3 tips to stay focused at work during uncertain times

For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on our work, family and social lives. At Teva, thousands of colleagues are now working from home and have had the reassuring familiarity of their day-to-day lives replaced by new routines and ways of working. Here you can discover three tips that can help you stay focused during these uncertain times.

How many times have you heard the phrase ‘I’m good in a crisis’? Maybe it’s something you’ve said to yourself. However, not even the most seasoned crisis manager could have prepared for the situation we now all find ourselves in. Not only have many of us lost the reassuring familiarity of our daily work routine, but we’re forced to establish a new norm against a backdrop of concern for our families, friends and communities. 

At Teva, many colleagues have adapted the way they operate in order to keep the supply of essentials medicines going through our production, warehouse and distribution sites. At the same time, lots of colleagues have joined millions around the world by working from home where they can. 

If you or members of your team are sometimes finding it challenging to focus, you are not alone. Fast Company notes that the human brain responds to a consistent stream of news, official updates and worry with scattered thoughts and a tendency to be distracted. 01

Earlier this month, Nathan Furr at Harvard Business Review coined the phrase ‘unproductive uncertainty’ to describe the paralysis which can often kick in when trying to maintain remote working continuity during an unprecedented crisis 02. Furr spent time studying everyone from Nobel Prize winners and paramedics, to CEOs and surfers to get an understanding of what strategies can be learnt from people who thrive in uncertainty. 

As difficult as it may sometimes seem, it is possible to take some simple steps to ensure we can break down these barriers in order to harness a new sense of empowerment for both ourselves and our teams. Tips include: 

1. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by keeping a sense of perspective

When a stressful situation emerges, often the default response is to home in on it, sacrificing all other thoughts and resulting in a skewed sense of perspective.

Furr suggests this causes people to miss out on ‘broader possibilities’ stating, ‘this not only creates disquiet but can also lead us to make rash decisions or forgo opportunities because we don’t even recognize them.’

Being mindful of the bigger picture – and what we can do within our power to help other members of our team will create some distance from our own concerns and enable us to think more practically about where to shift focus and priorities.

As Tracy Brower writes in Forbes, ‘be(ing) intentional about giving another topic priority in your brain’ is a good place to start. 03

2. Look for the positives in a seemingly negative situation

Each team member will respond differently to new working practices so it’s important to highlight the positive innovations that have been carried out by different parts of the business.

For example, changes may have delivered a little more flexibility in routines, more effective communication, and a renewed, heightened focus on our collective wellbeing. Taking a little time to recognise and share micro-achievements each day will go some way to combatting feelings of general uncertainty.

As William Arruda at Forbes poignantly puts it, ‘In times of constant negative messaging, you need an antidote so that you can keep your positive attitude and march forward with determination and hope.’04

3. Seek out opportunities to get creative with problem solving

When faced with a problem at work, big or small, it can be tempting to get a coffee or energy drink to help us focus before sitting down and tackling it. Research from the University of Arkansas released last month found that while caffeine increases the ability to focus and problem solve, it doesn't stimulate creativity.05

Something that does facilitate a creative approach to problem solving is bouncing ideas off someone who you wouldn’t normally ask – something which we can probably all attest to as our patterns of daily communication shift during lockdown. 

Encouraging teams to communicate with colleagues outside of their core work remit can promote healthy problem solving and create a lighter working mood. 

Over to you… 

How are you remaining focused during this uncertain period?

You can share your ideas or successes for finding clarity of thought, maintaining a sense of achievement and staying focused on Teva’s LinkedIn page.

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    ‘Don’t let uncertainty paralyze you’ by Nathan Furr in Harvard Business Review.
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