The Almost One Month Telework Check-in
Author: Lorin Mueller, with Gwen Fisher
Like many of you, I am on my fourth week of teleworking. The first week was a scramble – what do we need to get done now and how are we going to do it? The second week was spent cleaning up all the messes from the first week. Last week was spent peering into my cloudy crystal ball to think about how we’re going to tackle the tough stuff if we can’t have face-to-face meetings for two more months. This week it’s time for a check-in: reflecting on what is working, what’s not, and how we can make it better. I reached out to Gwen Fisher, an expert on Occupational Health Psychology, to get some tips to share with the PTCMW Community on how to stay healthy and productive under these unusual and stressful circumstances.
As you set up a remote workspace, please keep some occupational health issues in mind. First, pay attention to office-related ergonomics, so that you don’t end up with a strain-related injury due to poor posture and typing positions.
Here is a free ergonomic checklist to see if you have set it up correctly: https://ehs.gmu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WorkstationErgonomicsAssessmentChecklist.pdf
Take breaks and stretch. Here is a link with helpful information: http://rmi.prep.colostate.edu/ergonomics/stretching-and-injury-prevention/
Best practices for web conferences:
- For conference calls, encourage people to join 5 at least minutes early and test the video/audio to make sure the technology is working so you don’t waste the first 5-10 minutes of the meeting doing this.
- Know where the video on/off and mute on/off buttons are, and always know which is on/off. Don’t waste others’ time talking when accidentally muted, and make sure no one hears you when you flush the toilet.
- If (when) you need to yell at your kids, you probably want to turn the mute button on first.
- If you are only dressed from the waist up, do not stand up while on video.
- If you are running the meeting, check in with everyone on the call periodically to make sure everyone is included.
- Acknowledge and understand that everyone is dealing with extra stress during this time. Be as patient and as flexible as you can be.
Beyond that, here are some additional recommendations for psychologically healthy and effective telework:
- Have a designated work space that is separate from where you sleep and otherwise aim to relax.
- If you have family members or roommates around, try to find a space with a door and use the door (i.e., close it when you are in this space working.
- Set and communicate your planned work hours to help minimize interruptions. Setting physical and psychological barriers is helpful for managing work and non-work. The more you can set reasonable expectations among those around you, the more helpful boundaries can be.
- Establish a start-work and close-work routine. (Mine consists of organizing the materials I need and having a cup of tea nearby, but placed so that I won’t accidentally spill it all over my laptop… been there, done that!)
- Turn off audible and visible email notifications (dings, envelopes that appear on your screen) to help minimize cognitive interruptions.
- Minimize distractions from other devices.
- Take breaks! During this time, change your location, take a walk, drink water, get some exercise.
- Don’t eat at your workspace – take a break for snacks and meals.
For those of us who will be homeschooling our kids amidst work over the coming weeks, no doubt there will be some extra challenges! Set up a routine, stick to the schedule as much as possible, and communicate!
Those are great recommendations. Reflecting on my current situation, I could probably improve in a few key areas: ergonomics, stretching, and not yelling at the kids during web conferences. A few other things I have added to my routine:
I hope this has been helpful. And I hope you and everyone you care about is staying healthy in mind and body during while we do our part to get through this difficult time.
- Our leadership team has an informal weekly check-in to share information over “lunch”. It’s great to have some unstructured time to deal with odds and ends rather than have to rely on the flood of emails. It’s scheduled for an hour but we usually end it early.
- Last week, I invited my team to a web conference check just to check on everyone’s mood – no work stuff. We each shared a highlight of working from home, our biggest challenge, and a shoutout to a team member who helped us out. It really seemed to lift people’s spirits.
- I am repurposing all the lessons I learned from Steve Rogelberg at the Fall Event to apply to the dreaded Family Meetings, which have become may more frequent now that we’re all at home 24-7. Some truisms…
- Have food available. We have four kids, so the law of large numbers dictates that at least one of them will complain about it at any given meal. It’s always good to have something in your mouth to keep you from yelling. And beverages for proper spit-takes.
- Rather than make family meetings an hour, make them 45 minutes. You are a steward of your children’s time, and that time is apparently better spent on Fortnite.
- Frame agenda items as questions. Rather than tell your child to make sure they don’t drop anything when they take the recycling out, ask them if they know why there are six soda cans on the lawn.