Steps to Ensure 'Flexible' Work Maintains a Healthy Balance
First of all, we feel deeply enriched by this remote work community that continues to inspire and challenge us to be better every day. We are grateful for your input!
Last week we came together to specifically network and discuss health, safety and wellness solutions for remote workers and teams. We focused in on the top four categories of challenges discussed during our June Networkplaceless, but of course our conversations delved much deeper into the why, how and what next. With a high percentage of remote leaders joining us last week, we heard some management perspective as to the role leaders and companies play in implementing solutions.
Here are a few specific solutions that rose to the top during our voting:
- Set aside time for high quality breaks tailored to you, not just to check a box
- Ensure your leadership team models taking deliberate and regular breaks
- Establish non-work team calls/check-ins to encourage interpersonal connection
An interesting theme highlighted throughout the discussions was the level of personalization needed for these solutions to be truly impactful.
For example, while the rumor mill has it that remote workers are sitting in their PJs watching cartoons all day, in reality many remote workers find themselves in the same position in front of their computer from morning until dawn, without taking time for breaks throughout the day. This is dangerous for your mental and physical wellbeing. The simple solution is: take more breaks. However, during our discussions we uncovered that for those breaks to be valuable, these breaks need to be personalized and intentional. We identified two high-level categories of breaks:
- Mental disconnect breaks. What is mind clearing for one person may be stressful for another. Some people like to go outside (getting that daily dose of Vitamin D is always recommended!) for a walk or a run to take a mental and physical break. While others found taking a break to play their guitar or cooking a meal allowed them the mental space to recharge, and come back to their work refreshed. A couple tips and ideas for optimal breaks.
- Social connect breaks. Humans are social beings and that social connectivity has positive impacts on the person and the work. This also ties closely to the well-documented concern of isolation in remote work, however, again the level of social break interaction needed might vary by individual. Many remote work introverts shared they are perfectly comfortable going all day without ever seeing someone face-to-face, while others relish opportunities to replicate in-office communities. No matter where you fall on this spectrum it’s important that these personal interactions don’t just focus on the work, and that the company provides the structure and tools to make these interactions effective.
Speaking of managers… remote leaders have some true opportunities to foster health and wellness solutions within their teams. It doesn’t have to be complicated but it does have to be intentional. What are a couple things remote leaders can do?
- First and foremost, model behavior! You can’t talk the talk about taking breaks to disconnect and recharge if you aren’t taking breaks yourself. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Let your team know on your Slack channel of choice that you’re popping out for a quick walk around the block. Give yourself and your team permission to take breaks. Encourage them to check-in and share on their breaks → maybe even posting a photo or two! This doesn’t just apply to breaks throughout the day, but also to longer breaks, some may call them “vacation.” ;) Vacations are meant to be taken for yourself, for your family and for your company. If you’re not taking your vacation and fully disconnecting, then neither are your team members, and no one is getting that recharge, and everyone is feeling that burnout. It’s not a good look.
- Check in with your team members beyond the work. Managers are great at setting up weekly 1:1s to talk about work objectives and career development, but without physical cues, remote leaders need to be proactively attuned to the mental status of their team members. One Networkplaceless attendee, Kimberly Bringas of Olark, shared a concept that worked well at her organization called “If you really knew me…”. This practice enables team chats and 1:1 conversations with managers to kick-off with this question and gauge how an individual is feeling personally—this sets up expectations of how (or even if!) the meeting will progress.
And finally, suggestions for solutions were all about finding that personal balance. One of the primary reasons so many of us got into remote work in the first place was the flexibility and the balance afforded to individuals by working from home or becoming a digital nomad. Hence so many solutions that we identified for health and wellness in remote work are about maintaining that balance for your holistic wellbeing, like:
- Connect with your local community
- Organize your own meetups
- Keep up with your hobbies
- Join clubs
- Link up with remote work communities / initiatives
- Sign up for therapy
Frankly, I don’t know how any single individual could regularly fit all of these activities in the day, week, or even year -- but pick a few. Just like your breaks, pick a couple wellness activities that fit into your life and enrich your days. And finally, it’s equally important (although often much harder) to say no to the activities that just aren’t a good fit for you. Achieving that balance for wellbeing is a personal journey made easier with strong support.
Build out your community of support and ideas by joining the remote community at our next Networkplaceless → Register here.
Click here to view the full July Networkplaceless Infographic