Regular remote workers will be familiar with the challenges a life physically detached from colleagues poses and how it affects them emotionally. With thousands being advised to work at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are ways to make the experience less stressful, write Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy for MIT Sloan Management Review.
The authors’ strategies are based on personal experience as well as global research interviews with thousands of remote workers.
“Feeling isolated is common when working from home,” they say. “Living with uncertainty in the face of a pandemic makes the current situation even more stressful.”
TOP TIPS FOR WORKING SUCCESSFULLY AT HOME:
1) Watch your words. It’s common to communicate via written messages or emails, but do re-read your words carefully before pressing the send button. It’s easy to cause anxiety by inadvertently implying an emotional tone that isn’t intended. A flippant “Let’s talk” could be interpreted as a negative. If in doubt, suggest a chat on the phone or by video link.
2) Respect time zones. If you’re working with colleagues across different zones, schedule important discussion topics, news sharing and decision making when everyone who should have input is available. Share information in advance via email or messaging and supply comprehensive minutes of meetings.
3) Collaborate casually. Impromptu connections with colleagues in the workplace often spawn the best innovations. Plan these moments into your online interactions, maybe with an informal chat at the beginning or end of virtual meetings.
4) Take mini breaks. Stay focused by taking time out during the working day. Get up from your desk, walk about, have a stretch. If you need a reminder, use an app to jog your memory.
5) Create healthy boundaries. When you don’t have a workplace to physically leave, work can easily creep into what should be leisure time. Establish a clear signal or ritual for when the working day is over. It could be a phrase you say out loud – one author tells himself, “Schedule shutdown, complete.” Or choose a piece of exit music, read a magazine, or do some physical exercise to mark the end of the day.
6) Prioritise physical activity. Plan periods of exercise into your schedule. It could be a quick high-impact workout, jumping around to a favourite tune or sweating through a YouTube fitness class with a friend on video call.
7) Find mutual support. Set up video lunches or coffee breaks with colleagues where you talk to each other about anything but work – your families, your worries, TV shows or hobbies. Companies like Buffer opt to pair people up at random via the Slack collaboration hub.
Remote working is the way many businesses are surviving in these difficult times. Supporting each other and following Fosslien and Duffy’s tips as we adapt and adjust our daily habits will help to ease the transition.