Remote working: Keeping your distance but also your well-being

DOS research scholars give some tips on remote working

Digital technologies in this moment are crucial to our working arrangements as we maintain social distance and work from home but how can we manage our remote digital work and maintain a sense of well-being?  DOS scholars reflect on what we have learnt from our own and others’ psychological, social and organisational research on this issue.

Dealing with Social Isolation

Many people may have engaged in remote working to some extent in the past but not necessarily everyday.  Research indicates that while feelings of job satisfaction improve initially, after two or three days workers may experience a drop in mental health.  We are, after all, social beings.  What can we do?  

Taking the Air: Work conducted as part of the Digital Brain Switch project (a consortium of researchers from several universities, including Royal Holloway) highlighted the importance of getting away from the digital screen, going outside and taking exercise.  Going outside refreshes and is a stimulus for creativity, and exercise may help in coping with stress and enabling well-being.

Skype-Coffees: Stay in contact with colleagues through “skype- coffees”.  You cannot meet your colleagues face to face but not every online interaction has to be about work.  Schedule in online chats just about everyday life and how you are getting on and even for a good moan!   Video-chats are particularly recommended so we can see others but setting up a dedicated WhatsApp group is also helpful. 

Organising Work at Home

Routines are very helpful for providing some structure to days that may have become formless without our usual work patterns.  However trying to hold onto rigid boundaries (or having no boundaries at all) no matter the context may actually be harmful.  What can we suggest?

Stop, Reflect, Adjust:  Some degree of flexibility seems key but most  important is maintaining some self-reflection, as suggested by the Digital Brain Switch project.  If we start to feel we are neglecting an important area of life, it is important to take time out to recalibrate.

Email Responsibly:  Working at home is an introverting experience and we may forget others are also dealing with troubles of their own.  With now an even heavier reliance on digital means of communication, it is tempting to engage in a storm of emailing, texting, instant messaging etc!  But email in particular is a form of communication that people find overwhelming.  Reflect before you send.

Responsibility

Organizations may now place heavy burdens on employees to sort themselves out quickly and get on with work apparently seamlessly.  Working at home seems to place the burden of responsibility on the employee but taking on that entire responsibility is damaging.  How can we cope?

Resist Responsibilisation:  You did not cause Covid-19!  While we all want to be helpful, we should resist expectations that we need to just ‘get it done’.  Make demands of your employers, what can they do to support you more effectively?

Right to Holiday:   While we are working at home, the notion of a ‘holiday’ may easily get mislaid in the general feeling of disruption and concern.  But holidays are important for well-being and even more so now.  Plan and book some time off even if you cannot go away.

We even a have a handy graphic to help you remember!

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