David Wray

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Covid-19 – Thriving in Distributed Teams!

Some Challenges We Face

Many dream of working remotely (aka virtually or within distributed teams) – dreaming of freedom and flexibility. There is no doubt, working in a virtual environment has many benefits but it also comes with unique challenges. The most significant challenge at the moment is that working from home in a Covid-19 world has come as a shock to millions of individuals. 

We need boundaries to function properly. For instance, working from home can easily blur the line between work and family. For some, line blurring offers the ultimate sense of freedom whereas for others, it can adversely impact important work-life balances. 

The change in working conditions forced upon many of us will come at a cost in weeks to come, particularly those individuals that need social interaction to thrive. Stereotypically referred to as extroverts but I suggest that definition is too narrow – introverts are also social beings, just in a different way. Leaders must shift their way of managing the team – finding new ways to connect the group and individually. The importance of wellness hasn’t changed, how we achieve it temporarily has. Other issues that will emerge later on are ergonomic injuries. Most home offices are inadequate for full-time work, it works here and there but over time aches and pains creep in.

What can we do about it?

There are some simple, and obvious, things we can do quickly (in no particular order):

  1. Prevent Physical Injuries: Set up workspaces to achieve an ergonomic set-up. The Mayo ClinicOntario Occupational Health Clinic and the NHS all offer guides to help you. 
  2. Establish a Virtual Social Network: physical distancing does not literally mean social isolation. Socialization occurs through videocalls, phone calls, online chats, messaging apps and other social media platforms.  Regularly checking in with family, friends and co-workers is even more important now – these social connections offer many wellness benefits which have a direct impact on physical health too!
  3. Develop a Routine: Humans are creatures of habit. Establish a routine that encourages boundaries between work and home. For instance establish a work period, shower and dress (as tempting as pjs might be some days) and schedule around parental, carer or pet ownership responsibilities.
  4. Take Time for Yourself: Confinement at home for almost 24 hours a day 7-days a week takes a toll without some personal time. This is easier for those with access to outside space. Sitting outside, listening to the birds or watching clouds and enjoying a coffee is a nice way to relax. For those without access to outside space, it’s a little more challenging. The bathroom has become a refuge to sneak in a relaxing bath, consume digital content or simply escape for a few quiet moments.
  5. Eat as Healthily as You Can: a balanced diet is always a good idea. It takes on even greater importance when a strong immune system is necessary. My own rule of thumb is half a plate of colourful vegetables. It offers a great source of vitamins, minerals and nutrients amongst other things. 

As an employer, there are many software solutions to help your distributed teams thrive. Research is currently being conducted by FarSideHR (US) from which the Squadley performance management platform emerges. A human capital company making a positive difference! 

How Long Will it Last?

That is the million-dollar question – no one knows. But there are many things that we can do to take care of ourselves and each other until normality returns. 

If you’re temporarily furloughed or laid-off then volunteering is a meaningful way of giving to the community and yourself. It also provides new skills to support you once employment normality resumes, and it will!

For employers, this period offers a chance to consider and implement more employee friendly options for distributed working. Some great young companies are working hard to help us all adapt for the next generation of work. Well worth checking out!

Join the conversation. Share your tips for getting through this challenging period of time.

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