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TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST

VIRTUAL JOB

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COMMUNICATION & ADVOCACY

At the start of your career, you might be so focused on making a good impression or giving all of yourself to your job or contract that you end up overlooking or ignoring your personal boundaries.

 

In a survey conducted by the CCYP, over 60 per cent of youth respondents were concerned about maintaining boundaries. However, it’s vital to identify and clearly communicate boundaries with bosses and supervisors. This is even more important when working virtually because the boundaries between work and home have a greater potential for overlap.

Identifying your values and needs

COMMUNICATING OUR BOUNDARIES

While the world of virtual work is full of many fulfilling opportunities for employment, there are some ‘employers’ who take advantage of virtual communication for criminal purposes. We’ve compiled a list of some of the things that you should be on the lookout for when applying through job boards. 

 If you need more flexible hours, position your request in a way that shows your employer how this boundary will help you be a more efficient employee. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get everything you want right away when advocating for yourself, and set a specific date in the future when you can revisit the issue with your employer.

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COMMUNICATION TIPS

Ask your employer or supervisor questions around professional expectations of the position and of working virtually, particularly if you’re unclear on any aspects of your responsibilities. Determine the standard around expected response time within your organization, how to best approach someone if you require something immediately, and the preferred tools for communication. Be respectful of existing lines of communication that are set up for a more effective virtual work environment. For example, if your team uses status updates to communicate when they’re available, don’t expect responses when they’re unavailable.

Be proactive and let your colleagues and boss know your optimal communication style, how you prefer to receive feedback, and how you best work.

Given you will not be working in the same physical location as your supervisor, it is important for you to create opportunities for regular check-ins. Consider sending a weekly email to your supervisor to let them know what tasks you’ve finished, any goals you’ve accomplished, and what you’re on track to complete in the weeks ahead.

You will be building many relationships with people through emails. Check out this resource on using appropriate tone. You may want to consider using Grammarly’s free tone detector when corresponding as well.

RESOLVING CONFLICT VIRTUALLY

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A colleague on your virtual work team has been consistently sending you urgent emails at the end of the work day asking for help on their tasks. While you’re happy to help, you don’t appreciate being asked when you’re about to clock out because you feel compelled to stay on. You’ve decided that it needs to be addressed.
CONFLICT
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SETTING EXPECTATIONS WITH YOUR EMPLOYEE

Employer
  • Let your employees know how your team communicates in a virtual work environment and how often to expect messages. Make sure to communicate your expectations for correspondence early on, and ensure your employees are on the same page.

 

  • Be patient. Starting a new job is an adjustment under normal circumstances, and doing so virtually can be an even bigger challenge. Once you’ve clearly communicated your expectations, give your employees some time to learn how to meet them.

 

  • Be intentional about setting up regular check in meetings with your employees and let them know when they have met your expectations. This will eliminate guesswork on the employee’s part and help them know what standard of work they should strive to meet.

TIPS FOR SELF-CARE AND VIRTUAL WORK

ISOLATION

A common concern among those who work virtually is loneliness and isolation. In fact, in the survey conducted by CCYP, this fear of isolation was cited as one of the top concerns for those who work virtually. It makes a lot of sense—you don’t always have the same opportunities for connection, it’s harder to create friendships within a virtual workforce, and, if you live alone, it’s easy to go for days without talking to another human about anything but work. Not interacting with colleagues is the number one concern youth have when it comes to virtual work, according to a survey conducted by the CCYP— with effort, you can mitigate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • Engage with your colleagues digitally. Take a little time at the start of each virtual meeting to have small talk to help you feel more connected to your workplace and colleagues, or book a meeting with a colleague to catch up informally about topics outside of work.

 

  • Rely on your personal network of friends and family members for emotional support during periods of increased anxiety and uncertainty. Take time to maintain your work/life balance and your relationships.

 

  • Once social distancing measures ease, you’ll be able to meet face-to-face with colleagues and employers (depending on geographic barriers) and find sources of spontaneous engagement, like the social interactions we find in coffee shops or during in-person meetings. There’s also the option to transition to co-working spaces, libraries, or campus facilities.

 

  • Join an online virtual work community. These groups can have members from all over the world who are experienced with virtual work in your industry and are ready and willing to help other community members. These groups may also have social activities and productivity calls to help you feel like a part of a community of like-minded workers.

Employer
  • In virtual work settings, find ways to incorporate casual chit-chat into virtual meetings. Open meetings with icebreakers that allow your employees to connect with each other before getting down to business. Many team-building exercises also lend themselves to virtual spaces such as staff trivia nights, cocktail hours, or even karaoke. As physical workspaces reopen, be mindful of keeping virtual workers in the fold, as their opportunities for connection could diminish.

POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS

Positive relationships are important to effective virtual collaboration. To promote positive relationships in a virtual workspace, communication is key.

  • Get to know people on your team or people you work with often and don’t limit your interactions to email or text - set up calls or video conferencing as well.

  • Check in with people on your team when you know they have just finished a project as a way to acknowledge their work.

  • Practice empathy regularly and treat others how you want to be treated. For example, you wouldn’t like it if someone was inconsiderate of your time, so respect others’ time. 

  • Keep an open mind and be receptive to feedback while engaging in two-way communication. Don’t take negative feedback personally, and instead treat it is an opportunity to get better at your job. 

  • If you don’t understand something, get clarification, so you know how to proceed effectively and productively. 

  • Look for opportunities to learn, as learning helps promote professional and personal growth. 

