Tips for Surviving Working from Home – From Remote Employees Themselves

June 8, 2020 8:55 am Published by
Reduce anxiety by staying connected with coworkers

Photo by Chris Montgomery on unsplash

Working from home (WFH) has moved from a short-term hassle to a longer, “this is life now” stage. The novelty is gone. The changes for the initial transition are in place. We now have to figure out how to make this scenario work for a while.

Who best to learn from than other remote, WFH employees? We recently followed a group of WFH workers, having them fill out a questionnaire once a week for four weeks. We asked a lot of questions, and the results are just being published in Training this week.

We inquired about their level of anxiety, what they were anxious about, their connectivity (or lack of it) to colleagues, what their major challenges were, their feeling reactions, what helped them cope with the stress of WFH, and what they liked about WFH. For a quick, easy-read summary, see my interview in Psychology Today.

We found some differences between those individuals who were experiencing lower levels of stress and anxiety and those who were struggling significantly more. There were several factors that contributed– including healthy habits like getting adequate sleep and eating well, limiting their news intake and taking breaks from work – but one that stood out was staying connected to their colleagues.

Individuals who made a consistent effort to communicate regularly with their colleagues (and had co-workers who did the same) reported a significantly better experience while WFH. It can be challenging to do the work required to keep this up, and as the pandemic has dragged on, it can be harder to stay motivated and intentional, but it is worth the effort.

From our participants, we learned it is important to talk about both work and non-work subjects as well as doing some fun activities together, and sharing our struggles and challenges with colleagues we trust. Here are some practical examples given by our respondents.

Talking about work

I started calling each member of my team daily to check on their morale and make sure they are getting what they need from the company in this uncertain time.

[W]e are building a virtual buddy system to help with onboarding.

My immediate colleagues have increased their Slack/email contributions significantly, to more effectively set me up for success when I log on after they’ve gone for the day.

Continue to have touch point calls around virus on company global level as well as small groups within my work group. Company providing lots of resources and communicating same.

Allowing everyone in the office the freedom to connect in their preferred style with me.

Senior management continued to hold weekly town-halls to share information on our response to COVID-19, impacts, and answer any and all questions.

Because I have a lot of experience with technology, I’ve tried to go to the teachers’ Google classroom page every day and answer as many questions as I can for my colleagues.

Checking in and life outside of work

I’ve been reaching out to everyone individually to see how they were holding up. How things were going with those who are now having to homeschool or those that have partners that have been laid off. Just trying to be there for them to talk to.

I helped a co-worker find some supplies he needed for his family.

After hours FaceTime with my work bestie Aileen to see how she was holding up.

Video chats are important. Phone calls to talk about personal issues and not work issues are important for connection as well. Seeing people’s families and that we are all struggling is helpful to feel that we are all in this together.

Adding personality and creativity and getting personal

During one of my daily standups over Google Hangouts, I introduced a “show and tell,” style icebreaker. The idea was that everyone would show something off to the rest of the team, that’s special/important to them in one way or another. It created a lot of excellent dialogue, and everyone learned something new about the rest of their teammates.

This past week I started facilitating a tabletop RPG (think Dungeons and Dragons) remotely using Google Meet, for folks across our Support organization as a way to stay connected. It functioned as a nice escape from the reality of what we’re currently living through, and some of the necessary lifestyle changes we’ve needed to make, and opened the door for me to get to know some people that I don’t get to spend a lot of time with a bit better.

One co-worker is starting a Spotify playlist for the group where each day she asks us two questions and we respond with a song that will get added to this playlist. For example, one question was what is your favorite song with a color in the title or another one with a number. But my favorite was the song that when you hear it, you think of an ex. It was a fun to see all the songs people sent in to learn more about their personalities, and also some great break up stories. Really nice to take my mind off everything.

One of my direct reports has started a March Madness style bracket for Chicago pizza places. Every day in a dedicated Slack channel, we’ve been voting on our favorites, and once our “champion” is crowned, I’ve decided to cover costs and have pizza from the winning establishment delivered to everyone on my team. It’s been a fun way to have non work-related discussions between some of our more monotonous tasks, and stay connected with each other.

Summing up

As we continue to cope with change, instability and unpredictability, it is important to continue reaching out and staying connected. As WFH stretches on, staying motivated and encouraged becomes more challenging but keeping in touch is an important part of reducing anxiety and experiencing less stress. This is true for everyone: owners, managers, employees, and the family members who live with us!

While it’s great to be creative, don’t let it hold you back from staying connected. Even a short, basic phone-call to check in has a positive effect. To learn more about the specific ways your team wants to be supported and encouraged, check out our resources created specifically for remote and WFH teams.


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Published by
June 8, 2020 8:55 am


  • Fanny says:

    That was just what I needed. Thank you so much for researching this and sharing your findings! I especially loved the “pizza concours” idea. We need more fun stuff like those 🙂

  • Nanci says:

    Thanks for sharing these ideas. I’ve implemented a #ShowAndTell MS Teams channel with my team. We’ll post images of our WFH life and be just that much more connected as a result. Thank you for inspiring the idea!

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