• People

Increasing productivity while working remotely

8 March 2024

There are many different ways of working and of defining productivity. At JUMO we favour working remotely and the many benefits that come with it, such as flexibility and focus. Financial Analyst Johan de Klerk explores the parallels between working more productively in a remote setting, and becoming a better runner.

Running has been a significant part of my life for close to nine years. It started off as a way to clear my head while I was completing my undergraduate studies (which included a lot of home studies, not too dissimilar from remote working practices), and evolved into a way to challenge myself to longer distances and greater endurance.

This pursuit eventually led to me finding a running coach, as bigger mileage necessitated a more structured plan to get stronger while avoiding injuries. For five years now, I have followed a plan curated by my coach on the popular training platform Training Peaks. The mere mention of Training Peaks will stir mixed emotions in those familiar with it – simplified, you set your daily running targets, and then get rewarded or reprimanded with a green (full compliance), yellow (partial compliance), or red block (no compliance) based on your workout for the day. Long term  goals can be our biggest enemy, as it can be difficult to draw a line from our current state to a big scary number somewhere in the future. Training Peaks’ secret sauce is the fact that it allows athletes to tick off simple daily goals, while building towards a long term goal.

Creating better connections

The benefits of following a structured running plan becomes apparent when we consider that the lack of routine, feelings of isolation as well as the lack of physical activity associated with remote working are some of the toughest challenges facing remote workers.

Firstly, while many may consider running to be a solo endeavour, it is best when experienced with company. The simple action of putting one foot in front of the other allows for conversation, while the magical combination of movement and fatigue opens one’s heart to sharing more than usual. I find that this interaction is interchangeable with any ‘water cooler’ moments that the traditional office would offer, as it allows you to ground yourself before or after a good day’s work.

Running in the Table Mountain National Park with Mountain Mxn SA.

The rhythms of routine

Other than the obvious scientific benefits of physical activity – who wouldn’t want a kickstart to the metabolism and a healthy hit of dopamine every morning? – I’ve found that even just the daily ritual of getting out for a run before my workday has allowed my mind to not have to think about work until my actual workday starts. This spills over into the evening, as the tough Training Peaks workout waiting for me the next day acts as a bit of a barrier between my personal life and goals, and my role and responsibilities at JUMO.

This routine ties in nicely with my personal favourite JUMO cultural behaviour, that of ‘Acting like an owner’. In many ways our career progression can be seen as a training plan, with various degrees of compliance to the short term plan. In following a structured plan in my running career, I believe that I’ve trained my mind to not focus too much on the short term wins and losses, but rather stay focused on longer-term ambitions. It has allowed me to remain disciplined while also being accountable to someone whose job is not to hold my hand all the way, but rather nudge me in the right direction and empower me with the tools to succeed.

One of the joys of life is finding your own method, which in my case (supposedly) only requires a pair of shoes and a bit of wanderlust.

Warming up at Greenpoint track.

Getting started
Finally, I would like to briefly transcend the running/work analogy and share some simple advice with anyone who has thought about lacing up and going for a run, but found the idea of heading outside too daunting (rightfully so, where do you even start?)

  • Start slow and short. Going out for a 1k run is more than the zero kilometres you would have done if you did not get out at all.
  • Be prepared to walk some/most of the route. It takes years of training or supreme genetic ability to be able to manage your pace over an entire run. For the rest of us mere mortals, catching your breath and not pushing too hard too soon is the best way to ensure an enjoyable experience that you will want to come back to.
  • Contrary to the second point, it will not always be an enjoyable experience, but like reading a book, even a bad one will have taught you something. Get comfortable with the concept of Type II Fun – miserable when it is happening, but fun in retrospect.
  • Smile through the pain – scientific studies have shown that runners use less energy when they smile, as it allows for the body to relax, and the mind to become more self-aware.
All the emotions – finishing a 83km race.

In case none of this works, my ‘use in case of emergency’ method is watching my favourite documentary on running, Unbreakable – The Western States 100. Twelve years after its release, it still gets me motivated to get outside and run, and started this descent into the crazy world of running that makes working remotely just a little bit easier than it would’ve been without it.

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