Staying Connected When Working Remotely
By AXA Health, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Sarah Kemp
The new coronavirus crisis is affecting us in many ways. One thing that has changed dramatically is the way we are able to interact with each other. With more of us now self-isolating, it’s increasingly difficult to connect with those we would usually have regular contact with. And continuing to work whilst in isolation adds its own challenges.
In certain circumstances, remote working can provide grounds for a better work/life balance, but that isn’t necessarily the case if it’s been sprung on people who are less used to it, particularly when other factors, such as home schooling children who won’t be able to attend school for months to come, are thrown into the mix. However, with the right tools and resources, it is possible to thrive remotely, and maintain regular contact with those that we know and love.
AXA Health's Health and Wellbeing programme Manager, Sarah Kemp, shares her top tips to help keep us connected, and get us through these unprecedented times.
Just because we may be unable to spend time with our friends and family in person, doesn’t mean we can’t still reach out via social media channels. In fact, as a society, many of us use social media platforms on a daily basis, so this should be second nature for lots of people. To make the most of your time on social media, here are somethings to consider when you next reach for your smartphone.
- Limit your time – Social media, while a useful way to keep in touch, can also have its dangers. In a work context, it can distract us from being productive, so be sure to limit your usage each day. Logging out of your apps and leaving your phone or tablet in another room can help minimise distraction and keep you productive if you’re working from home.
Top tip: Schedule a video call with family first thing in the morning or last thing at night so you always have something to look forward to at the beginning or end of the day.
- Set up a group – Various social media platforms have the capacity to create communities and groups, so make use of these features to boost your connections. Whilst many of us may already have groups with friends outside of work, set up a group with your colleagues suitable for work discussions, or with family members who you may only usually contact individually by phone.
Top tip: Set up a non-work related group chat, so you can keep up some light-hearted conversations with people you’re used to connecting with on a daily basis, to keep up morale.
- Share the love – Many of us will have connections on social media that we may not even interact with at all. Use this time to get to know people that you may not usually speak to; randomly select somebody from your friends list and drop them a message asking how they are. This will help to make them feel good but also develop your friendships.
Top tip: Share messages of kindness, daily gratitude’s, or light-hearted videos to your wider circle of friends online. Ask them to do the same and encourage positivity through this difficult period.
Make plans for the future
Although it’s difficult to know when our usual routines can resume, that doesn’t mean we have to abandon plans that are now on hold. Use the time to elaborate on your plans for whatever’s now on hold, to make the future experience even better! And if it’s something that can’t be rescheduled, start to write down ideas for something different in a year’s time that you’ve always wanted to do. As one door closes, another often opens, so try to remain optimistic to new opportunities.
Top tip: Draft a few friends in and create a virtual planning session, where you can still bring those plans to life, while staying connected with those you love.
There’s nothing better than face-to-face interaction. We can see people’s expressions, get a sense for how the other person is feeling, and it enables us to give someone a much- needed hug if things aren’t going right for them. While we’re self-isolating or self-distancing, we won’t be able to interact with people in the same way. But with modern technology, we are now able to video call as well as message or phone someone. Although it doesn’t offer the same physical contact, video calling can still enable us to see a familiar face. What’s more, technology allows us to see multiple people in the same call, which is ideal if we’re used to working in an office environment, or gathering in groups.
Top tip: Arrange regular video calls with your colleagues at the start of the week to create a new, healthy routine. Switch any meetings that were scheduled to be conference calls to video where possible, to boost the number of faces you see during the day. If you’re out for a walk, observing social distancing guidance, video call a friend on your break to let them know how your day is going.
Don’t forget about those at home
For those of you who may be working from home, but also have family members with you, it may be tricky to navigate a new routine, particularly if there’s a few of you under a small roof! However, try not to become too focused on establishing connections online. It’s also valuable time to spend connecting with those at home as well. When things have settled down and you’re able to manage your work/life balance more efficiently, consider the below.
- Schedule family time – Now you’re at home, it’s a really good time to sit down and schedule some all-important family time. A plan is key here, especially if you have to fit work in as well as sorting the kids out! Sit down as a family, and work out where you all have some free time. Even if that means clearing the table, and getting a giant planner out – if you’re all doing it together, it means you’re all starting off on the same foot. Prioritise what’s important first, such as schooling activities and work, but be sure to do this together, so that it creates a much more cohesive environment.
Top tip: Get each family member to write down something they’d like to do together, then find time in your diary to make it happen. For example, using time that you’d otherwise have spent commuting can be used for baking cookies, doing a jigsaw or helping the kids with school activities. It really is a useful time to get to know your family more!
- Regularly check in – Now you’re at home, and spending more time together, this may become tricky especially if there are lots of voices to be heard. It’s important to be considerate of how others in your household may be coping too, so check in, ask how they’re doing, give space if they need it and be there to support if things get a little tough. Also be mindful of how you’re managing the new set up, and reach out if you need support.
Top tip: If someone is struggling to cope whilst self-isolating or in a new routine, reassure them that it’s temporary, and that they have plenty to look forward to. Encourage them to write a journal if they have difficulty expressing feelings in words and remind them that these are exceptional circumstances that no-one could have predicted or been prepared for. In other words, we’re all winging it – so cut yourself some slack!
In summary, remote working may be tricky at first, especially if it’s not something you’re used to. However, there are many ways to stay connected, stay well and stay happy during these uncertain times.