Remote Worker Self Care
It turns out that the first time I ever wrote about mental health in remote working environments was back in 2011, with an article titled Good Habits for Working From Home. Funnily enough, over a decade later much of the article appears to have stood the test of time.
A while ago Linktree announced it was giving their employees some extra days off to combat Covid Blues™ (my words, not theirs), a generous and wise move in my opinion. Everyone needs a break, some time off to recoup and replenish motivation levels and creative juices. Having written this article on an extended weekend I have to say I feel pretty good right now, so let’s call it anecdotal evidence that having some space from work really does help.
I have been a remote worker for more than 10 years now and so I’ve developed a bunch of “rules” to ensure I don’t just burn out. Some of them are more absolute than others, and some I fail at regularly, but I think everyone needs to put together a self-care toolbox and maybe these will help.
In true Getting Things Done (GTD) style, I am starting with the easiest self-care tip and working from there. Notifications can be a tool for good and for evil, so use them wisely. Here are my notification tips to help you use them in a productive and mindful way:
Set expectations with your colleagues – Having clear expectations sets you up for everything else. Being clear about when you will and won’t be contactable will save you a lot of stress later on. You should set out how it's best to contact you, and set clear boundaries in the workplace for communication.
Turn off your Apple Watch (or similar) notifications - These notifications may be helpful in reminding us to do things but even if you don’t realize it, checking a notification can pull your attention for even just a moment. Notifications can also interrupt meals and our intentional free time.
Set a Slack notification schedule – Slack, a business communication app is a highly useful function if it’s being used correctly. Slack is best used asynchronously. There should be no reason for you receiving chat notifications outside of your working hours. This is also a great platform for teammates to be able to message you a question where the answer isn’t urgent, but they don’t want to forget their thought. You can happily look at their query when you are next available.
Limit phone notifications – By switching off notifications for all but a couple of apps you can really begin to feel at peace and certainly more productive. By doing this I give myself less pressure, but colleagues, friends and family are still able to contact me if they need.
2. Note Taking
Even seasoned remote-working professionals are subject to an overabundance of inputs. Inputs that were once face-to-face are now incredibly data and text heavy. Often remote working can feel like you are facing a barrage of inputs and communication that need to be meticulously organized in order for you to progress, or maybe even start your day. Having a system to deal with this bombardment of inputs, to do lists, and tasks, is critical in ensuring good self-care.
My top tip is to first take notes, then review them, then make action points.
- Taking notes – I believe that remote working can only really become successful when you have a system in place for note taking. Gone are the days when in-office social cues stimulate your brain and remind you to do things. Now you need a system.
(Pro tip: Look into using Zapier. Zapier allows users to integrate all their web applications for a more cohesive and fast-flowing working day. For example, you can quickly add saved Slack messages to a to do list, so you don’t forget them.
Review notes – Note taking is great but if you are not actively reviewing your notes what’s the point. Making time each day to review your notes is critical for taking action on what you’ve written. I generally read all my notes later in the day before wrapping up the day’s work on time.
Making action points – To relieve stress and plan your day and your goals it is important to turn your notes into learning and action points. An entire article could be written on action points but for now keep this in mind. Your actions are the only things that your colleagues or employer will judge you on. So, knowing what these actions should be will help you become more efficient and hopefully create less stress.
3. Taking Time
It’s a well-known tip that taking time away from your desk is important but before you skip this point thinking “I already do this”, here me out. I will skip the “why” and jump to “how” you can effectively do this.
Exercise – Please, if you do nothing else on this list, schedule a short time in your calendar each day for exercise. Whether you go for a walk around the block, do some yoga in front of the TV, or go for a full-blown cardio fest at the gym just do something that gets you away from your desk.
Socialise - This can take numerous forms depending on your preferences, your ability to meet up in real life, and how much Zoom time you’ve had that week. Working remotely, you can soon forget how important it is for your mental health to get up and go and speak to people. Worst case scenario, book a watercooler chat once a week with a colleague. I highly recommend using Donut on Slack for this.
Lastly, if you are genuinely pressed for time and making a moment for these things is hard, here's a tip. Find one task in your week that you can automate and head outside for. Always remember you are worth it, and your mental health needs to be protected.
Share Gratitude with Colleagues
Sharing gratitude with colleagues is hugely important at Linktree and honestly something I will take with me wherever I go. We would have these “All-Hands” meetings that were companywide and aimed to give employees a voice. On Zoom we would form sub-groups of 5-6 people to celebrate milestones, say what we were grateful for or what made us happy during the working day. It might sound a bit cheesy at first but once you get into it, it really provides some positive and uplifting energy.