Whether you are an SMME driving your business goals on your own during this time, a boss leading a team through virtual means or an employee working remotely, take a moment to pause and reflect on the past year and a half and ask yourself, am I thriving or surviving? Are my daily work habits leading me on a trajectory of mental and emotional wellness?
According to Pfizer, ‘wellness is the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving’.
As the pandemic hit South Africa in March 2020, we saw a vast majority of the working force, including SMMEs, needing to make a rapid shift to remote working and virtual set-ups. Most adapted well to the changed business environment. However, remote or ‘isolated’ working styles brought on many other factors that we are now faced with and need to tackle, for example depression, anxiety, stress, burnout or lack of emotional support, lack of collaboration, and cybersecurity risks.
Let’s chat through some key action steps that you can implement to ensure a successful and healthy remote working environment for yourself and your team/colleagues/partners in business.
ACTION STEPS FOR A HEALTHY REMOTE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
Consider your personality
Depending on your personality, working at home could be revolutionary or could be taxing your wellbeing. Remote working can be a very positive experience, but it can also increase the risk of burnout or even enable bad practices such as being distracted or procrastinating. Self-awareness and self-reflection are key factors to ensuring a healthy you.
If you are extroverted and need the energy around others to feel motivated, you could seek out a hybrid model of remote working and find a shared space with a couple of colleagues, or simply working in a coffee shop for a couple of hours a day.
Engagement and collaboration
Staying connected and engaged through digital teamwork frameworks such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or Google Meet would ensure that staff or work colleagues do not get trapped in feelings of isolation or ‘not-belonging’.
Talking more doesn’t necessarily mean sending more emails or setting up formal group meetings: it could just refer to chat platforms that others can easily scan, search and catch up on.
Collaboration and open communication help you achieve your work goals as well as fill some interpersonal social needs. Working remotely can sometimes mean that you are missing out on opportunities to pop into a colleague’s office to say good morning, or walk by an employee’s desk to check if they are okay. See where you can intentionally add some ‘team’ time or ‘people’ moments to your day to stay engaged.
Remote working has highlighted the potential hazards of putting sensitive information at risk. Opening up your workspace to the digital world and using public networks allows potential threats to monitor your online activity. Consider changing your passwords at least every 2−3 months and using a virtual private network (VPN) to protect online anonymity.
Educate yourself on the latest phishing, malware or digital security threat trends so that you have a full understanding of what you are dealing with.
Boundaries, structure and white space
Bad habits creep in quickly if you don’t have a healthy and intentional balance of work and time. Know your boundaries and make sure your colleagues, clients or partners, stakeholders, etc, know when you are available. For example, you could put an out-of-office autoreply on during lunchtime or over weekends.
Building a work structure while working remotely is another healthy way to set boundaries. If you are prone to distraction while working at home, try short bursts of work or selected set hours for deep work in terms of deadline priority. On the other hand, becoming overworked because you are at home has also become an issue. Allow yourself intentional white pockets of space to clear your head, or set yourself clear working hours for your day − and be strict with yourself when it comes to taking leave during the year.
Embracing a new culture
This is our new normal and challenges aside, the nature of remote working is an opportunity to rethink how we used to do things and recreate our workspaces with improved behaviours, systems and digital advances. It also creates a space for trust to be earned and formed between teams and management, as well as space for SMME owners to be on the go and travel while keeping up with work and meetings without being desk-bound.
As we embrace this new culture, may we always keep in mind that healthy and happy team members and happy and healthy business owners are proved to be more productive. Let’s activate the healthiest workspace around us, identify any challenges and thrive in our working environment.
Kelly Sin Hidge, SAICA Enterprise Development and The Hope Factor