If you don’t approach remote work with the right mindset and organizational skills, it could incur a drag on your overall health. It’s easy to lose your level-headedness while working remotely because you are isolated. You want to focus your concentration and ultimately, maintain your lucidity and optimum physical state at all costs as they will affect your remote work productivity. For that, you must take affirmative steps to refresh and boost your physical endurance and mental equilibrium, because they are interdependent.
Why does remote work take such a toll?
There are many reasons that cause mental and physical drain in remote work. We list some of them below – you can take this opportunity to cross-check which ones have been affecting you as a remote worker.
- You do not have physical closeness with your colleagues.
- You don’t have “watercooler conversations” during the day – because there are no watercoolers in a remote work setup.
- You see screens all day and develop “screen-weariness.”
- You become “ambient-weary” as you work and live in the same space.
- You are cooped up in one place, so you don’t get fresh air and morning sunlight, and the rejuvenation that comes with it.
- Your posture suffers as you are always sitting and bent over your computer.
- You might compromise on a healthy diet, settling for unhealthy foods and constant snacking on calories and sodium-laden snacks.
- You bring your work to the kitchen, to your bed, and even to your bathroom!
- You have unspoken fears about the ongoing pandemic and experience anxiety over the possibility of the world ever assuming pre-pandemic normalcy.
What can you do to regain your mental and physical composure and be an efficacious and laser-focused remote worker?
Remote-first/remote-friendly organizations must ensure the wellbeing of their remote workers. However, there are some things you can do on your own to reboot yourself for more success as a remote worker and become a holistically balanced, optimal individual. Because, let’s face it, only happy, healthy, and high-functioning individuals can be successful workers, whether remote or on-site.
Your remote work mental and physical boost initiatives are contained within the dilemmas and issues that you face as a remote worker. Nothing fancy or tremendous is required – just small efforts and lifestyle changes which can make a huge difference and revitalize your energy and motivation levels.
- Beat isolation and loneliness by constantly communicating with your remote co-workers on communication apps.
Make it a point to keep in touch with your team members – you can do it by creating groups on MS Teams or office groups on WhatsApp. A simple morning greeting and “How are you all doing today?” can launch an online watercooler conversation that can mutually destress, make you feel good, and be pumped up to do your tasks.
Online conversations can also increase your productivity. You can give reminders to your team members if you notice them not responding to an email you sent two days back or that urgent task that needs immediate action. Giving updates on your task progression is also great – they provide insights about where you are at vis-à-vis your team members and even foster healthy competition. By doing this continuously, you are creating a systemic human support system and backup at remote work which can beat any sense of being a lone ranger. However, since it’s asynchronous communication, you should be more patient and understanding when replies are delayed while being an active replier yourself. “Active” here means “eventually within the day,” not “immediately within seconds.” You can also respond by using reactions and emojis/GIFs to replace non-verbal cues.
Conduct weekly or fortnightly virtual coffee meetings with your team members with fun activities to do and share trivia about you with your team members to strengthen your working relationship. Keep it light and let laughter ring throughout the meeting.
Be careful that you don’t get carried away by the online conversations that cost your productivity and work performance.
- Take a lot of B R E A K S and RECHARGE.
Seeing screens day in and day out can leave you drained. The hours of glare and blue light can take a toll on your eyes and can trigger headaches and gritty eyes which lead to mental irritability and loss of concentration and focus. It literally doesn’t help that what you do to unwind after work is seeing more screens – Netflix and Instagram reels.
Break the vicious screen cycle and give your eyes and brain a break by looking at real-life greenery. Step on the grass and enjoy the sunset. You can position your remote workstation by a window and look out every now and then to relax and relieve eye strain and accumulated stress. Open the windows to let fresh air and sunlight in. It’s also a good idea to invest in a pair of high-quality blue light filtering spectacles.
Be conscious about your posture when you work on your computer. Sit or lie down comfortably, with your spine’s natural curvature supported. Get an ergonomic chair for optimum back and neck support. Avoid slouching by adjusting your computer to your eye level. When you maintain an ideal posture, your mental condition will also be good as you can fend off backache and the literal “pain in the neck.”
