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Tips for managing your mental well-being while suddenly WFH during COVID-19

While some of us might feel comfortable with working from home, there might be others who don’t. There are plenty of resources available now on what tools, frameworks and other tips to help improve or maintain productivity, but between those it can feel very disruptive to suddenly find yourself at home alone without the structures you have in the office. I’ve found that we mostly talk about being efficient or productive but the aspects of managing our own well-being are just as important.

I’ve written down some tips to try that can help organize your day or that can help improve the collaboration with your direct squad members.

Disclaimer: I’ve pulled the below from past experience when freelancing solo or working with remote teams, but I’m no expert. I hope you’ll find some of these tips useful to incorporate in your day to day life, but do explore remote-friendly tools or frameworks to try and actively move some of your common in-office activities to you computer. This will be an ongoing learning experience that can always be improved.

 

Professionally (productivity + transparency)

  • Be as transparent as possible and move your thinking out loud to your keyboard. It might feel like you’re oversharing, but you’re not.
  • With asynchronous messaging we are more in control to decide when to read or act on notifications. When you bring your focus back to Slack and can easily see what others are doing, you’ll feel less isolated. We can help each other with this.
  • Without the ability to pop by someone’s desk or simply stand up to get attention, we might need to push ourselves more to share something. Your teammates will be happy to be able to contribute and discuss.
  • Some squads might already have a habit of appointing a note taker in a meeting. If yours hasn’t it might be a good idea to ask for a volunteer at the start of a meeting to make sure there will be a record of the outcome.
  • Random thoughts are OK to share. If you want to solicit an opinion or different perspective on something simply drop it in the Slack channel of the most relevant team. You could even indicate your intention by prepending your message with [randomthought] or something similar.
  • Structure your communication for readability. With the increased information throughput it will be useful to apply some structure to allow everyone to sift through the noise. Think about things like doing your squad standup in a Slack thread, prepending an email with a tag (I like using [meeting-notes]. This is also valid for hangout conversations, be mindful to let people finish what they’re saying.
  • Emails to any group alias can be linked to through Google Groups (example). This is an easy way to refer to previous communication in Slack!
  • Create paper trails of meetings, decisions and discoveries. Colleagues might ask you for context and you’ll be happier when you can point them somewhere instead of context switching and explaining.
  • Be deliberate about your presence. It’s helpful for your peers to know you’re not available or don’t want to be disturbed, but the most important result of everyone sharing their statuses in a shared channel will be that everyone will feel more connected.Here are some tricks to do that more actively:
    • Inform people when you’re planning some focus time or going to run an errand.
    • Make sure to use Slack emojis / status update to indicate your availability.
    • Put all of your activity in your calendar to create transparency in your activity + keep yourself accountable (this could also help as reference during standup!).
    • Add the Google Calendar app to Slack to automatically update your status when in a meeting.

 

Personally (wellbeing + habits)

  • Make yourself a nice breakfast or lunch, without your daily commute you can treat yourself to something wholesome.
    At the beginning of your workday, push yourself to go outside. Even if it’s a walk around the block. Having been outside gets your blood flowing and clears your mind.
  • Before starting work, plan your day. Do you need to join any meetings? When do you want some focus time? If you plan ahead it will be much easier to set expectations with others.
  • Dress like you’re going to the office, it will help you change modes more easily.
  • Consider having walking meetings. Install Google Hangouts on your phone and use audio only. You’ll have an easier time solving problems or being creative and you’ll come back refreshed.
  • At the start of every meeting, ask how the other person is feeling. Since we aren’t around our peers that we see everyday for the time being, it might be difficult to get the emotional and social support we normally receive. We can call this out at the beginning of a hangout and support each other that way.
  • Don’t assume that you’re supposed to solve problems on your own now. Ask your team for help, propose pair programming sessions, screenshare your sketches, murals or write documentation together.
  • Don’t work and eat at the same time, or take your laptop to do laundry. It will be easier to keep focus if you acknowledge that every activity or moment has a start and an end.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself if you experiment for a couple of days and still struggle, it takes more than six weeks to properly internalize a new habit (!).
  • It’s OK to be AFK (Away From Keyboard) every now and then, make use of the flexibility.
  • Create social time with your team (virtual fika, all day team hangout, etc. Anything to create a space to vent and banter).
  • Take breaks. Without anyone reminding you to do so you need to force yourself to get up and away from the computer every now and then. It can help to use a timer to nudge you to do so.
  • Create a ritual to end your workday, clean up your desk or go outside again for a bit. This way you will allow yourself to let go from work more easily and create space again for your personal life.

I hope some of these might prove useful for you while we’re all adjusting to this new way of working. How are you coping with being in a new environment?

Let me know on Twitter!