How not to go crazy at a distance

More than a year has passed since we all were forced to face the remote. And many have already got tired of it. The number of stories about burnout on Habré breaks all records. If you feel general fatigue or apathy, if you do not want to do anything, especially work, you may have faced these common problems as well. And then, if nothing is changed, it will be worse.

In this article, we’ve gathered lessons from four overseas teleworking experts to understand what kept them productive, motivated, and positive. 4 specific recommendations from world famous people – which helps them and their teams not go crazy while they work remotely every day.

1. Find an outlet.

There are many benefits to working remotely. And one of the main things is autonomy. You can, within certain limits, choose when and how much to work.

When you are doing something calm and interesting, when you have found passion for yourself, you can unconsciously enter a state of flow. And in the future, it will be easier to enter it – including at work. Daniel Kahneman, psychologist and economist, says:

People who experience flow describe it as “a state of effortless concentration, so deep that they lose their sense of time, forget about themselves and their problems. This is accompanied by lightness and a sense of contentment.

Many activities can create a sense of flow, from painting to motorcycle racing. Some of the most productive writers I know go into this state even while writing a book. Flow allows you to fully focus on the task at hand without wasting any extra mental effort.

Here are some more examples of actions that can trigger a thread:

  • Walk or bike ride in nature.
  • Playing a musical instrument.
  • Reading your favorite book.
  • Game of chess.
  • Garden or houseplant care.

You can choose one of these activities. Or come up with your own – preferably, relaxing, pacifying, calm. No, playing Call of Duty with guys won’t work. And playing blitz chess on three boards at the same time is the same.

The main thing here is to have an occupation that will allow you not to burn out. After which any work becomes a pleasure, even if only for a short while. And how long this state will last depends largely on the atmosphere around and on the quality of the organization of the workspace.

2. Properly arrange your workspace.

Freelancers keep telling us how they can’t stop thinking about work all the time. Even in the evenings and on weekends. At a remote location, it is very difficult to separate work and personal time. There are dozens of articles on Habré about this.

Of course, first and foremost, there must be a specific place to work in the house. It teaches your mind to turn on a “work schedule”, helps to create a boundary between productive work time and personal time for rest and recuperation.

James Clear, a productivity expert, in his book Atomic Habits (“Atomic Habits“) shares the problem he overcame when he started working remotely:

When I started my career as an entrepreneur, I often worked on the couch or at the kitchen table. In the evenings it was difficult for me to stop working. There was no clear division between the end of work time and the beginning of personal time. Was the kitchen table my office or place to eat? Was the couch a place to sit or where I was sending emails from? My body did not understand anything.

In the workplace, the top three factors are lighting, a good chair, and proper seating (here’s a very helpful post). On my own, having 10 years of experience at a distance, I will add that the position in the chair should be periodically changed. We work from home, which means that it is possible to sometimes put our feet on the table. Or on a nearby chair. Or sit reclining while pondering something. At least five to ten minutes of such a “warm-up” is already a great help not to sit up.

A lot of programmers have a bad back. At the same time, getting up every hour and doing light exercises, judging by the polls, there is no desire for the life of me. And here is a good and as simple as possible alternative. Periodically moving your body to an even more comfortable position. You can even lie on the sofa for a while. It’s not a shame.

A couple more ideas that we heard from top programmers:

  • Place a soft rug under the table, sometimes allowing your feet to enjoy it. Change it every few years to keep it enjoyable.
  • Decorate your table with fun trinkets that will make you smile. Ideally, so that they do not move and do not draw attention to themselves. A clock, metronome, or Newton’s pendulum will not work well. But photos of your beloved daughter, wife, or, at worst, a cat are banal, but works great, calming the nerves.
  • And, of course, pleasant communication always helps. With a loved one, with a friend, even with a colleague. Even the most inveterate introvert needs some kind of human connection during the day. Good telecommuting companies understand this and do their best to provide it.

3. Connect with colleagues through shared activities.

Seems like your colleagues are rather boring? This is most likely not the case. You just see them in the saddest context. If you get to know them from the other side, communication can become much more interesting. And then the motivation to try for this team will appear. Ultimately, this is a plus for you: instead of burning out, you can continue to work and earn money.

