Going back in time: it’s early 2020 and our whole team is on site (well, almost - our CEO lives in the Netherlands, but visits every two weeks). We have our own concrete jungle in the beautiful city of Lisbon. It’s big, it’s sunny and - most importantly - it’s full of human beings. Now fast forward to today: we are currently working remotely, as are most companies, and still navigating our way through it. Our CEO hasn't been able to visit in a long time, and many people have joined since - including me - which means some of us have never met in person.
After almost two years of remote work, one thing comes to mind: for such a collective experience, there's actually an infinitude of individual stories and coping mechanisms. Shouldn't we share? That's why last year we put together a workshop - or better yet, an open mic via the now-classic video call - with the entire team, with the purpose of establishing two things:
(1) What has worked well for you health-wise during the lockdown?
(2) What are you struggling with, and could use some input on?
We came down to four big topics: being outside & exercising, eating, communicating, and (not) commuting. While many of our findings aren't deal-breakers, I found that putting the ideas out there actually got me contemplating my active efforts to stay healthy. More importantly, voicing my struggles and hearing everyone else's - whether I shared them or not - made me feel less alone.
During lockdown, many days went by without a glimpse of the outside world. Many without more than a few steps here and there. Here are our thoughts.
Some of our team members have been doing walking meetings, and fully endorse it. For how many of your calls do you actually need to be looking at your screen? If you don't need visuals, you don't need to stay home. Grab your headphones, and enjoy the outside world!
Sometimes you just need time to work out a concept by yourself before putting it on paper. At Jungle, it often involves some very technical concepts. For you, it might be something else entirely. Why do it while staring at a wall when you can do it outside? Even better, record yourself while you go for that walk, and talk out loud through a problem you need to solve. Pro tip from one of your machine learning engineers: if you’re afraid of getting judgy looks, get big clearly-I'm-wearing-them headphones to look like you're speaking to someone other than yourself.
Try different schedules to see what works for you. One of our software engineers tried morning, middle of the day, and evening workouts. The result? Middle of the day for him, as it helps de-stress him from the morning work and get re-energised for the afternoon. All in all, try different settings to see what fits you.
You don't need to go for full-workouts if that's not your jam. You don't even need equipment. You can simply do some stretches. Set reminders on your phone for every X hours. And if you know you'll just ignore the reminders because you're too committed to stop what you're doing? One of our engineers shares his trick: couple your stretches with your bathroom breaks. Phones can be ignored, bladders can't.
Main takeaway: move around, exercise, stretch. Do some house chores if that helps you stay active. All in all, get some rays of sunshine and find what works for you exercise-wise.
During lockdown, many actually discovered that they wouldn't bother themselves with preparing food. What was once a social experience, a break, has, to some, turned into grabbing a bite in front of the computer, while typing and scrolling. This is what we put together.
Cook double portions for dinner, and put it in the fridge for lunch the next day. You don't have to survive on hardly-healthy food, or starve your way through remote work.
Avoid eating at your desk. Odds are, your email is gonna ping, and your break will be over.
Include a slot on your calendar specifically for lunch. That way, you avoid having meetings booked on your break (especially important when dealing with different time zones!). It also works as a reminder - this is your time to eat, so eat!
Main takeaway: if possible, take a break, and eat real food. It will go a long way to help you feel good.
Both professional and personal interactions took quite a hit these past times. Depending on what your role is, you might rely more or less on others, and your tasks might require more or less calls. For some people, it might feel isolating, as they can go through full days without speaking to anyone from work, apart from the occasional written message.
It might not always come handy, but sometimes a phone/video call might go a long way to foster interactions with your peers. Hearing - or even better - seeing people can help you connect better to others.
Remote drinks and virtual events came to replace the water cooler chats and the occasional ping pong games. At Jungle, the engineering team set up DJ Friday on Discord and continuously encourages everyone to join and add songs to the queue. The options are endless, just make the most out of all those apps out there.
Main takeaway: make sure no man is an island. Reaching out even just for a quick call makes all the difference. All in all, there’s plenty of fun, engaging apps. Just choose the one that’s right for you.
Although dreaded by some, for others the good old commute allowed for a mental transition from home-me to work-me. The bus trip, the traffic, or the walk to the office helped change their settings. Now it’s harder to switch modes. Here are our thoughts.
Start your day with a walk through your neighbourhood. Let that moment help you transition from your home self to your work self, like it did before. It doesn't work for everyone - some of us tried only to give up shortly after, after getting a it's-for-pretend feeling - but others find it helpful. Do the same in the evening to force you to come back home "from work".
One of our engineers finds it hard to go for that walk before work. While before he had to commute, "fake" commuting now falls on the priorities list when he has kids to tend to, and work he can get done in the morning, when he’s the most productive. He has found a ritual that helps him transition from dad to employee: starting his work everyday with the same song. For him, a 2-hour drum & bass playlist. For you? Just choose one that you like and stick with it.
Main takeaway: start and end your workday with a specific routine. It will help you separate work from home life.
Hard conclusion: before this whole thing, you had to do X or Y. Now it’s a matter of discipline. Do you have the discipline to work out? To cook lunch? To go for a walk?
Some think that you have to force yourself until it becomes ingrained. "If you’ve done something 150 times consecutively, it becomes part of your system". Others say - start small. Find meaningful reasons to gradually implement new routines. Find what works for you.
And if, like us, you’re keen on sharing: why don't you put together a similar workshop at your own workplace? Best case scenario, you’ll hear the most brilliant, life-changing ideas of your lifetime. Worst case scenario? You’ll reflect on your health, you’ll connect to your peers, and you’ll feel less alone. Not such a bad deal after all.