How productive remote team members deal with the feeling they must be “always on”
As we wrap up May and Mental Health Month, we are sharing the tips gained over the years on how to separate from, decompress and reduce stress. This is BLOG #9 in our VIPdesk Remote Work Series.
It’s been known for years that 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. But during the COVID-19 pandemic it’s been revealed that 35 percent of U.S. employees often experience these symptoms of depression, according to new research by the Society for Human Resource Management.
And while many companies offer EPAs (employee assistance programs) which include counseling services, it is estimated that less than 7% of employees use them.
So, as an employer what is our responsibility?
As a US-based customer service organization with team members working remote, we work extra hard to lend our support. We’ve always worked extra hard to support our team primarily because front line customer service team members often feel the brunt of customer frustrations. Layer on top of that the pandemic-related stress most people experience and you can understand how mental health issues can be aggravated.
Like many companies, we offer the following support services critical to an employee’s well-being:
- An Employee Assistance Program
- A wellness social chat room
- Weekly wellness related activities
- Get-togethers to offer support
However, my fellow CEO friends with employees new to working from home report that their teams are on zoom calls all day and then trying to catch up at night. They say team members feel burnt out. They tell me it’s because they feel they must “always be on”. We know this is an issue, especially for our own leadership team. Our own eNPS dipped slightly in the first quarter telling me we need to do more to support our own team during this difficult time.
It’s very difficult to suggest to your team that they take time off. They smile at me and ignore this almost every time. What I see in their eyes (via TEAMs meetings) is the look of “well I am at home anyway…I might as well keep working.” A 2019 survey by cloud infrastructure company Digital Ocean found that 82% of remote tech workers in the U.S. felt burnt out, with 52% reporting that they work longer hours than those in the office. This isn’t healthy for anyone.
We are not the only company with remote team members anymore. Now that most of us are working at home, it can be difficult to find space to decompress after work before home life begins. Now that we don’t have to commute, it can be challenging to go from a busy day at work then immediately to a busy evening at home. While a commute can be incredibly frustrating by navigating heavy traffic, trains or buses, it does allow some transitioning between our work life and our home life.
We favor a healthy separation between work and home life. We believe that the key is to create "space" between work and home allowing you to process your day, clear your head, and get ready to tackle the next phase of the day with better focus. To do that, here are a few tips we’ve shared with our team about how they can separate work from home life.
5 tips to help your remote team step away from their daily work and decompress:
- Set Boundaries and Step Away - Many team members now experience a blended lifestyle that includes juggling home/family concerns along with work. It’s best to establish boundaries between work time and personal time. This applies to not only the actual time, but also the physical boundaries. Knowing there is an end time and distance from a physical space can bring comfort.
- Home Office - We suggest you work from the same location in the house each day. It seems like a nice idea to move around the house, but we’ve found if you work from the kitchen counter one day, the dining room the next day, then the home office, all areas of the home soon become associated with work. If you can establish a “work area” and later walk away, it will help you mentally transition by physically moving away from any stress associated with your work day.
- Computer - We suggest you close the door to your workspace and shut down your computer each evening.
- Phone- This one is the most challenging. If you constantly check email in the evening, you could start to experience stress related to a topic that cannot be resolved until the next day. This can impact sleep, thereby affecting your overall health.
- Pick a New Hobby or Activity - We’ve heard from our team that one way to destress is to focus on developing a new hobby, gain a new skill or by adding a new activity. Here are a few ideas for team members, their family and their kids.
Ideas for the Individual:
- Learn a new skill - Cooking, playing the guitar or another instrument, learning to paint, or learning to speak a foreign language
- Work in your garden before starting dinner
- Attend virtual therapy - ask about company EAP
- Read a great book
Ideas for the Family:
- Put a puzzle together
- Cook together with family theme nights (Taco Tuesdays)
- Head to the local farm – pick your own strawberries
- Go for a bike ride
- Grill out
- Play ball in the backyard with the dog
- Walk the dog
- Take a virtual cooking class with a chef
- Set up a family movie night
- Adopt an animal or foster
- Hit a small bucket of balls at the driving range
- Plan a future trip- something to look forward toIdeas for the Kids:
- Sprinkler fun or water fights
- Wash the car
- Sidewalk chalk
- Fly a kite
- Join a virtual book club
- Get physical -
- Workout- cycling, jogging, walking, taking online zoom class- use apps, Peloton, Mirror
- Go out for a walk or run at the end of the day
- Establish new routines -
- Start a daily Journal
- Start or end the day with meditation- check out Sam Harris
- Plan a future activity or trip -
- Give yourself and your family something to look forward such as a day trip, weekend adventure or vacation
What Our Team Does To De-stress - People are the heart of our company. They are dedicated to our clients and their customers providing customer service every day, all day. During coffee hangout one early morning this week, I asked the team if they would share what they do to decompress. Here’s a sampling of what a few of our team members had to say:
“I focus on what I can control, not on what I cannot control.” - Kate
“I love to get out and work in my garden. If it’s not gardening, I love quilting.” - Vale
“I meditate first thing in the morning. I really like the app from Sam Harris. There is a session on last moments and how we all experience many lasts, but you never know when it will be the last time you do something. This keeps me focused on special moments and I try not to let them slip by.” - Mark
“I have a couple of young girls and we take the whole family for a walk each night.” - Kim
“I get out to walk my dog and, on the weekends, I love to play with my grandkids. They are too cute!” - Sherry
“I avoid the news and enjoying time with my teenagers at the pool.” - Damien
“I love meditating and am training to become a yoga instructor. I’m also learning to play guitar. And studying to obtain my Sr. HR certification.” - Jen
“I spend my time painting and plan to show some of my work to my work team.” - Fami
“My decompressing is all about the patio. Grilling, praying, hanging out, just enjoying my surroundings.” - Laurelle
“I spend my time trying to perfect my garden. I would like to share the fruits of my labor, or vegetables with my teammates.” - Othmar
“I live in Georgia where we can now get out. So I love to disconnect by going to the pool and attending my Book Club.” - Shannon
“I love live Instagram dance sessions Friday afternoons.” - Maggie
To maintain a work-life balance in this COVID-19 era, de-stressing from your daily work is more important than ever. We’re hopeful some of the tips and ideas shared here will help your remote team do just that. Please don’t hesitate contacting us if you have questions that need to be answered.
We want you to know that we’ve published a whole series on remote working. 5 Proven Tips To Set Up a Remote Workforce Successfully 5 Best Communication Practices for a Remote Workforce 10 Tips for Remote Workers To Keep Their Sanity How To Stay Connected with Your Remote Team How To Avoid Loneliness and Find Joy Working Remotely How Remote Work Impacts Our Environment How To Save Money While Working from Home What the Future of Offices Looks Like