Working in a Restrictive Environment

Many of us working in the corporate world have the added challenge to our productivity of working in a restrictive environment. Whether it’s financial services, healthcare, government, or some other secure location, limited access to our normal suite of tools can put a significant crimp in our systems we rely on every day.  Here’s five tips for being productive in a restrictive environment.

Know the rules

Every restrictive work environment has rules. You may be limited to what devices you can connect to the network. You may be limited to what you can access through the company firewall. You may even be limited to what you can save or open on the network. The key is to be painfully aware of what you are and are not allowed to do to be productive. No matter how much good work you do, if you’re breaking the rules you’re going to have a problem at some point.

Carefully examine the tools at hand

Don’t outright run to the nearest tool or worse yet the one everyone else is using just because they’re using it. Unless there is a management mandate to use a specific tool take some time to get the lay of the land. Almost everywhere you have access to a word processor and a spreadsheet at a minimum. Both can be highly effective ways to both capture and process your productivity information. If you have tools such as Outlook or Lotus Notes you can get even more creative.

See what others are using

Contrary to the previous tip, you may find that others around you have settled on a tool to keep track of work at hand. If that’s the case I recommend taking some time to learn that tool and see how well it will serve your needs. Again, corporate mandates can require use for various reasons, but if use isn’t mandated you may be able to adapt the commonly used tools to your own needs.

Think about the process not the tools

Make sure when you’re looking at the restrictions you have to cope with you are doing it through the lens of your system. It’s much easier to determine what you can and can’t do if you have the yardstick of proven processes to compare and adapt towards. Also remember that no matter how slow change happens at any given organization, it does happen. Make sure your personal system is ready for change when it comes down from above so you’re not left out in the cold due to a shift in strategy or technology.

If necessary, go offline

I have been in multiple environments where restrictions make tracking my personal productivity beyond difficult to the point of nearly impossible. In those cases I shift the core of my system to an offline mode and work information back online when I need it to be shared with others. Is this an optimal configuration? Not in the least. Have I been able to make it work for me? Absolutely. Can you make it work for you? That’s really a matter of personal taste and comfort but if the situation dictates it I suggest at least giving it a look.

How about you? Have you ever worked in an environment that limited the tools you had access to for your work? How did you deal with the situation? Tell us in the comments below.