Remote Workers Day
Labor day is a great day to think about the well-being of workers. More and more companies switch to remote work due to the pandemic. This has great implications for the social well-being of teams. On one hand, by switching to WFH, we save hours of commute time and have more flexibility in terms of sleep or taking breaks. On the other hand, WFH can lower motivation and create a sense of isolation.
In the new setting, spontaneous social interactions are missing. There are no watercooler conversations, lunch breaks or just reaching out to colleagues. For those living alone, this can be especially hard. For those living with family or friends can this be stressful, too. They may feel the need to constantly juggle work tasks and private roles. Understanding the following few things will improve wellbeing at work.
Check-in Standups and Work Buddies
Daily check-in standup meetings are a great way of establishing routine, communicating and making yourself and others accountable. A standup is usually a very short meeting to check-in about progress from yesterday, share the plan for today and eliminate any potential blockers.
Here is how we run our daily standups at Knit. We take turns and say:
- What we’ve done since the last standup, explicitly stating what changed
- What we intend to do until the next standup
- Whether there are any roadblocks
We try to keep them extremely short, making space for potential discussions or resolving roadblocks after the standup. General planning and prioritizing is done in a dedicated sprint meeting.
If you are a freelancer or mostly work on your own, then you can find a buddy to still mutually benefit from regular check-ins. This works even if your tasks are completely unrelated. If you’d rather not do this with people you know or you don’t have anyone at hand, you can use Focusmate (https://www.focusmate.com/). It allows you to connect to other users for a 50-minute work session, so you don’t feel like you are the only one working. It will make you feel accountable as well because you declare your goals at the beginning.
Dedicated Work Space
Remote work means no commute time, but it lacks the advantage of separate spaces. Having the same space for work and non-work activities can be bad for one’s well-being. Most of us have to get into work mode. Having a dedicated space is the easiest way to turn that on. It’s also better for others in your household. It will be more natural for them not to get into your way. This is also going to make keeping to a balanced schedule easier.
The company culture about remote work is perhaps one of the most important issues. It’s critical to realize that working from home means sharing an intimate space. Remote workers have to share a part of their home with people they might not want to share it with otherwise. It’s important to be respectful about that space. Another aspect is that it’s a space shared between all of the members and activities in the household.
This means we should work towards more acceptance. For instance, we should normalize the presence of kids and pets in the workspace. Yes, it might be weird if someone comes into your office with their two massive mastiffs unannounced. However, if the same two dogs appear in the background of a video call, we should embrace that. Same goes for children. With all platforms allowing muting, these should not be an issue. Let’s be respectful of these spaces and reduce stress associated with WFH.
If you are the person at the other end and you get stressed by others who enter your space, embrace that too. Make sure to mute yourself so that your pets or children don’t interrupt the conversation, but don’t feel the need to apologize. It’s your home in which you have now fit an office. The people and pets you live with are part of your home.
Video Call Fatigue
Video call fatigue is a real issue. Many video calls are too long, because there are too many participants. In real life, we split up into smaller groups to discuss things in detail. At Knit, we allow people to split up and regroup easily. That way, you can schedule a call for everyone who has some role to play without setting up every detail in advance. Then, teams can group and regroup as they need.
This applies for afterwork social events as well. In real life, we don’t monopolise the undivided attention of everyone in the room. We split up into smaller groups of 2-4 and mingle. That’s why it’s important to have a setup that allows for smaller groups.
Workers Day is the perfect time to reflect on these issues. It is best to tackle them one by one. It is generally easier to make a few small steps than to try to make great leaps ahead. We can all start by thinking about who is needed in a video call and when. For group calls, you can try Knit.