How has your team adjusted to the global COVID-19 pandemic?
We’ve heard stories from our clients, colleagues, and friends. Apparently, we’re not the only cool kids on the block anymore… everyone has a remote team now! Welcome to the club.
We genuinely love to see you all jumping aboard the remote work bandwagon (we just wish it was under less tragic circumstances). But as more and more teams make the switch, they’re finding that the technical and logistical challenges of working remotely are just half the battle.
The other half? Your brain.
You see, we’ve been doing this remote thing for a long time. And over that time we’ve learned that balancing your mental health while working remotely may be the most challenging piece of the puzzle— more frustrating than choppy phone calls, more complicated than working through time zone differences. Why? Here’s a quick example…
When we meet other CEOs and founders, something comes up over and over again. They ask us if we're not worried that our employees are not working “enough”. They want to know how we track employee time, ensure they’re at their desk, and so on. How do we keep our people in line?
We've never had this issue. In fact, we often struggle with the opposite— people working too much. So much, in fact, that they can even burn out (which we’ve seen firsthand). This is just one example of how, without the proper boundaries in place, remote work can have a serious negative impact on your mental health and that of your peers.
So while you, your team, and almost every office worker around the world make the transition to remote work… take care of yourselves. We want you to come out of this just as strong and healthy as you were at the start. To help, we’ve put together a quick list of easy ways you can stay healthy, happy, and sane while working from home. Let’s get started!
Start with the right expectations about remote work
First things first, freelancing and working at a remote company are two separate things.
With freelancing, you can (if you're successful enough) balance your life between working in one place and traveling. Often, the freelancer’s life is very self-paced. You take on only the projects you’re interested in, you manage your time however you’d like, and the only thing you have to actually do is deliver great work before the deadline.
Working at a fully-remote company like Flying Saucer Studio is a little different:
- We work a standard work week (well, Monday to Thursday).
- We don't travel as often even though it's possible.
- We need to be available a certain number of hours per week, at predictable times, in order to communicate with the team and our clients.
So that idea of working from the beach while drinking piña coladas isn’t a very realistic picture of how remote life works. Even when friends and family may sometimes tease us about living ‘the good life’ most of our days are actually spent sitting in front of our laptop, attending client calls, meeting with the team online, and doing great work.
That’s how we like to work. But the truth is, remote work isn't for everyone.
We've found that people who succeed at it have a clear, grounded vision of what working from home is actually about. Most importantly, they're self-motivated.
This is a key value we look for in when we hire remotely. This gives us a good read on whether they'll be successful in a remote position or not and that’s huge when it comes to mental health. We want to make sure our new hires understand what their remote life will look like.
By ensuring candidates have the right mindset and expectations around remote work, we find they’re much less likely to struggle with some of the personal and mental challenges of remote work. But that’s not all, we also work hard to set the right boundaries.
Setting boundaries when working remotely (do this!)
Throughout the years, the idea of ‘work-life balance’ often pops up in debates and discussions across social media. We don't really like this term. To us, it makes it feel as if they were two separate things, ‘work’ and ‘life’. But if you work from home, you’ll quickly realize there isn’t a clear split anymore.
The lines between them start getting blurry, and work can, if you let it, quickly take over all your energy and time. This is why it's so important to set boundaries and try to differentiate them as much as you can.
In our experience, these are some strategies that we think can help you with this:
1. Having clear working hours.
You need to have a clear and defined work schedule. How this looks depends on what's expected from you, the number of hours you have to be online, and how you communicate with clients and the rest of your team.
2. Setting a designated space that's exclusive for work.
Working from the bed, the couch or the kitchen table might work for some people. But for us, this isn't ideal. Having a designated space that you can actually leave from is important.
3. Having a good chair.
It's a good investment when you consider you'll be spending a lot of time in front of your laptop (having back pains sucks, we promise).
4. Setting time aside for yourself.
It's easy to let all your energy as a remote employee or business owner go towards your company, but we've found it's necessary to put time aside for yourself. Whether you want to cook a nice meal, spend time with your family, or go outside (remember outside?)...
You need time for that.
We know how interconnected work and life are when you're working remotely. Finding a balance between the energy that you put into your company and yourself will help you stay mentally healthy and not burn out.
How to communicate effectively as a remote team
Paying attention to the mental health of our employees is a top priority for us. Over the years, we've defined a very concrete set of rules and guidelines to try and help where we can.
First, we educate new hires on how our process works by guiding them and holding their hands (digitally, at least) during their first weeks. We understand how starting a job at a new company can be stressful and we want to make their transition as smooth as it can be.
As they develop and fulfill their goals, we give them more and more freedom. We're really not fans of micromanagement.
Second, we make sure to adjust our communication channels so that our employees don't feel overwhelmed. This helps us stay organized (and sane).
Take Slack as an example. We realized that after 2-3 months, new hires were starting to burn out because of the number of notifications they woke up to every day. Since we have employees all around the world from different time zones, many of them felt like they were being bombarded with messages at all times.
Today, we have very precise guidelines on how to set the app and its notifications correctly so that everyone in our team avoids this. Can't be productive when you're getting distracted by dozens of messages every couple minutes, right?
That said, work shouldn't be the only thing you talk about with your team.
Having open conversations about mental health with your team:
As an employer, you want to make sure that your employees are happy and healthy. It’s our responsibility to create a safe space for them to share what's going on in their lives and help them manage the challenges that come with working from home.
We write this article in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, and self-isolation is very top of mind. Even if everyone has shut themselves off inside their homes for a very good reason, the lack of human contact can still get to many of us. That's why we try our best to create a sense of belonging within the business.
We want our employees to feel like they’ve joined a team. One that genuinely cares about them and how they feel, no matter how crazy work can get at times.
Work should never be a prison
We know a lot of entrepreneurs are going through a tough transition right now. It can be scary, uncharted territory.
As you go through it, we think it's important to have realistic expectations about the remote lifestyle and establish very clear boundaries that help you stay healthy and sane. Also, pay attention to the way you communicate, and offer your team a safe space to openly talk about whatever they need.
No, we don’t have all the answers. We are a work in progress, but we believe this is a conversation that affects a lot of people and needs to be discussed.
If you'd like to know more about how we've built a remote team that's happy, healthy, and sane, check out the first episode of our podcast, Brace for Impact, and listen to our CEO, Adrien Colombié, take a deep dive into this topic.