The Slice

20 Tips to De-stress and Relax Your Remote Team

February 25, 2022

To keep your remote team running smoothly and working effectively, one thing you should do is give them avenues for stress relief. The same is true for in-office workers, of course, but the options available to you are quite different. If you want to help your remote team de-stress and relax, we've got you covered with 20 different tips to try out.

For many, working remote is more than just a pandemic safety measure; it's a new way of life. People are discovering the many benefits of working remotely, including the flexibility and productivity that comes from being able to work in your own home.

On the other hand, some people are encountering some of the unique stressors that come with remote work for the first time. For example:

  • Lack of distance from family. If your kids are screaming or your spouse needs you, the door to your home office likely won't stop them.

  • Sub-par utilities. In particular, if your home internet connection isn't great, you'll have a ton of frustrating issues with remote work.

  • Poor home office setup. At the office, company funds can buy nice chairs and good desks, with proper ergonomics. Your home office setup might not be so lucky.

Of course, there are always trade-offs. Employees are generally more productive when allowed to work from home and don't have to worry about the stress of a commute. 

To keep your remote team running smoothly and working effectively, one thing you should do is give them avenues for stress relief. The same is true for in-office workers, of course, but the options available to you are quite different.

If you want to help your remote team de-stress and relax, we've got you covered with 20 different tips to try out.

1: Start Meetings with Stretching

How long do you spend sitting at your desk every day? The truth is, most of us spend too much time sitting and not enough time maintaining physical health. A simple way to encourage healthier habits and reduce stress is to start off your daily morning meeting with a little stretching. Get everyone to follow a stretching routine to loosen up their back, shoulders, and legs. Stretching reduces stress, increases blood flow, and makes everyone feel that much more comfortable.

2: Competitive, Gamified Health Habits

Healthy habits are hard to come by, but if you establish some kind of reinforcement, you can encourage them throughout your company. There are dozens of platforms out there with challenge-based fitness programs, or you can implement your own. Encourage going on walks, lifting weights, eating healthier, or otherwise making positive changes to health. Track them with an app or just with spreadsheets, and hand out rewards to your staff on a weekly or monthly basis. Don't just reward the healthiest; reward the most engaged and most improved as well.

3: Pet Introductions and Round-Tables

Chances are, a lot of the people on your staff have pets. They may be cats and dogs, they may be birds or lizards, or they might even be something a little more exotic. One good way to help reduce stress is to have everyone spend a few minutes sharing their pets. Maybe it's story time, with anecdotes about what they got up to (or into) this week. Maybe it's a face-to-face meeting of the furry minds. Whatever the case is, have everyone take a moment to show off their pet to get everyone smiling.

4: End a Day with an Escape Room

Before the pandemic, escape rooms were becoming extremely popular. Once the pandemic hit, many companies started producing virtual escape rooms. There are some extremely clever, puzzling, and well-produced escape rooms on the market today. All you need to do is find them, and break up your staff into teams to run through it. Luckily, we have a full list of our most recommended escape rooms right over here. Check it out!

5: Establish a "Water Cooler" Chat Channel

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or at least that's how we all feel when we're stuck in a 9-5 grind with no chance to relax. So, give your staff a chance to relax! One of the easiest ways to do so is to set up a casual "off-topic" chat channel, or even a few of them. Messaging platforms like Slack and Discord can do this with ease. The key, though, is to make sure they're lightly moderated. No managers dipping in to tell people to get back to work; the only moderation should be to put the kibosh on topics that make people uncomfortable or are inappropriate to discuss.

6: Emphasize Casual Recognition

Did you know that one negative comment or piece of criticism stands out much more in an employee's mind than a half a dozen compliments or thanks? All too often, businesses view satisfactory employee performance as the bare minimum, and only offer recognition for excellence. This is a great way to encourage burnout. Instead, build a workplace culture of recognition and appreciation, encourage employees to thank and recognize one another, and generally grow a positive atmosphere for everyone.

7: Start the Day with Guided Meditation

Meditation – actual meditation, not just sitting on the floor humming – can be a very powerful tool for relaxation, mindfulness, and productivity. Consider a weekly or even daily meditation session, with guidance from a guru or a series of YouTube videos or even just a local practitioner. You can start the day with guided meditation, make it part of a post-lunch, pre-work refocusing, or cut it back to a weekly event if your employees don't take to it right away.

8: Encourage Sharing Hobby Progress

Your employees have lives outside of work, and one of the best ways to reduce overall stress is to allow them to focus on their hobbies. Maybe it's sports, maybe it's knitting, maybe it's model trains; whatever the case is, encourage your employees to share milestones and progress they make in their hobbies from week to week. You don't have to – and shouldn't – make it mandatory to share, but offer the floor to anyone who has a hobby milestone they want to showcase. Just pay attention to the people who never have anything to share, and talk to them one-on-one about options they could pursue.

