In this joint blog, SCVO’s digital participation project manager Aaron Slater and digital inclusion development officer Claire Sharp explain their approach to digital wellbeing.
How did we get here?
Aaron: As we approached the end of January there was one big topic that dominated discussions in our team – digital wellbeing. It’s coming from within the team and from our partners and stakeholders.
Like so many others across the sector, our team worked long days at great pace, doing our bit in response to the pandemic. For us, this was developing and delivering Connecting Scotland. We got into the habit of back-to-back Zoom meetings, always being in front of a screen and always reacting to the various pings of different communication platforms. Somewhere along the way, we accepted this as a way of working and we’ve struggled to take stock and make changes. This was reflected by the team.
Claire: Overall, I enjoy remote working. I’m fortunate enough to have a nice workspace, I get to pick the music and the cat has never been happier. However, towards the end of 2021, it hit me: this is the way I’m likely to be working for the rest of my professional life. It blew my mind, and not entirely in a good way. When I thought about work over the last two years, there have been a lot of good times but there have also been bad times, times when I’ve felt isolated, stressed and just plain sad, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’m not one for new year resolutions, but on my return to work in 2022 I realised there was something I wanted to change: to take better care of myself at work. This realisation got me thinking about remote working in the wider context and what we’ve all gone through over the past two years. Working through a global pandemic is something none of us could ever have predicted in our lifetime and we’ve all had to adapt and adjust to this new landscape.
I shared my thoughts with my team, and it sparked a conversation about remote working culture, our behaviours and changes we want to make to be better at supporting one another. Now that we’re no longer in emergency response mode, as a team we want to set a positive example and make remote working an environment that works for us all in the long term.
Be the change
Aaron: We’re fortunate that we work for an organisation, and in a sector, that cares about wellbeing. We’ve been given wide parameters to work flexibly and to prioritise our own mental health. Yet something still feels like it’s missing. As a team, we’ve started an open and honest dialogue about how we better apply the flexibility we’ve been given and challenge the unhealthier working practices we’ve slipped into. Digital tools have enhanced how we work, but we now need to consider how we make the culture of remote/hybrid working more sustainable.
So, what are we going to do about it?
Aaron: We agreed in our team a set of rules that we implemented to help us embed a more positive remote working culture, created collectively by the whole team. Here are some examples of what we agreed to test over a four week period:
Meetings: Not all meetings are necessary, and we need to stop jumping to Zoom or Teams when a simple email, message or phone call would suffice. Even a short meeting can interrupt your flow of work. We’re going to limit meetings to either 25 or 50 minutes and set a limit for how many we have each day.
Screen time: We recognise that part of our job requires us to be creative, to develop resources and content, and to consider emerging issues. We can’t do this with the constant distractions of being ‘online’ so we’re implementing protected time away from our screens.
Office chat: We’re making use of a feature on Slack called ‘huddle’. It’s an open voice channel – no video! We are testing this while we work on more routine admin tasks and emails. It sits open in the background and you can have a chat while you work, (almost) just like being in an office.
Accountability: We all know that these are things we could have been doing over the past two years, yet we’ve never stuck with it. We’ve agreed that we’re going to write up the rules in a team etiquette document as a reminder and reference point for how we’re expected to work and hold each other to account.
This won’t work for every team or organisation, but it’s us working within the parameters of what’s possible for our team and reflects the job roles we have. Want to know how we get on? We’ll follow up in Part two, sharing what we learnt from this trial.