How to manage ourselves while working remotely? For many of us, the recent remote work situation has ended. For many, it will continue. Luckily, for some, it has been a reality for years! For the past 14 years (yes, years, not months), I have worked for different organisations with varying degrees of remote work. So, once the situation fell on the table suddenly for most companies, schools and other organisations, it seemed only fitting to organise my experience and know-how to support those in midst of rapid reorganisation. Here are a few ideas that have gained most reactions from the participants of the 15+ online self-management workshops we held during 2020 at EnterTraining.
1. Be kind
It has been a time of changes and challenges. For some, it has come with great isolation and solitude while for others, spending more time with family members or room-mates than ever before. There are those with no work and those with extra work, those with fear about the future and others with anxiety about the present. The biggest gift we can give to anyone during this time, is kindness. That includes being kind to ourselves whether we are working remotely or not. Serena Chen talks about the importance of self-compassion in her HBR article from 2018:
“People with high levels of self-compassion demonstrate three behaviors: First, they are kind rather than judgmental about their own failures and mistakes; second, they recognize that failures are a shared human experience; and third, they take a balanced approach to negative emotions when they stumble or fall short—they allow themselves to feel bad, but they don’t let negative emotions take over.”
This leads us nicely to the second point about self management during remote work which is managing our feelings.
2. Manage feelings
First, there is an important difference to be made. Namely, that of emotions and feelings. They are not synonyms. Emotions are more primal and reactional to outside stimuli. Feelings we have more control over, making them more manageable. For example, we may not have much control over the chemical reaction of fear in our bodies when we see a fast moving item travelling towards us, but we do have control over whether we let that turn into anxiety about going out into traffic ever again.
Having personal experience with panic attacks and high anxiety, I have discovered tools to use as a proactive approach: not all of them work in the moment of an emotional reaction, but they all help me decide which feelings I let the emotions turn into and how long I let them linger.
On my list are:
- Focus setting
- Letting things go
- Choosing the company I keep
- Writing things down
Of course, they each have a different logic, but they all work towards keeping me happier and thriving. Is that not what we are all after? Should I need a more reactive tool when remote work becomes a source of stress, I turn to Tim Ferriss’ fear casting concept of identifying the worst case scenario, finding ways to prevent it from happening, and figuring out what my next steps are should the worst case scenario indeed happen.
Surprisingly, a concept that plays into managing thoughts and feelings is the same that makes perfect sense in discussing self management on a larger scale: motivation.
Understanding my motivation behind feeling a certain way helps me decide whether the feelings themselves are necessary. In the face of rapid change and uncertainty of the health crisis that brought on the need for more remote work, it is natural to experience fear. It would be understandable to want to turn that fear into anxiety, stop working, crawl into a corner and try to wait it out. However, I know that I am motivated by high excitement – of making a difference, of meeting challenges, of creating something new out of chaos. Hence, I did.
Instead of anxiety, I turned the original fear of the unknown into excitement about the unknown. Instead of longing for what is missing (like live training events with clients), I focused my energy towards what was needed (online training events for companies to support their people in the transition). Did I know how to run great online events? I had some ideas and the rest I figured out on the go. Am I perfect at them now? No, but I enjoy the growth in it. Do they motivate me to get out of bed every morning, to keep reading, to keep creating, to keep contributing? Yes!
The reasons can be found in motivational psychology. Based on self determination theory by Deci and Ryan, and Dan Pink’s concepts he introduces in his book “Drive”, I have built my own theory of the fantastic four:
3b. Using motivational theory in practice
Following the four aspects of motivation, I can break down my own behaviour. Finding a challenge to tackle during the pandemic made me follow a path that is sufficiently unknown, but not totally out of reach. This is exercising mastery. For autonomy I balance the bigger picture with clear bitesize tasks. For relatedness I keep up meaningful contact with loved ones as well as colleagues, clients and partners. As for purpose, I want to support teams in creating their world altering visions. Still a hippie at heart, looking for ways to make the world better. If now that means more work with individuals who make up great teams, I am still on track towards my bigger purpose!
Being kind to myself and others, managing my feelings and making sure my motivation cups are full, this weird time has been full of growth and development. Exactly what I am after in life!
If you or your team needs any help building a more remote work friendly team culture, get in touch. We are happy to share our experiences and related research through engaging workshops EnterTraining style!
For tips on supporting your team through change, check another post here.