9: Allow for "Mental Health Days"

Stress builds up, and it builds up differently for different people. Taking holidays off or offering half-day Fridays can be great for some people, but it's not always effective at reducing stress, especially if enforced days off cut into productivity and heap on yet more work during the days they work. Instead, allow for flexible "mental health days," where employees who need the break can take half a day or a day off to recharge without worrying about being called in, checking their email, or a towering to-do list waiting for them. Just make sure no one abuses the system and that everyone uses it.

10: Offer a Budget for Home Office Upgrades

Sometimes, it's not the work, the hours, or the framework that stresses you out. It's that perpetually squeaky chair, or that monitor that has a poor refresh rate, or that keyboard with the L-key that double-types constantly. Home offices aren't always – or even often – well put-together. So, build a budget and offer some amount of money to your employees for upgrades to their home office setups, which you reimburse later. You'd be surprised at how much better your life is just upgrading to a nicer chair, a less wobbly desk, or a better headset.

11: Bring in a Stay Hydrated Bot

Did you know that the vast majority of Americans are chronically at least mildly dehydrated? When you don't have enough water in your system, you have a harder time focusing and thinking, not to mention your body can't process energy or do all of the million little things it needs to do to keep functioning. So, encourage your team to stay hydrated. An easy way to do this is by setting up a bot in your local Slack to periodically remind everyone to take a drink. Obviously, configure it to be attention-grabbing but not disruptive, for the best effect.

12: Ensure an Appropriate Task Load

Perhaps one of the biggest sources of workplace stress is forcing everyone to do just a little bit too much, all the time. See, if their task load is obviously way too much to handle, finishing it is unrealistic, and they don't worry as much about it, and can prioritize the important bits. If it's reasonable but a lot, on the other hand, the pressure to put in that extra bit of effort to finish mounts up, and that leads to burnout. So, spread out tasks, keep task loads realistic, and if you need to, hire someone else to lighten the load.

13: Make Sure Deadlines are Realistic

Much like the volume of tasks, deadlines need to be appropriately managed. Tasks should have deadlines, according to their importance, but you can't expect everything to have a tight deadline. That's called crunch, and it's the bane of any team meant to work for a lengthy period. There's a reason why, after major projects finish, employees tend to quit.

14: Keep the Team Organized

Structure and organization are incredibly important for ensuring that everyone can manage their deadlines and complete their tasks appropriately. Every minute spent on figuring out what even needs to be done next is a minute where your employees are less productive and more stressed. Even something as simple as a central Asana or Kanban board can be good enough; you just need to keep it maintained.

15: Don't Micromanage

You hire your employees to be good at what they do, so trust them to do it. Management should have a light touch, to guide the overall direction of the company and the teams involved, not to guide every aspect of the tasks at hand. If your employees ever feel like stepping aside and saying, "fine, do it yourself then," you're being too fiddly. Trust them to know what they're doing and to do it effectively.

16: Celebrate Birthdays and Personal Milestones

Remember, your employees are people with lives outside of work. Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate those lives! Maybe it's a birthday celebration, maybe it's a milestone for a child's progress, maybe it's a wedding anniversary. Whatever it is, acknowledge it and celebrate it. Just make sure to talk to the employee first, get their preferences, and follow them. If they don't want a big deal made out of their milestone, don't make a big deal out of it. Respect their wishes.

17: Avoid Punishing Mistakes

Mistakes. We all make them. Who needs them? Well, as it turns out, we all do. To err is human, after all. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's important to acknowledge them and use them as learning opportunities, not as chances for punishment. Punishment is stressful, and making a mistake (especially when you know you've made one) is already stressful enough. 

18: Time Productivity (ultradian, pomodoro)

Time management can be surprisingly important for productivity. Two options you can consider are the ultradian and the pomodoro. Pomodoro is easy; it involves setting a timer and working in bursts with breaks in between. Study shows that sustained effort results in a significant drop in productivity, so take frequent breaks to refresh and renew. Ultradian is a little harder. You've heard of your circadian rhythm, right? The day/night cycle inherently ingrained in your body and mind? Ultradian rhythm is similar and has to do with a natural ebb and flow in focus, cognition, and energy. Recognizing your rhythm and using it in bursts can be very effective.

19: Break Out of Ruts

Sometimes, all you need to do to refresh your employees is help them break out of a rut. Change up scheduling, shuffle the task list, add a little minor disruption. Breaking out of a pattern of poor behavior can be all you need to refresh, change your mindset, and attack a problem with renewed vigor.

20: Implement Regular Pizza Parties

You knew this one was coming, right? Sure, it may seem at odds with #2 up there, but it's still beneficial to team morale to give them a treat on the regular. Use a service like ours to have pizza delivered to everyone on a monthly (or even weekly) basis to cater lunch or dinner for the team and their families. Everyone loves pizza, right? It brightens every day and helps reduce stress in a bunch of different ways.

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