For most people, the transition to distributed work has been challenging and frustrating. That’s understandable and expected. We’re not just navigating a transition to distributed work, we’re also grappling with a pandemic.
It’s more important than ever to proactively combat burnout and put team efficiency and reducing wasteful work first. We recently chatted with Juliet Funt—CEO of WhiteSpace at Work—about building a success framework for minimizing stress and burnout when navigating the transition to distributed work. Here are her favorite tips:
Create a visual groove
Chances are high that many of us—especially those of us who are not accustomed to working outside a physical office—are rotating where we work on any given day, perhaps working from a desk one day and then a dining room table or couch the next. Juliet reminded us that if we find ourselves needing to work from more than one workspace in our home, we should try to establish the same environment in each location.
Humans are visual creatures. Whatever is on your desk— drinks, paper, inspirational quotes, or photos—you should create an environment that is comfortable and repeat it each time you move workspaces. Doing so tells our brain that work is “on.” The visual cues entailed in returning to the same orchestrated work setup on a consistent basis (even if your workspace itself is changing) will give you a sense of control and will help ease the stress associated with unfamiliar remote work.
Use the wedge
We’ve all been reminded of the importance of taking breaks, especially when working in a distributed way when it’s easy to forget to grab lunch or take an afternoon walk. But, as Juliet reminded us, recommendations on taking breaks can be confusing and contradictory. For example, the Energy Project tells us to follow the circadian rhythm of your body and take breaks every 90 minutes. In contrast, the Pomodoro Technique suggests taking breaks every twenty-one minutes.
Despite our best intentions, it’s typically impractical to schedule breaks at predefined times throughout the entire day. What’s more, this can disrupt our workflow, especially when we’re “in the zone.” Instead, Juliet recommends paying attention to your individual internal cues.
“When you feel like you’re drowning in calls, when you tingle from adrenalin, or when your body is craving sugar or email or caffeine or any of the compensatory techniques for rest, take a wedge of ‘whitespace’—a strategic pause taken between activity—and insert it into your day.”
It’s also helpful to track your breaks throughout the day. If you find yourself at the end of the day, having taken four or fewer breaks, this is a sign that you need to pay more attention to your individual cues.
Reduce visual temptation
Juliet is a strong proponent of compartmentalization. She explained that whenever you can put something in a box, literally or figuratively, it helps you focus.
Minimizing email checking is one example of compartmentalization. More literally, compartmentalization can also involve physical actions. At the end of each day, Juliet recommends, physically opening a literal compartment such as a drawer or a cabinet, and placing all of your work-related items inside. She says, “Tuck them in and let them slumber while you do.” The seemingly simple act can go along way in helping you draw a line between work and personal time and, in turn, ease your stress.
Work remotely with Asana
The transition to distributed work is not an easy one. It’s natural for it to be a challenging, concerted daily effort. By building a success framework that incorporates how you set up your workplace, maintain rhythm, and gain closure each day, you can proactively reduce stress and burnout.