  • Share professional responsibilities equitably among your colleagues, but also take responsibility if something isn’t working well for you or your team. 

  • Accept that you’re going to make mistakes on the job, and when you do, acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. 
     

DISTRACTIONS, PRODUCTIVITY, AND MOTIVATION

Let’s face it: there are a lot of distractions to be found at home that can keep you away from work (television, chores, pets, kids, etc). Recreational distractions are the number one concern youth face when it comes to maintaining productivity, according to the survey conducted by the CCYP. When we’re in a physical workspace, and we see others working, our brain is more likely to cue us to work as well. Our home environment, on the other hand, is often designed to help us shut off after a long day, which can cause a bit of an internal conflict.

  • If you struggle with household distractions, try to set up in an area of your home where you can minimize the temptation for procrastination; work away from televisions, messy kitchens, or other household members when possible.

  • Computers can be a source of distraction. When you’re feeling stuck, it’s easy to flip to your favourite social media site and fall down an Internet rabbit hole. A great way to overcome online distractions is to incorporate regular breaks into your day. A 2011 study, conducted by the University of Illinois, found that brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve your ability to focus on a task for prolonged periods.[1] For example, you might consider working for 25 minutes, and then taking a five-minute break.

  • Mindfulness training can help cultivate a present-centred, attentive, and nonreactive state of mind. In a 2014 study, researchers from the University of Miami found that students who participated in a seven-week mindfulness training course reported being more accurate in their work and more on-task.[2] If you feel overwhelmed or distracted by your work tasks, take a short break to focus on your breathing and stay in the present moment without letting thoughts and worries about work flood into your thinking.

  • It might be tempting to try to kickstart your                productivity by taking on simple short-term tasks;  however, research suggests it’s actually more          productive to prioritize your most important work.[3]

  • If you’re a parent working virtually, be sure you know your employer’s expectations. Identify your child’s routine to build the foundation of your schedule. Split necessary coverage times with other household members, or, people within your larger support network. If you’re a single parent, be honest with your employer about your boundaries and turn to your support system if you need help. 

Having kids at home during COVID-19

Employer
  • Employers can help support their virtual employees’ productivity and motivation by checking in regularly to ensure their staff aren’t getting overwhelmed. It’s also helpful to be a little more patient, flexible, and understanding during periods of transition to virtual work, as it may take your staff a little time to adjust.

FINDING A BALANCE

Worker burnout is not unique to physical office spaces. virtual workers are just as at risk of burnout. If you’re always “on” and answering emails well after business hours, or keep yourself available to jump into work at a moment’s notice, you’re more likely to struggle with motivation and risk experiencing burnout. This fear of not being able to strike a good work/life balance was also cited as a top concern for youth survey respondents. 

  • Overworking: Stick to a daily schedule as much as possible and when you’re done work for the day, stop working. Sign out of email, turn off your phone, or plan an activity for the end of the day that will ensure a hard stop to professional duties. 

  • Underworking: Maintaining productivity while working virtually was the number one concern cited by youth in a survey conducted by the CCYP. Create daily goals, develop a routine, limit distractions, and reach out to your team if you need help. Survey respondents cited creating realistic to-do lists and communicating with colleagues about work goals as key ways of remaining productive. During your workday, be sure to take periodic breaks to maintain productivity, eat a well-balanced meal, and stretch your legs. 

  • Determine your working style: Everyone has their own preferred methods for working virtually. Some people prefer to get dressed in office attire and groom themselves as though they were going to be in a room of people. Others enjoy the fact that they can dress down. There is no wrong way to work virtually. Rather, the best way to work virtually is the one that makes you the most comfortable and productive. 

  • Mental check-ins: If you’re feeling unmotivated, anxious, stressed, or generally out of sorts during your work day, take a few minutes to reflect on what is causing these emotions to surface. Grab a piece of paper and take at least five minutes to write a plan of how you’ll overcome this feeling and complete your daily tasks. 

  • Physical activity: Over 50% of survey respondents cited physical activity as a key way they recharge during and after the work day. Work can be stressful, and if we don’t take the time to disengage that stress from our bodies, we can end up carrying it with us into the following day. Find a physical activity that works for you based on your physical ability and experience level. 

  • Get organized: Organizing the supplies in your work area can help switch your brain into work mode. Thinking ahead and grabbing a glass of water and a snack can also help you feel more comfortable as the work day continues.

 

  • Celebrate: Carve out a space in your schedule to focus on the elements of your job that you enjoy and will help you accumulate positive professional experiences (in both the short- and long-term). Take time to celebrate your accomplishments—even in workplaces that don’t necessarily take the time for you.

 

  • Plan your tasks: Over half of the youth surveyed by the CCYP were concerned about encountering mental health difficulties in virtual work positions. To combat this, focus on doing things that make you feel competent and effective. For example, if you find yourself working on a challenging project and are struggling with motivation or productivity, plan for success. Identify a difficult but possible task to accomplish. Once it’s complete, and you’re starting to feel more effective, gradually increase the difficulty levels of tasks you take on. Soon, you should start to feel a sense of mastery.

  • Take care of your health: Don’t forget to take care of yourself just as you would if you were in a physical workplace: treat illnesses and take time off when you’re sick, eat regularly and mindfully throughout the day, and prioritize getting a good night’s sleep and regular exercise.

Employer
  • Consider positioning yourself as a resource to virtual employees who are struggling with productivity, or identifying a staff member who can fill that role, by fostering open and honest communication about employee challenges.  

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