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Cabin Fever – A curated list of the best tips to ensure you can bunker down, socially distance yourself and still achieve positive professional and personal outcomes

The world as we know it is changing and, if we’re lucky enough to still have gainful employment, the way we continue to deliver value to our organisation has already changed (and will continue to change). There’s a lot of content out there right now to help us with that transition but nowhere near enough time to consume it all while still delivering – so we thought we’d curate some of the most valuable tidbits and share them with you.

We’ve compiled our list and have grouped them into three main categories for ease of reference:

  1. Mental Health and Wellbeing
  2. Remote Working Principles
  3. Workspace Hygiene

Some of these may seem pretty obvious, and they are, but if this article prompts you to adjust just one aspect of your remote working setup or behaviour then it’s been a worthwhile endeavour – for both of us!

Mental Health and Wellbeing
Maintain structure. Ensure you maintain structure in your day – get up at the same time and maintain a routine. Get out of your PJ’s into your work outfit (home edition), take a lunch break, schedule in time away from the screen, clock off at the same time etc.
Regular check ins. Regularly check in with your team to ensure they feel supported and are coping – do the same for your manager.
Create team opportunities. Create opportunities for team communication using online tools or apps.
Allow control. Allow team members with appropriate control and flexibility over how they work.
Provide practical support. Provide practical tools to support positive mental health such as access to an employee assistance program.
Exercise and step away from the chips! Stay physically active, eat well and regularly go outside.
Schedule in non-work time. Put your physical activity in your calendar, book in a coffee date with your spouse, pick a time to log off and stick to it – go for a walk after you log off so you’re not going straight from the computer to the couch.

 

Remote Working Principles
Connect with your team. Take the time to really ‘connect’ with your colleagues during meetings; don’t just dive right in. Check in and see how people are; allow time for some small talk.
Use your camera – Let people see your smile or your frown (or look of confusion/disdain) – these are all important aspects of not only communication but interaction – something we’re not going to have much variation in for a while.
Have you heard of a Fika? Look it up. The Swedes are ahead of the curve again. Schedule in some virtual Fikas with your teams to talk about anything aside from work – we don’t have sport but I’m pretty sure you favourite streaming service is getting a workout 😉 isn’t it.
Optimise your calendar usage. Set your working hours to accurately reflect the working time your current situation allows, block out time to get work done, schedule in non-working time, respect other team member’s calendars when booking meetings.
Use all the tools at your disposal. You’ll have email, collaboration tools such as MS Teams and Slack, video chat such as Hangouts, and your trusty mobile phone. Use the right tool for the right job – don’t spend all your day on video chats. If you don’t know how to use them – learn – Google is your friend.
Plan. Plan your days and your weeks. Make a list of the key things you need to achieve in that week and use your calendar to plan your time to give you the best chance of hitting those marks. Repeat each week.
Co-ordinate with your team. There are no quick huddles in the office with your team anymore because, well, there is no office. Set up daily co-ord sessions so everyone is on the same page and blockers can be discussed and addressed to allow work to continue.
Track Tasks. Be transparent with your team and your manager with what you’re working on. Make your worklist visible to those around you using collaborative tools and hold yourself to account.
Keep an eye on workload. Openly discuss workload and ensure team members are not over-worked – who needs that with everything else going on. Working remotely provides an opportunity to get more done without the distraction of the office but the overheads of conducting all of your communication online can really eat into your day.

 

Workspace Hygiene
Work Area. Make sure you create a clearly defined work area where people know not to disturb you.
Noise and Disruption. Where possible, select a workspace away from sources of noise and disruption. Alternatively, get a set of noise cancelling headphones and learn to use the ‘mute’ button when you’re in a meeting.
Establish Rules and Boundaries. If you have children or share your house with other family members or friends, make sure they’re aware of your working arrangements and working times and respect your need not to be disrupted unnecessarily.
Don’t squint. Assess your workspace lighting situation. Is it sufficient? Do you need to bring a lamp into the room? Does the sun shine into your eyes? Is there glare from downlights coming off your monitor or other hardware? Take the time to organise a lighting situation that is good for your eyes and enables your co-workers to see you easily when on video chat.
Look after your back. You’re going to be sitting in it for a while so make sure the chair is ergonomic and adjustable and suitable for sitting in for long periods. Don’t just use the dining table and chairs – they’re not built for it. Consider hiring ergonomic office furniture for the duration.
Monitor. Are you still working on that laptop screen? It’s small and unlikely to be at the correct height. Necking getting stiff yet. See if you can borrow, hire or buy a monitor to plug your laptop into so you can achieve the ergonomically correct position

 

If you’re still working and it looks like staying that way – you’re one of the lucky ones! To ensure you and your team can continue to operate and deliver value to your organisation, you’re going to have to do things a little differently. Try things out, adjust and adapt as you go. Who knows – maybe highly flexible working arrangements will be here to stay…?

Also, don’t underestimate the effect that social isolation can have on your mental health and wellbeing – look after yourself and your colleagues – don’t hesitate to use your remote working tools to throw a little love and kindness around every now and then.

 

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