How to Stay Productive and Healthy in a COVID-19 Remote-First World
COVID-19 is throwing us all for a loop in so many ways. Those who are able to, are shifting to a work from home (WFH) reality. Some are experiencing WFH for the first time, under the duress of self-isolation, and for families, with the added bonus of having new office associates... our children. When you’re used to going into an office everyday, shifting to a remote-first work environment can be challenging as you and your team adjust to new rhythms, distractions, schedules, and expectations. Recognizing that this virus may keep us all working remotely for some time, it’s critical that this setup not be looked at as a temporary situation. For the sake of everyone's mental health and job productivity, it’s advisable to take some steps now to make this new arrangement more amenable and pleasant.
While it’s not the norm for the entire Stratasan team to be remote-first, we are accustomed to and set-up to accommodate remote work. Before COVID-19, we were already set-up to work fluidly with team members based in other states, some who work part-time and often remotely, and others who balance a schedule of in-office work days with regular WFH days as well. Based on this experience, and our learnings from this past week as the new normal of remote-first work has set in, we’ve collected tips and suggestions which we’ll share in this post for how to maintain sanity in this season.
Tips for Top Productivity
To ensure optimal performance while working remotely, consider the following:
- Mind your environment. Choose a quiet and distraction-free working space. Naturally, this will help you focus.
- Have an internet connection adequate for your job. It’s easy to take for granted the stable internet connection that you are accustomed to in the office. The same set-up will be needed at home to ensure video calls and online communication can be handled without a hitch.
- Establish work times and dedicate full attention to job duties during working hours. This will help to establish a work rhythm similar to what you’ve been used to with your past work schedule.
- Keep close tabs on your timelines and schedules. Be responsible for knowing your project deadlines and meeting schedule ahead of time, including all meeting information.
- Ensure work and break schedules compliment other team members. This may not always happen, but as much as possible, taking breaks around the same time as your team will help you to be available to connect when others are.
- Maintain high communication with team members during working hours. This includes updating your calendar, status on internal communication tools, etc. so that others know when you are available or taking a break.
- If you’re in a leadership position, make sure your team is equipped with all the necessary tools to be productive. This will likely include a video conferencing tool, a project management software application, and a messaging software application.
Many of these tips are visualized in the graphic below.
Tips to Maintain Mental and Physical Health
Of equal importance to staying on top of your work responsibilities is the need to protect your mental and physical health. We are, after all, trying to avoid catching a highly contagious virus. Running yourself into the ground, not getting enough sleep, staying stressed out, and eating poorly will all lead to mental exhaustion and make you more susceptible to catching the virus, should you come in contact with it. Here are some ways to stay healthy:
- Try to keep your normal routine. Wake up at the same time and go to bed at a decent hour so you can get a full seven to eight hours of sleep. As stated above, try to keep regular work hours as well, so your body stays on a routine. If anything, the extra time you may have since you no longer have a commute can open up time for some healthy exercise.
- Speaking of exercise, take breaks to fit it in. This is good to do under normal circumstances, and is all the more important now. As noted by Harvard Health Publishing, “exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system.” We can all use the help of a stronger immune system, so at a minimum, get out of the house when you can and take a walk.
- Take breaks, like you would in the office. There are a lot of natural breaks that occur throughout the day in the office. People stop by your desk to ask a question, you have meetings, you need to leave for lunch. While these interruptions can sometimes feel like unwanted disruptions to your productivity, they can also be natural ways to clear your mind. If you must, schedule times during your WFH schedule to take breaks every few hours.
- Stay connected with others by checking in with your co-workers, friends, and family. Consider marking time on your calendar when you can be "available for chats outside of your dedicated focus time" so that others know it’s an OK time to reach out. Similarly, encourage co-workers to specify focus time on their calendars so you know when isn’t an ideal time to reach out.
Be Flexible and Have Fun: We’re All in This Weird Season Together
As Alex Antonison, Stratasan’s Manager of Data Analytics observed “I think the main problem is everyone is trying to come up with a ‘one right way’ and the fact of the matter is there isn't ‘one right way’ because everyone thinks and is creative differently.” Bottom line, these are weird times. For some, they are scary. It helps to be flexible and supportive with each other as we try to figure things out one day at a time.
Our team has established a “remote” channel in our company’s internal messaging system, Slack. Here we’re sharing tips and encouragement with each other. Team members have shared photos of their at-home workstations, prompting conversations about how everyone can improve their own set-up. We’re also finding ways to laugh at the current reality. Recently a game started of sharing something the kids (or pets) are doing, but calling them coworkers instead. As you can imagine, this led to some much needed humor around the craziness that many of us are balancing as we try to focus.
And speaking of kids… for families who find themselves working from home while trying to balance school cancellations, flexibility is paramount. Be honest with your manager about the reality of your situation and reach out to family and friends, as much as possible, for help. It may be useful to invest in new crafts, puzzles, or legos—activities that children may be able to do for short periods of time on their own.
As we all embrace a remote-first work environment, it’s important to find ways to stay healthy and sane. While there is no ‘one right way’ to work remote, it’s important to find what works for you. The two most important things to do is to create good habits to help you during this process.
Know too, that the team at Stratasan is still hard at work on your behalf. We’re ready to support your efforts to address specific issues that may arise at this time. Please reach out and schedule a time to talk, if there’s anything we can do to help.