Eight months into a pandemic with many of us still working from home, a healthy work-life blend may feel unattainable.
According to Telus International, four out of five respondents have found it challenging to shut off from work in the evenings.
That same survey found that over half of respondents have not taken a mental health day since they started working from home due to the pandemic, despite 97 percent saying that vacation days while working from home are important in order to recharge.
How can leaders help their employees maintain some semblance of a “normal” work-life blend? Five executives offer the strategies they’re implementing to promote good habits in a remote work world.
1. Encourage time off, and track the data.
“With everyone working virtually across time zones, the workday can stretch into infinity unless leaders step in,” says Michael Weening, COO of software, cloud, and services provider Calix. “We ask employees to take time off and log it in our database so we can track those metrics. That helps everyone prevent burnout.”
Calix also recommends employees avoid weekend communications unless absolutely necessary. “You cannot recharge if you are constantly checking in,” Weening adds. “That’s a rule I personally follow. Everyone takes their cues from leadership, so you have to lead by example.”
2. Embrace an asynchronous schedule.
The lines between work and personal life no longer exist when teams work remotely. Rather than insist your workforce all try to keep a 9-to-5 schedule, give your team members flexibility to work at a time that’s best for them.
The issue most executives run into with asynchronous work is keeping up with their teams’ varying schedules while still pushing the ball forward. Vetri Vellore, CEO of technology startup Ally.io, says that macro-managing, not micromanaging, is the key to combating this.
“Keep the main goals at the heart of each employee’s contributions, instead of focusing on a task-oriented laundry list of little things to do,” shares Vellore. “As long as those key results are met, I don’t mind when it’s completed.”
3. Block out your day.
“Institute a ‘no meetings’ time frame daily or weekly within individual teams,” recommends Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers. “This meeting block allows employees to accomplish tasks without interruption, pause to help children with schoolwork, or simply take a short mental health break.”
Baumgartner says creating “no meetings” blocks by team, rather than through the company as a whole, allows managers to set time frames based on individual needs.
4. Don’t take “work from home” too literally.
The Zoom fatigue is real. Endless video meetings have us tethered to our desks staring at our computers for hours on end to accomplish what we used to be able to do with casual conversation at the office.
“Take your meetings on the road with you, walk and talk on the phone, and leave the webcam at home,” advises Charles Delingpole, founder and CEO of global data and tech company ComplyAdvantage.
“I really believe in the power of walking meetings. Even before Covid-19, I would take people out to coffee and catch up over a few blocks,” he says. “Now our team members try to take calls at local parks, on fire escapes, or on a walk around the block.”
5. Prioritize exercise.
Whether it’s cutting down steps from walking to get a coffee, or walking to and from your car, people are now sitting in front of the computer more than ever with very little physical activity. “Combat this by implementing a wellness challenge to get your employees up and moving throughout the workday,” suggests Elizabeth Brockey, chief customer officer of Simpli.fi.
A regular exercise routine can decrease the effects of stress on the body, improve mental health and mood, and even enhance memory and cognition. Brockey adds, “We’ve found that we can motivate our employees to take that needed break throughout the day, and help them implement a healthy work-life balance while working remotely.”
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