How to maintain productivity as a teacher working from home abroad
Once seen by some as a perk, working from home has now become a daily reality for millions of teachers across the globe. Whilst many are already used to the challenges of remote working during the holidays, evenings and weekends, remote teaching is an entirely new way of life for the majority. On top of this, many teachers living abroad are still unable to visit their family and friends back home as a result of travel restrictions, leading to increased uncertainty and stress.
Although safe in the comfort of our homes, working remotely can also be a struggle for those who rely on structured daily routines in order to stay motivated. Whether your school has been closed since the outbreak of the pandemic earlier in the year, or has recently been forced to close its gates, here are some ways to maintain productivity levels in the face of distractions at home.
Make a daily timetable
Undergoing enormous change to our daily routines in such a short amount of time is likely to have rattled even the most organised of teachers. Planning out a regular structure will help ensure that you are achieving what needs to be done within the working day, helping you to avoid that feeling of panic when tasks begin to pile up.
To start, identify what needs to be prioritised and then add on additional tasks to your schedule, if possible, in order to get ahead with those. If you struggle with procrastination, try being as specific as possible by writing down even the smallest details such as showering and eating times. This will help you block out parts of the day when you know you won’t be working, helping you distinguish between working and non-working hours.
It is also important to set aside dedicated working hours for the day and base your tasks around this. Having a cut-off point to aim for may often seem impossible, but it is vital in order to maintain a work-life balance as much as possible whilst working from home.
The dynamic of the virtual classroom is very different from a traditional classroom and you may be struggling to adjust to this. Keeping students focused and making sure they have everything they need can be a worry, even more so than it normally would be in a physical classroom environment. In order to maintain their productivity, as well as your own, it is important to keep as organised as possible.
A great way to keep one step ahead is to send out lesson plans and resources to students or their parents before class in order to make sure they have everything they need. Additionally, having a central location where this information is shared, for example Dropbox or Google Drive, will not only help your current peace of mind but will also act as a resource to refer back to as you plan future lessons.
You may also be using different technology, resources and programmes than normal whilst working from home and teaching virtually. Take the time to understand and get to know these as they are there to help you maximise your teaching skills as well as enable your students to get the most out of remote learning.
Keep your workspace tidy
With research showing that cluttered workspaces contribute towards us feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious, keeping your space as tidy as possible is key when it comes to maximising productivity.
Whether you’re working from a home office, the kitchen table or a corner in your living room, think about what you might need throughout the day, such as specific notes or a whiteboard, and have these close to hand to grab whenever you need. If possible, try to replicate your usual desk area in the classroom by setting up your workstation near a bookcase or filing cabinet to retain a certain degree of normality.
Avoid working in your bedroom as much as possible as this is where you should be relaxing and switching off at night time. Keeping a work-life balance can be extremely difficult for teachers at the best of times, however setting up a dedicated space will help you determine where in your home you need to be productive and where you can relax.
Remember to take breaks
Within your schedule should be time for breaks during which you can take a moment to relax, eat, walk your dog or call a family member or friend from back home. You could even use this time to complete a few chores around the home to keep your evenings as clear as possible.
Restricting your breaks is also important however, especially for those struggling with procrastination. Falling into an endless spiral of scrolling through social media or watching Netflix is easy to do but will ultimately leave you with even less time to complete your work. To avoid this, take breaks whenever is both possible and necessary and set an alarm for when you must return to your desk.
For teachers conducting virtual lessons throughout the day, taking a break away from the screen can be very difficult. However, with research showing that regular breaks can help with productivity, even a few minutes away from your desk between classes or lesson planning will help refresh your mindset and increase engagement once you return to your workspace.
Breathwork has the power to help relieve stress and anxiety as well as aid physical and spiritual wellbeing. Helping your body and mind to feel relaxed is the first step when it comes to tackling productivity and refocusing the mind on the task at hand.
There are many different techniques to learn, each helping you to achieve different goals such as higher energy levels, increased concentration, or even gaining back breathing control. Helping you to focus on your inhaling and exhaling, breathwork exercises and sessions can work wonders for helping to improve your productivity levels amidst the stress of working and teaching from home.
For increased peace of mind, it is important to consider how you are prepared to tackle more severe cases of physical and mental distress. This can be addressed by ensuring that you are covered by a global health care policy so that you have access to medical assistance abroad if required.
Keep in touch with colleagues
It isn’t just productivity levels that have been challenged by the shift to remote working. Living in a country away from your family and friends can be challenging enough but missing out chatting with colleagues throughout the day can cause even deeper feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially for teachers living alone.
A 2019 survey on the link between remote working and mental health revealed that 28% of home workers had suffered from loneliness and anxiety as a result of isolation from their colleagues. Keeping in touch regularly with co-workers through video chats or online messaging is a great way to maintain a certain level of social interaction, helping you to avoid feelings of loneliness as much as possible.
If you live in a country with more relaxed restrictions, organise a meet up with some colleagues to grab a coffee or go for a walk in the park. Getting outside and away from the screen can be difficult, however it is vital you try and do this whenever you can in order to support both your mental and physical health during this uncertain time.
Maintaining productivity when working from home is a struggle for everyone and you are unlikely to feel 100% motivated all the time. For teachers living abroad, not knowing when you will be reunited with loved ones back home can cause even deeper worry and frustration, potentially impacting your ability to be productive. Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing should be your priority - your productivity levels will thank you as a result.
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