From the beginning, Vivante Health has embraced technology—not just as a conduit to help people manage their digestive health, but on the workforce side as well. Most of our company’s employees work from home full-time as they help members and clients improve health, reduce stressors and minimize anxieties.
And at a time like this, stress and anxiety is running high. “At Vivante, we work hard to help people feel better. We have an obligation to help minimize anxieties and we’ve worked in a professional, virtual environment for a long time. Some of our expertise in this area may help steady the course and alleviate fears for some of our members,” says Vivante Founder and CEO Dr. Kimon Angelides.
It’s especially challenging to make the switch to remote work on top of the concerns we’re all facing with COVID-19. Right now, most of us are seeking ways to focus, reduce anxiety and stress, and keep moving forward with our lives more than ever.
While we can’t quite offer the answers to stop your home-bound kids from asking for more cookies or tip you off on which local store is getting the next shipment of toilet paper… we can share some tips and advice to help you get your workday under control.
We’ve gathered some insights from Vivante team members to help you successfully make the switch to remote work:
A Dedicated Space
One of the first concerns most of us have when first hearing we’ll need to work from home is, “OK, where in my already-crowded house am I going to set up my work station?” Some of us may attempt to move our laptop around to different spots around the house or apartment, but most of us work best in a consistent, distraction-free environment. Plus it can be too tempting to turn on the TV if you’re working in your living room or den.
If possible, set up a work spot in a room with a door that closes. This is key if you live with others—you may want to add a “do not disturb” sign on the door when you need to focus or take important calls.
If you don’t have a room you can use, designate a corner or table to your work zone. If necessary, signal to family members that this area is off-limits to everyone but you during work hours. Hang a curtain. Set up a room divider. Find “Do Not Enter” caution tape. Be creative—do whatever works to send the message that this new area in the home is yours and yours alone.
Once you’ve carved out your space, it helps to make it a nice spot to spend time. Shari Nightingale, Director of Special Projects, not only keeps everything she needs for work at-hand so she won’t get sidetracked to go look for another pen, but she enjoys her workspace as well. “Decorate it with your favorite photos and colors. Play some music, and try some aromatherapy,” she says.
Stay On-Task and Cut Distractions
You brought your laptop home; you’ve got your office files and maybe even your monitor and keyboard. But did you bring your office mind home, as well?
Working in busy offices trains us over time to tune out distractions and get our work done. When we go home for the day, we naturally switch over to our “off-time” brains—where we have family obligations, social lives, errands and chores, and entertainment. Suddenly merging our work into the space previously known to our brains as “home” can create some challenges.
The good news: you can learn to cut distractions in your home work space and remain on-task. Start with small tricks, like having a to-do list.
Michael Dye, Prototype & Data Engineer, keeps a small paper notepad on his desk. “Each morning I write down what I want to accomplish for the day. It keeps me focused on priorities and I feel productive crossing things off the list.”
Try using noise-cancelling headphones. Another option: invest in a sound machine, or play soft music or white noise. Light, ambient noise can actually boost creativity, according to the Journal of Consumer Research. Apps like MyNoise and SimplyNoise are designed to deliver ambient sounds that can help you focus and calm an overly-stimulated mind. (We’ll cover additional productivity tools in an upcoming post.)
Break your workday into chunks of time if you can. Knowing that you’ll have your head down working on that big project from 10-11am but will be taking a break at 11 to take a walk or grab a snack can help bring structure to your day. You’ll be more likely to remain on-task if your brain knows it “gets a break” after a hard sprint.
Balance the Work/Life Mindset
Speaking of bringing structure to your work-from-home day, a key part of that is finding ways to keep your home life separate from your work life.
Is it tricky to do when telecommuting? Definitely. It’s easy to fall into traps, such as trying to accomplish household chores like cleaning and laundry while you’re on the clock.
Belinda Blakley, Vivante’s Director of Acquisition, noted that when she first started working from home it was tough to avoid thinking things like “since I’m home all day, my house should be cleaner.” She feels it’s OK if you want to use your breaks to do some housework, but “remember it’s also OK to not worry about those things. Try to avoid the mental ‘shoulds’ and treat your day like any other work day, first and foremost.”
Try taking care of some essentials before your day starts, so you’re off to a strong start. Thanos Vidakis, Software Engineer, says he eats a good breakfast before his work day starts (not after he’s sat down at his computer). And AVP of Care Management Erin Commons gets her heart pumping before she logs on. “I exercise every morning, which makes it easier for me to concentrate when I get to my desk.”
Another tip: take lunch, and sign off at a certain time. “It’s very easy to work through lunch and not have a clear end point of the day,” says VP of Client Success Nichol Oliverio. “Make sure you define your work hours early on.”
Communicate and Connect
Social distancing is a reality for all of us at the moment. Feeling isolated and lonely are valid reactions. And they’re common among telecommuting employees, as well.
Erin Commons encourages her team to use Slack often throughout the day, and sees lots of value in sharing silly thoughts and funny memes. “It helps to lighten the mood and connect with each other.” She also turns on her video to improve communication and make sure body language cues aren’t missed during important conversations.
Belinda Blakley agrees that video conference calls make a difference. “Having the whole team on video during a meeting really helps with communication and feelings of isolation, especially when you first start working from home.”
When working remotely, over-communication and being as clear as possible in your intentions isn’t a bad thing, especially when body language isn’t a regular part of the picture. Liz Morgan, VP of Member Services, says “emojis and GIFs are a close second place to body language and facial cues.”
In an office it’s easier to get ideas across with fewer words or through sarcasm, so it might feel odd at first to “spell it out” in written communications. You’ll quickly find it’s better to err on the side of clarity and express exactly what you mean.
Finally, find opportunities to connect with team members. In non-pandemic times, remote employees schedule in-person meetings and events when possible. For now, maybe try virtual happy hours, coffee dates or book club chats over a free platform like Zoom. It might be fun to see how creative you and your coworkers can get with virtual meet-ups.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy
Overall, with a little proactive planning and conscious attention to developing new habits, working from home can be a productive, rewarding and healthy experience.
From the whole Vivante team, we hope all of our members, clients and customers are safe, healthy and finding balance in this challenging time.