Rediscover What Matters

By Chiara Covone

As the Coronavirus has become the biggest story in the world and the crisis in unfolding, impacting all our lives in so many ways, I’m dedicating this edition of the newsletter to the opportunity that arises as we are recommended to be indoors more, away from large crowds and minimise physical contacts with other people as much as we can.

What we can do to continue being effective, as we are forced to reshuffle and rethink our routines?

I can think of specific few areas of our lives that will be affected:

  • The Commute
  • Your Work Environment 
  • Your Productivity
Let’s to through these one at the time.


The first change when starting to work remotely is the actual commute to and from your working place. And before you start getting excited about saving on petrol or being able to sleep in every morning, let’s pause and analyse.

How do I usually use that time? What do I do, not do when I commute to work?

  • Do I read the news?
  • Do I make phone calls – privately / professional calls?
  • Do I listen to an audiobook / a podcast?
  • Do I chat with other commuters? Preparing for your day ahead/the upcoming meetings and tasks?

It is a great opportunity for you to revisit critically how you spend that time and how to make sure you are not giving it up completely. Investigate what function the commute has in your current routine:

  • Is that time helping in transition from the role I have at home to the role I have at work? 
  • Is that time helping me getting focused?

Start listing down all the things you do and try to understand the role it has in our life, in our day. Revisit with your mind the different steps you take and highlight all the elements that you think serve you in some way vs. those that don’t serve you at all. 

Plan then to achieve the same result even if you are not making your way to the office. You want to make sure you don’t disrupt your routine too much if that was working for you. 

So for example, if you did use that time to listen to an audiobook, and the role is to learn something, then reserve that time and do it anyway; ideally at the same time as you used to for your commute. You can reserve that time while being at home, or taking a walk outside – plan that time ahead and utilise it for this goal. 

When you stop going to work, you will find yourself going from being surrounded by colleagues, having coffee machine at arm reach, and other things, to being by yourself and having to think how to compensate for the absence of these elements of your work working day that you always gave for granted.

The first thing you need to decide is where are you going to work, i.e. do you have a dedicated room? will you sit in the kitchen, on the couch? Having flexibility can be good; however, it will be more difficult for you to set boundaries if you are too loose on the specific area of your home that is meant for work.

Choose your primary place for work at home.

Next is how you structure your working day. If your day is packed with meetings, you will most likely just transition these from being physical meetings to be completely virtual.  

In my experience, it is not the established and formal meetings that will suffer most from going from physical to virtual (although I have a few points about this meeting too – but more about it later); it is the more spontaneous, quick updates and chats that you have rolling your chair towards your neighbouring colleague or or at the coffee machine, which are going to disappear and needs to be taken care of.

You might want, therefore, to add quick check ins – 5 min, max 15 min – with some key peers or team members in your calendar; and you might want to have these on a daily base or twice a week. 

I know, they will never be able to replace the spontaneous chat, but they are better than nothing. Alternatives that I personally love are slack chats: better than skype/communicator, they allow to have a quick exchange with more than more colleagues at the same time, as you have already pre-built groups. 

Plan interactions with people in your day, so you don’t lose touch with each other, but be mindful of not getting those check-ins take over the most productive time of your day – which for most of us is the early part of the day.

Let’s talk for a moment about the more formal meetings; for example these can be:

  • Weekly staff meetings
  • Ad-hoc strategic meeting on a specific subject

Meetings are critical! There is no substitute for good meetings: dynamic, passionate, focused, engaged. 

Great meetings serve to extract the collective wisdom of a team.

However, way too often the meetings we attend or run ourselves, don’t really have the characteristics expressed above; and, unfortunately, many meetings are tedious, boring and painful; and this is why so many people think of meeting as a torture rather than a mean to better decision.

Bad meeting lead to bad decision – they are a recipe for mediocrity!

Meetings are a hot topic for me. And I cannot resist to take this chance to challenge and encourage you to challenge how meetings happen, are run and how they occupy so much time in our work day.

Here is a great article about getting the most of virtual meetings, for you to dig deeper and get inspired to take action on the meetings you are and will be attending as you transition to working remotely.

What has worked mostly for me, is to have everyone on video when meetings are virtual:

  • You avoid multi-taskers 
  • You can ready body-language
  • And it is just more personal. 

Transitioning from being in an office to working remotely can get some people lost on how to prove that they are working and not watching Netflix during the working hours.

This is of course a great opportunity to actually shift the mindset from hours spent at the office, with actual progress, results and impact we have in our work.

I have often people asking me when they know that I mostly work remotely “how do you keep productive and don’t get distracted?”.

The key to me is setting daily objectives that build towards the weekly as well as my quarterly objectives.

Having clear what I want to achieve every day, what my big (max) three goals are for each day, really helps me staying focused. I write them down the night before and check them through the day, because – let’s be honest – I cannot rely (anymore) on my memory! So having them written down makes sure that I don’t let other things in the day take over.

If your team is relying on you for guidance on what they need to achieve in the day, then going back to the daily 5 min check-in that I mentioned earlier ensures everyone is clear on what is expected in terms of output and will feel accountable and in control of how they organise their work.

You will have to accommodate for the unexpected as you become more used to the new setting: unreliable internet connectivity, technology hiccups and other distractions might happen both to you and the people you work with, and being patient and showing grace is the right approach towards it. 


One of the things that actually caught me unprepared when I started working remotely is lunch! I found it daunting having to prepare my own lunch, being so used to just go down the road to a local cafe, or restaurant or buying lunch at the company’s canteen, when lunch time rang, i found myself opening the home fridge with desperation and no time nor fantasy to making something that would nurture my body properly.

So I ended up not eating enough for lunch and just grabbing something fast, only for having afternoon crashes a couple of hours later.

The trick for me is to prepare fully balanced meals in advance and ready to just heat up!

You can either cook larger portions the night before, or meal prep individual ingredients so that you can combine them to your liking.

I have personally become a huge fan and a steady adopter of meal kits solutions (à la HelloFresh): they allow you not only to not have to think about what to eat for the whole family, but also their portions are usually big enough to make for an additional serving, which is my lunch!

“If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.”

– Tony Robbins


How have you adapted to working from home?

Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Bye for now,


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