Taking Care Remotely

Jan 16, 2020

Wellbeing and mental health are current topics inside Giant Swarm, as well as in the larger community. Given that, this is still a delicate and tough topic to talk about - ironically, this blog post itself required a fair (read: large) amount of pushing from my team members for me to get it out. Working remotely definitely provides some benefits that can help towards mental health, so I wanted to share some of my notes and thoughts towards the intersection of remote tech work, mental health and wellbeing, and how we at Giant Swarm try to help improve these things.

Working remotely - specifically, working from wherever you feel like - provides a number of benefits for your wellbeing. For example, with the flexibility to choose where you can work, working from your sofa (with tea, of course) is entirely valid. Gone are the stresses and annoyances of the modern office - no more taps on the shoulder, or stressfully loud open-plan offices. With the need for an office removed, the need for a tragic commute disappears too. In previous jobs, I regularly had 2 hours of commuting a day. Freeing up that time towards positive use is a definite improvement for wellbeing - would you rather spend that time on a train, or have 2 more hours a day with your friends or family? Which do you think would make you happier?

‘Unlimited holiday’, or the notion that holiday shouldn’t be tracked - as Giant Swarm emphasises trusting teammates to manage their time wisely - allows for some great opportunities for personal wellbeing. As a personal example, being able to take a full week of vacation immediately following a bad panic attack, with the full support of my team, and the company as a whole, is a benefit that many sadly do not have the privilege of. Furthermore, the flexibility in my schedule allowed me to access therapy much faster. In other companies, this just wouldn’t be possible, or much more difficult.

On a separate note, as fairly massive users of Slack, we’ve also found that a number of ‘chat’ channels around various topics, such as books, politics, or food, have also sprung up. One of the most important ways to help take care remotely is to have a supportive team, not just in a professional setting, but also personally - people have to remember to love each other. As an example of this, the example of my coworkers’ sporting pastimes from our sports channel - marathons, personal goals and the like, definitely contributed to me getting back into sports myself, which I can say has only helped my personal wellbeing.

Given that, remote work is not all silver bullets, sunshine, and daisies. Not having ‘fixed’ work hours can lead to people migrating towards unhealthy work-life patterns, such as responding to requests late into the evening, as one example. In the same supporting vein, it’s up to everyone to help avoid these issues, and stay communicative about their problems, as something we can and should always aim to improve on.

I think the key driver for positive wellbeing and mental health, particularly inside a technology company, is a healthy company culture. With Giant Swarm specifically, having transparency and trust as key cultural building blocks enables people to do what they think is right, when and where they think is right, including changes they want for their own wellbeing.

There isn’t a business-y Call To Action here. Go spend some time looking after yourself <3

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