The Netherlands is known for having regulations and cultural aspects that provide a healthier separation between work and personal life, such as clearly defined working hours and boundaries. However, it is still important to discuss how to help individuals achieve a good work-life balance. The changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have also caused a change in the balance that existed before. Remote working has increased the amount of pressure on the individual and has required new skills to be learned, such as how to motivate yourself and prioritise with multiple responsibilities simultaneously calling for your attention.
Working from home is also causing a shift in the employee satisfaction indicators, which may not be limited to salary, hours, and flexibility anymore.
Working from home is also causing a shift in the employee satisfaction indicators, which may not be limited to salary, hours, and flexibility anymore. With all these additional factors and changes in mind Undutchables decided to team up with Sophie Grünfelder for a webinar to share some tips for improving quality of life at work, especially while working remotely. Grünfelder is an HR expert with years of valuable experience helping individuals and managers learn how to improve their quality of life and learn to be more balanced and effective.
Having a virtual office is the condition of working in and out of the office. This applies not only to physical location but also to working hours, which also are often less strictly defined when working virtually. Although working remotely in your ‘virtual office’ can provide a lot of flexibility and freedom, it can also create blurred boundaries. The key to quality of life at work and while remote working is setting boundaries. Defining boundaries comes down to three factors – Time, Space, and Action. Since remote working creates the opportunity to work anytime and anywhere it is important to maintain boundaries by setting up clear divisions between personal and professional tasks.
Since remote working creates the opportunity to work anytime and anywhere it is important to maintain boundaries by setting up clear divisions between personal and professional tasks.
This can be done by following the rule 1 time, 1 space, 1 action. If you clearly define where and when you work or play, then you can create a clear boundary between work and personal time. Although you may use the same laptop for work and for personal endeavours, you can still set apart a certain area where you sit to work and then be sure to move to a new location for your personal time. Designing and maintaining a schedule will also be helpful. You can refer to your pre-remote working schedule to help you set this up. Creating this clearer structure will help to maintain boundaries.
You can design your remote workspace as elaborately or simply as you choose, just make sure to take the time to find your anchors and consistently use them to define your work day.
In order to consistently maintain the boundaries between work and personal life it is essential to design your workplace. Although not everyone will have the opportunity to create a carbon copy of their normal physical workspace you can decide on a few professional ‘anchors’ to help set up your work time and space for success. This can be as simple as using the same mug that you use at the office and making sure your coffee/tea is ready when you sit down, or wearing specific work clothing that makes you feel like you are in the office. You can design your remote workspace as elaborately or simply as you choose, just make sure to take the time to find your anchors and consistently use them to define your work day.
A successful remote team
Working together as a remote team requires some adjustment. One of the most important things you can do to maintain a productive and professional connection with your colleagues is to communicate clearly and frequently. Take the time to talk together and set expectations. You can even create a set of rules for how you will communicate with each other so that everyone is on the same page about how and when to email, call, etc. If something is not working, make sure to be assertive and address it right away. It is also important to be clear in communicating what you need. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Non-verbal communication is also very important, so plan video calls in addition to your emails and calls. This can provide clarity as well since a large percentage of communication is brought across with non-verbal communication.
If you are not making much headway on a particular problem or project follow the ‘three attempts rule’ – if something is not resolved after 3 emails, try a different medium like calling or video chatting.
Some things may be more difficult to arrange while working remotely. If you find that this is the case and you are not making much headway on a particular problem or project follow the ‘three attempts rule’ – if something is not resolved after 3 emails, try a different medium like calling or video chatting. You can also try ‘brainwriting’ to get the chance to easily brainstorm with each other from a distance. These tips can help to stay you on the same page with your team and work together effectively.
It is also important to maintain positive social interactions with your team members while working remotely. You may have to apply a bit more creativity to designing team building activities in this digital setting. You can try to recreate some social interactions you would normally have in the office, such as planning online lunch or coffee breaks together or having a Friday afternoon drink video call. You can also change it up by planning both short and long interactions and calling with team members one-on-one or with the whole team at the same time. A walking challenge, for example, is a great way to build up your teams’ physical and mental health.
Optimising your team health
Working remotely can make it much more difficult to keep track of how everyone in your team is doing since you don’t see them as often. Although the manager has a specific responsibility to check in with team members and provide support, it is very beneficial if team members are watching out for each other as well. It is important to keep in mind that the manager is a team member too and they have the double duty of watching out for themselves as an individual while also taking care of the team and the individuals within it. If everyone in the team can work to create an environment of flexibility and trust then it will help to encourage wellness and decrease stress.
Arranging frequent check-in moments is key for helping out your team members and identifying struggles early in order to provide support.
In a typical work setting the manager may not meet with individual employees more than once a month. While your team is working remotely this is too long to wait because a lot can change in that time. Arranging frequent check-in moments is key for helping out your team members and identifying struggles early in order to provide support. These meetings do not have to be long and the simple goal is to check in to make sure they are doing ok, both personally and professionally, while remote working.
Three tips from the expert
Three things to keep in mind and ask about during check-in moments are:
- The mission: Ask about how it is going with their individual work goals. You can ask questions such as: “What are you working on this week?” “What do you expect to be difficult?” ”How can I help?” The conversation will allow the employee to talk and make their tasks and ambitions for the week clear for themselves while looping the manager in.
- The organisation: Check in with how the employee is doing with company goals and tools. Ask open questions. An example might be, “How is our company tool working for you at home?”
- The feeling: It is important to allow the employee to provide an authentic reply. Make sure to ask about how they are doing at the end of the meeting so that there is a clear break between the professional topics you have been discussing and this moment to check in with them personally. Ask open ended questions so that they have a chance to elaborate on how they are doing and what is, or is not, working for them.
There are also other ways to inventory how it is going with your team. For example, a simple first step is passive observation. You can often tell a lot about your team members by the tone that they use in emails or calls, how quickly they respond, etc. This is a good way to identify when something changes so that you can jump in as soon as possible to help them out. Another option is active observation by asking specifically for feedback. Of course, you can do this in a conversation, as mentioned above, but another great way is to use surveys.
Grünfelder recommends using a repeating survey of 5-10 check-in questions that occurs at regular intervals (i.e. weekly)
Grünfelder recommends using a repeating survey of 5-10 check-in questions that occurs at regular intervals (i.e. weekly). Employees will know when to expect the survey and since the same questions are repeated every time it provides a good method for spotting changes in the team mood. You can also use specific surveys in order to focus on and make improvements in a particular area. Keep in mind that the way you design your survey will affect your response rate. It should not be too long or boring and it is important to be clear about who will be reading the responses so that people will be comfortable being honest. You can also send multiple reminders to ensure that you catch people at a time that they will be able and willing to participate.