Workspaces around the world are grappling with the realities of working remotely. It’s important that we stay productive, but it’s also important that we continue to foster the relationships that we have with each other and our clients.
Your population may have varying levels of experience working remotely. Some may find themselves clearing space on their kitchen counter and working from home for the first time. Others might already be set up and experienced in how to balance work at home. Everyone should expect a period of adjustment.
I’d like to share what we at Wellsource are embracing as strategies for success as a remote workforce. The suggestions below were compiled by the Wellsource team members who were already experienced in working remotely. The nature of your work may differ, but we’ve found a few things that work for us – and might help your remote population stay healthy and productive as well.
Encourage a pattern of daily communication within teams
One of the first hurdles a workforce will experience in a remote working situation is the friction remote communication tools can bring to group dynamics.
That’s why we’ve found it helpful to set clear expectations and structure around our remote communications – starting with creating a routine for group communication. Of course we will all video conference, chat, and email throughout the day, but it’s helpful to have specific points to check in or get some face-to-face (video) time in. Some example guidelines to share within your workforce:
- Check in first thing when starting your day.
- Tell your immediate teammates if you’re going to be unavailable for more than a short break.
- Alert people when you’re signing off for the day.
- Find creative ways to socialize online – do a team lunch or share photos of your workspace (or new office mates / pets) with your coworkers.
This matters because communication within teams is a critical part of collaboration, and can have real impacts on productivity, innovation, and mental health.
But beyond this, communication is a critical part of social connection. Social connection is essential for health—both mental and physical. Poor social connection and loneliness have a demonstrated impact on health outcomes. In fact, loneliness has a comparable effect on health as smoking cigarettes every day, and is worse than being obese or sedentary (read more about the health impacts of loneliness in this study).
Operate “business as usual” whenever possible
Humans are creatures of habit, and creating a routine and creating a familiar working environment are two ways to encourage health and boost productivity within remote teams. Initially at least, encourage remote workers to stick to their normal routine as much as they can.
Wake up at the same time. Shower, eat, wear clothes you might normally wear. And consider your home environment. One thing that helps me feel intentional about my wellness at home is keeping a water bottle nearby, just like I would at the office. Or maybe you need to distance your workspace from your kitchen, where all the snacks are calling out to you all day.
Bravo Wellness and The Cleveland Clinic have partnered on some resources to help remote employees work wellness into their daily schedule, including meditation and breathing exercises, daily schedule templates, and tips to improve sleep.
(Disclosure – Bravo Wellness is a client of Wellsource)
Finally, once you’ve accomplished your goals and met commitments for the day, log off from work. This can be one of the hardest things for remote workers to adhere to.
This may sound counter-intuitive for businesses to advocate, but overwork is a real concern for a remote workforce, and can lead to burnout. In the 2019 State of Remote Work Report from Buffer, the top struggle reported by remote employees was unplugging after work. Additional hours spent working can mean more sedentary hours in your day, and less time for healthy activities or time to build social connections.
Stay healthy and start new healthy habits
As you check out of work every day, consider taking this opportunity to start a new healthy habit.
One example? Maybe you don’t feel comfortable doing sit-ups on the floor at the office, but I bet you don’t mind doing them in the privacy of your home. Try setting a small, attainable goal and associating it with something you already do – after your daily team check-in, do a couple of push-ups. Spend your lunch time taking a walk outside. Or use the time you would normally commute to connect with loved ones.
Embrace technology — and a friendlier tone
One thing has become clear as more of our workforce is joining a work from home lifestyle: technology is an essential component of productivity. We as teams are finding ourselves embracing video chat (yes, turn on your cameras for that face-to-face connection!), more email, and more phone calls. Sure, not everyone loves these tools, but using each of these effectively is a learnable skill that anyone can master.
With these remote communication tools, however, comes the need to clearly indicate the tone of your messages. It’s easy for the tone of a message to be misconstrued over chat without the context of a face-to-face meeting. Reasonable use of emoji and explicitly stating the intent or importance of a request can help make sure that information is received as intended.
So try to be extra positive with your coworkers.
Technology can offer you some valuable insights into your workforce as to who might be most at risk in a remote working situation. Health Risk Assessment (HRA) data you collect can help you identify segments of your population that are at greater risk of feeling socially isolated, or individuals who have previously reported leading a sedentary lifestyle and would benefit from reminders to get up and go for walks. Learn more about how HRA data can help you uncover risk and build actionable programs for addressing population health at scale.
To reiterate a message from CEO Chris McReynolds, the core of our mission at Wellsource is to reduce risk of early death from preventable disease and promote lifestyle choices that lead to optimal health. One of the best ways — right now — we can all live out this mission is to take preventive measures to ensure we maximize health for our employees, our clients, and the populations we serve. Wellsource will continue to be a partner in population health, as we have for the last 40 years.