “coaching” your team

If you’re a manager, it’s key to keep your team buoyed up. Like a sports coach, cheer your co-workers on. Boosting morale means continuing to commend employees on good work and updating them on company news. Transparency is key at all times, especially throughout crises.

As much as it’s important to be positive, you must recognise the gravity of the situation when communicating with staff – anything too jovial will seem insincere, particularly when everyone is confronting their own personal challenges during this time.

No one knows what tomorrow will bring right now, but we’re all in it together. In a working world that has transformed for many, we must check in with each other and take care of ourselves, whilst continuing to enjoy each other’s company, from afar of course!

Jamie Mackenzie is a Director at Sodexo Engage.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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