Try to take short power naps. The Japanese do it religiously by practicing “inemuri.” They doze off in parks, train stations, on the steps of malls, and especially, in the office. It’s described as “being present while asleep” and this is what you can leverage when working remotely – supercharge by taking brief and expedient nap breaks to reduce the intensity of the stress hormone cortisol shooting up your veins.
The outright opposite to inemuri is the Japanese culture of exercising at work – many companies in Japan implement 10-minute exercise breaks, doing stretching exercises known as “rajio taiso.” They believe that these exercise breaks keep their employees healthy and at their optimized productive condition. You may practice this to keep yourself alert and energized as a remote worker. By doing this, you also improve your posture and restore the correct alignment of your spine.
Take short walks on the premises of your remote workspace. If you have a garden and you feel the stress of working remotely and sitting for hours getting to you, get up and enjoy a walk in your garden. Pets are good remote work stress busters too – having a pet and playing with them can relieve your stress – you will be more ready to complete impending remote tasks ahead. Or you can simply listen to music and songs or ambient sounds that can render a calming effect and flood your brain with feel-good vibes, motivating you to work better. You also beat “ambient weariness” by doing those things above.
Snacking is another good way to beat remote work doldrums. However, be mindful of the type of snacks you choose as they not only compromise your health but also your remote work productivity. Sugary snacks may seem to energize you but after the sugar spike in your bloodstream plummets, it will leave you tired and sluggish. Roasted and unsalted nuts, cut-up fruit, steamed dumplings, peanut butter sandwiches, and water-based soups are good snacking choices. Remember to keep yourself amply hydrated by drinking lots of water.
- Set boundaries and learn to detach from work that is accessible round the clock.
It’s actually very easy to bring remote work into your personal realm, mixing up both worlds as the lines between your workspace and living space are blurred – when you’re working from home. So, you must learn to separate work hours and your personal time and stick to those disparate hours.
As a remote worker, it’s okay to work one or two hours extra or check on your tasks over the weekend. Sometimes, it lessens your workload for the next day or is a matter of time management or meeting deadlines. Remote work means flexible work hours after all. But if you’re taking your remote work laptop to bed where you’re supposed to get your daily dose of eight hours, then you have a problem.
To overcome the urge to not unplug from remote work, you can follow the lead of your co-workers. You work when they work. You send emails when they are online, hence available. The status message and online/offline/be right back/away button on remote work communication applications and work hours email signatures are there for very good reasons. They are useful to indicate your on-duty hours and when you are not working or out of the office. When you set your availability and non-availability status buttons on the remote communication applications, you subliminally ingrain the notion of, “This is the time I work. This is the time I do other things instead of work.” It sounds simple but simple things can be powerful.
Some people may feel guilty for unplugging from work because work is there, 24/7. If you are one of those people, tell your colleagues that you are going away to do some things or that you are logging out for the day. Their accommodating responses will certainly make you feel better about treating work as an 8-hours on workdays endeavor and not a full-day obligation.
- Confide in your remote colleagues to allay disquietude.
The pandemic is something we have to learn to live with. This veracity can be daunting and create anxiety attacks in the worst-case scenarios, at the cost of remote work productivity and performance.
You can share your concerns with your co-workers during the virtual coffee sessions – they can range from the COVID-19 crisis to your personal health problems, especially if they impact your work negatively.
As a remote-first organization that hires people with disabilities, Genashtim encourages its employees to take care of their health and share any issues they have with their co-workers. This initiative is implemented so that everyone at Genashtim can function to the best of their abilities, making workflows smooth and accounted for, despite their medical conditions and physical challenges.
It’s all in the spirit of “we take care of each other.” Since there is next to nothing physical closeness in remote work settings, such an integrated support system that remote workers can fall back on is critical.
Final words about keeping your sanity and physical soundness as a remote worker…
All the measures mentioned above are based on your needs as a remote worker. You should realize the inherent remote work challenges and then work on the ways to tackle them. Remember that remote work challenges are as diverse as remote workers and companies – they are highly subjective and individualistic – no two remote workers face the same struggles.
Use the appropriate technology designed to facilitate remote work and maintain openness to new technological advancements. Be innovative, creative, and mostly suited-to-self when it comes to upkeeping your interrelated mental and physical health to become a motivated, and high-performing remote worker.