The problem is that different team members need different communication intensities. For example, a colleague who has a family may have excess of it. And his only desire is to be left alone for at least half a day. However, another lonely team member may lack communication. The degree of integration also depends on the specific company and team. From general chat for calm communication on non-working topics during the day – to joint online games or passing joint quests-riddles.

As an example the words Ryan Chartrand, CEO of X-Team:

What you do should energize all team members, not the other way around.

X-Team only works remotely, which is known for its difficulties with team building. Therefore, Chartland cites as an example the competitions he holds for all of his employees. This is a competition between teams. Running up the stairs. Two teams compete to see which of them can take the most steps in 24 hours. And then those who advance to the next round compete with each other. This is how the most “athletic” development team in the company is defined. At the same time, the event is optional and is held asynchronously, that is, team members can themselves choose on which day they will participate.

Hosting such a friendly paced competition on a regular basis gave X-Team unexpected benefits. Fitness classes have become popular in teams. Which then led to healthier food choices. Ryan Chartland says he sees his employees become more active and energetic. They got motivation and a reason to communicate about something other than standard work topics.

There is another example. Basecamp is a project management tool company. Also with a completely deleted team. Recently, a third of its employees have left because of political differences. But before that, they have been successfully working for over 20 years. And with only 70 people reached capitalization $ 100 billion

David Heinemeyer Hansson, CEO of Basecamp, believed that it was a matter of productivity and a positive attitude in each individual:

I think it’s all about social connections. And I think the biggest benefit for people here is video chats. It’s not about improving work algorithms, but about communicating with others at work at least from time to time about something else.

IN this youtube interview Hansson talks about the weekly activity that takes place at Basecamp every Friday:

On Fridays now at 10 o’clock in the morning we always have a game session for an hour. You always know this is happening and you can join if you want. And they play a board game or something like that in a video chat there. There is nothing going on that is work-related. It’s just a way to connect with your colleagues, find something in common.

As a result, these formed strong social ties, however, became the reason for the massive exodus from the company. When several employees got into a skirmish with the CEO, the rest supported them. And they began to quit. But if you do not bring it to this, the rest of Hansson’s advice is worth heeding. There are a lot of joint games, each team has its own. Minecraft, creating a “wish list”, joint quests, board games, rock-paper-scissors tournaments, “two truths and a lie”, “treasure hunt” (everyone has in the apartment), “three objects and a person”, “Danetki” etc.

A third example is Andrew Felava, CEO of Wrike, a distributed team management platform. They weren’t completely remote until 2020, but they quickly adapted and became much more successful than before. Recently a company bought for $ 2.25 billion Felav says:

I think we have made tremendous progress through online events. In fact, we now have more of them than we had before the pandemic. Mainly because it’s all done online. These are competitions and joint activities for everything from fitness to cooking. There is meditation, there are interest groups that I have been actively promoting. We also periodically send people something, some kind of gifts by mail, to remind them of real physical connections. Sometimes it is something with the symbols of the company, sometimes – boxes of sweets, sometimes – small succulents.

4. Remember that you are part of something larger.

Self-deception? Maybe. But if it helps you stay productive, move up the career ladder, and feel better, then why not? Believe in your company, its ideas and mission. It will be much easier to start the working day this way.

The feeling that you are part of something larger than you can be a powerful internal driver. The same Ryan Chartrand from X-Team explains:

If teams feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, that is tremendous energy. You need to invest in this. It’s important to create experiences that remind employees why they matter. That you all share the same values ​​and make the world a better place. It seems to me that the easiest way when working from home can be felt through general meetings and various events, albeit small ones.

An active team member is more motivated and happy. Gretchen Rubin, author of the bestselling book The Happiness Project, notes in her book:

Modern research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more useful, more likeable to others, more creative, more resilient, more interested in themselves and others, friendlier, and healthier. Happy people become best friends, colleagues, and citizens.

Spending time playing video games, lounging in an armchair, and chatting with colleagues about something distracted is often just as important as working hard. Only such activities help us, after many years, not to go crazy and not burn out at a distance.

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