How to create a healthy remote working culture

Blogs 23 Sep 2022

Here are some tips to cut through the noise and get down to what truly matters for safe and fruitful remote working.

This article was first published in First Voice. Written by Li-Yeng Choo, Physiotherapist and Director of Habilitar Limited.

Remote working, productivity and wellbeing are popular discussion topics that have emerged from the pandemic. 

As a small business owner, you are your company’s most important asset. You need to stay healthy to run and grow your business. However, the continuous need to adapt to changes and bootstrap has probably severely stretched your time, resources, and capacity, especially over the last two years.

The long list of “should dos” and “should haves” for productive remote working may make it seem like there is a lot to do and spend time on. At times, the advice can also be conflicting or may not apply to your specific situation.

It’s no wonder that many business owners may feel overwhelmed and confused, causing you to be continually stuck in “makeshift mode” when it comes to remote working set-ups.

Here are some tips to cut through the noise and get down to what truly matters for safe and fruitful remote working.

Understand your needs

Working well and safely means having a comfortable workstation set-up, managing your surroundings, paying attention to how you work, and being in harmony with your life outside work. This applies whether you work remotely from home or in a co-working space.

Build self-awareness of what support you need to perform at your best, versus what is presented as an “ideal”. There really is no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Ask yourself:

  •  What helps me work productively? Setting aside a block of time? Having a dedicated workspace?
  •  What distracts me?  Noise or frequent phone notifications?
  •  What causes stress? Lone working or back-to-back work calls?
  •  What causes fatigue, discomfort, or loss of focus? An uncomfortable chair, looking down at my laptop for too long, or lack of sleep?
  •  What equipment and environmental factors help me perform my tasks more effectively? A desk lamp to ensure sufficient lighting for reading?
  •  Which tasks require more focus or time?
  •  When do I have (or need) the most (or least) energy, concentration or creativity? This may relate to time of day, your environment, or type of tasks.
  •  What are my work habits, timings, and style?

Armed with greater self-awareness of your needs, you can then perform a self-assessment of the furniture and equipment, lighting, noise level, air quality, and temperature of your working space. The Health and Safety Executive has a free workstation checklist.

Note what is available to you (e.g., different spaces in your home that you can “hot-desk” in) and any constraints (e.g., a limited budget for equipment). Then make a list of options and solutions that can help make your workspace more conducive and comfortable, while mitigating the risks and problems of remote work.

It’s not all-or-nothing

It’s important to know that you do not need to do everything on your list or to do it all at once. What you can do depends on your needs, context, resources and constraints.

Start by working with what you have and can manage, prioritising the big-impact items. Plan for gradual improvement. Use no or low-cost hacks.

Perhaps you do not have a dedicated workspace, or a budget to buy an adjustable chair, but don’t let that get in the way. One change you can make straightaway as a laptop user is to plug in an external keyboard and stack books to raise your screen. This separates your screen from your keyboard and brings it to eye level for a comfortable working posture.

There are guidelines and regulations that you can refer to but remember that they don’t account for individual or situational differences.

Reframe productivity

Realise that health and productivity go hand in hand. So, instead of strategies to increase productivity, why not focus more on improving your wellbeing?

Research shows that physical activity, nutrition, stress, social connection and sleep have significant impacts on our health and productivity.

Big health goals can feel unattainable, especially when we already feel overwhelmed. The good news is that there is supporting evidence that shows how small actions can have a significant impact on our well-being. For example, even 10 minutes of any kind of movement can help enhance one’s physical and mental health.

A healthy micro practice that you can implement immediately is to schedule in frequent short breaks. Also, get up from your chair often and change postures regularly.

Health foundations are based on habits. Just focus on one change at a time. Keep things small, use cues and rewards. Put the process on repeat, adjust as you go along, and consistently build on it.

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