Prioritizing Physical and Mental Health during Remote WorkCulture · Aug 13, 2020
When going into the office was the norm, I occasionally used to complain about my commute. Issues cropped up every once in a while, from route changes to the usual delays. The hustle-bustle at Union Station was a little too much some days, but other days it was exactly what I needed to get into a mentally charged work day. Ultimately, our daily commute did serve an important purpose. It helped us gradually transition from home to work life and vice versa, and helped establish clear boundaries.
The shift to remote work over the last few months has meant unparalleled flexibility. However, at the same time, it’s important for us to avoid overlaps between home and work life so that we can fully detach from work at the end of the day. Thinking about work all the time leads to exhaustion, and makes it harder to relax. At TELUS, team-members are encouraged to detach from work, establish clear boundaries and take breaks to recharge so that we can bring our best selves to work.
Setting up schedules and demarcating time for work and home responsibilities can help mitigate a lot of the stress that comes from trying to balance competing priorities. Having a few simple rituals to transition in and out of a work day can go a long way in establishing clear boundaries, as some of our team-members have been doing.
“Over the last few months, learning to adjust to a new way of working has been a process. Finding a new routine has been very important for myself in order to find a center of balance. I’ve worked on a few simple changes in my routine that have prepped my mind to turn off from work for the evening or weekend. The first thing I do towards the end of the day is setting time aside to create a list of action items to complete the next day. Once I create my list and check it over, I turn off my laptop and store it away so it’s out of sight. Following this, I usually take a short 30 minute walk listening to music or a podcast to unwind and get some fresh air. I find these three things allow for a simple transition from working all day to unwinding and detaching.” Sydney Carey, Communications Specialist
“I have a work-station that I only use during working hours so it feels like I'm "leaving the office" when I disconnect at the end of the work day. I also shut everything down (monitor, laptop, mouse etc.) just like how I would when I go into the office!” Vanessa Yuang, Senior Strategy Manager
“One of the benefits within my experience working at TELUS Digital has been the flexibility that has always been available and encouraged. As a wife and mother, this became especially important in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the months that my 12 year old daughter’s schooling was online, I was able to take time in the morning to proofread her work and help solve the occasional tough math problem (google ‘how to do 6th grade math’). By mid-morning I was then able to devote time to meetings, emails, deck preparation and program management for the Digital Platform.
Now that school is out for summer, I’ve been able to replace online school support with a 30 minute run before starting my work day. I take breaks to make meals or to chat with my children whenever they need me (aka want me to buy something). At the end of the work day I make dinner and catch up on the day’s events with my husband and we settle in for some mindless TV. Without having the commute as a time to decompress, it has been important for me to turn off my laptop, leave the physical space where I work, and to turn off slack notifications to my phone. This has created a healthy boundary between home and work, allowing me to bring my best self to both.” Natasha Lander, Program Manager, Digital Platform
Taking Breaks and Time Off to Recharge
How refreshing was it to step away from your desk once in a while, and get some coffee or tea when you were in office? More than the refreshment itself, it was really all about stepping away so that you could come back to your desk energized again. It’s still important to take small breaks even though you’re at home. Stepping away to spend time with your family, or even to take a quick walk around your neighbourhood can go a long way in keeping you mentally focused and healthy.
“The last few months have been quite an interesting time for me. Not only did I switch jobs but I also started exploring new hobbies such as running and painting. In order for me to maintain a strong work life balance especially when my home has become my office, I try to block time away from my desk. As well, as much as I can, I try to take some meetings outside while I’m walking. Thanks to TELUS’ flexibility, it has allowed me to structure my day in a way that optimizes my productivity mentally and physically.” Aamna Contractor, Senior Strategy Manager
“It's been a busy few months since COVID has started, and truth be told, I was initially not quite set up to work remotely on a daily basis (hint: my standing desk was basically a stack of university textbooks from over a decade ago). However, as I started to get in the groove of working from home fully, I was able to focus more on the positives: more time to spend with my family, having a steady supply of fresh water readily available right by my desk (to my lovely colleagues such as: Carolyn Shum & Anita Phanthikane – I’ve been drinking my water!), and exploring new ways to collaborate and mingle across teams & locations (e.g. helping with organizing the Product Strategy training with 43 TD team members).
Being a people person, I like to detach from the work day by catching up with friends. I’ve been doing a lot of virtual coffee/tea/kombucha/beer – and some of us have started doing “virtual pub nights” playing Jackbox Party games together (available on Steam if you're wondering). At the end of the day, it’s all about the people, and we’ll always find ways to connect!” Timothy Yeung, Senior Product Manager
Apart from breaks, taking time off to recharge is very important too. Though vacations have been typically associated with travel, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take time off just because we may not be able to travel. Taking time off when you need it has several benefits, and can help prevent burnout in the long run.
“Normally we have 1-2 trips planned in the summer time with family and friends, but this year we had to cancel our travel plans and replace them with Stay-cations. It’s definitely a mind-shift and takes some planning and creativity to take time off and not go anywhere, but it’s do-able. This summer for my stay-cations I completely shut down from work (which if you talk to my team, is not normal for me - I’m usually online checking messages even in Mexico!). We spent some time at our family cottage, which is kind of like getting away, but we also just spent time at home, planning day trips in our area like a bike ride through our regional trails and a stop for Bubble Tea (my daughter’s favourite thing in the world right now). We had a swim day at our friend’s place (they are in our bubble) and had a picnic and relaxed in the backyard. I also did some decluttering around the house which has been good for my soul. Stay-cations have allowed me to get the needed break from work and to spend some time relaxing and having fun with my family.” Robin Irwin, Manager, People Experience Team
Creating an Empathetic Work Environment
Often, it’s easy to get so absorbed in our work that days and weeks just fly by. It’s always good to take out a few minutes to virtually say hello to team-members who you may not be working with right now but who you would have normally crossed paths within the office. At the start of meetings, asking team members how they are doing and listening to one another helps everyone stay connected.
At TELUS, coaching sessions and workshops are regularly organized to discuss important topics such as stress management and work life balance, and help team-members adjust to changing circumstances. Last month TELUS Digital hosted a Well-being day for all team-members to relax, recharge and enjoy some downtime. Several TELUS team-members have also played a key role in facilitating digital workout and meditation sessions.
“What inspired me to host the workout sessions was essentially recognizing how little I was moving since WFH started. Even just the action of commuting forces one to be more active and I was finding that my body was in a lot of pain because of this lack of movement. I figured that this was the experience of folks across the board and since I have experience in teaching fitness and I've heard a lot of feedback from friends that they struggle with accountability without classes, I thought I would extend this to fellow colleagues.” Renee Mak, UX Designer/Researcher
As we all know from experience, everything doesn’t always go as per plan. Unexpected issues can crop up anytime, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on. All of us are still adjusting to the new way of life, and it is a learning process. Staying physically and mentally healthy keeps us resilient and helps us bounce back from difficult situations. Staying transparent through regular check-ins and respecting each other’s schedules helps our team-members support one another, and ultimately helps create an empathetic work environment.