EU research projects and Horizon 2020 projects involve a good deal of remote work with an international consortium spread out over many different countries and time zones. Working remotely comes with a lot of benefits, but it also has its downsides. Common issues facing remote workers are anxiety, depression, loneliness, and back, neck, and shoulder pain. We’ve put together some helpful advice on how you can maintain good physical and mental health while doing remote work.
1. Create a work routine
With looming deadlines and people in different time zones it can be tempting to work on your EU funded project every moment you have free time. This kind of work is unsustainable and can quickly lead to burnout.
Even if your work changes from week to week or even day to day, take time at the start of your week and at the beginning of each day to plan what you’ll do when. The more regular your schedule and work routine are, the better you’ll be able to plan and make significant accomplishments. Not only will this help your mental health, but it’ll allow the other members of your team and project to know when you’re available.
One of the benefits of working with a singular European project management tool like EMDESK is that you can visualise, report, and analyse in real-time. This increased efficiency of having communication, reporting, analytics, and budgeting all in one place will allow you to set a schedule that works for yourself and keeps the lines of communication open with the other people in your consortium.
2. Stop working and say no
When your day is done, and your schedule says it’s done, stop. Allow yourself a certain amount of overtime per week and stick to it. You’ll accomplish more for your collaborative project by coming in with a fresh mind the next day, rather than pushing yourself into overdrive. Working all the time can lead to burnout, depression, and loneliness.
Horizon 2020 projects can have consortiums with people from around the globe and different time zones. While it’s not always possible to come up with a good time that works for everyone to meet, set reasonable standards of availability and politely decline meetings that aren’t absolutely necessary outside of these hours.
EMDESK’s built-in communication tools help members of your consortium eliminate the stress of checking for communications in multiple locations and being notified about irrelevant tasks. The groups feature of EMDESK allows you to communicate and share with only the people necessary, regardless of their location.
3. Get up, move, and remember to drink water
Make getting up a part of your schedule. Set timers if necessary and every hour get up and take a small break from your screen and your desk. Stand up and stretch, walk to the kitchen and get some water. If you have a phone call that doesn’t require you to be at your computer, leave it. Grab a notebook, pen, your planner and walk while you talk.
How much water did you have this week? Most people don’t get enough, and your brain and body need it to keep yourself physically and mentally fit. Get an app or write it in your schedule to make sure you get your eight cups per day.
Small amounts of daily exercise and getting enough liquids can have a major impact on your overall physical and mental health. Here’s a list of our favorite YouTube to get you in shape and prevent neck and back pain at your workstation:
- Desk yoga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAUf7aajBWE
- Desk exercises (starts at 0:50) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdfTuxdfIE8
- The Mayo clinic has a series of short stretching videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSWR1ylG_6JbA1CdSHlVmKnAWFiYm_b4k
- Stretches for neck and lower back pain (starts 0:35): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkT7jxFfPHA
- Wrist stretches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPO-zST-7EE
4. Make time to socialize
As social creatures, humans need social interaction. This need doesn’t go away just because deadlines are looming. It’s vital to your overall mental health that you have enough social interaction that’s not always about work. Set five minutes before or after meetings to chat and have conversations with your fellow collaborators. Small talk will turn into real talk over time and the connections you make on this project can lead to considerations for future collaborations on H2020 projects.
Schedule a virtual coffee time for 15 minutes once a week so people can get to know each other a bit better and share a few laughs. By doing this regularly, people will stop being awkward and be more willing to talk.
Take lunch or a break with friends or colleagues whenever possible to lift your spirits so you can come back to your EU projects with a fresh perspective.
5. Let a cloud based project management tool like EMDESK make remote collaboration effortless so your team can focus on their research.
One of the biggest stress factors for people managing Horizon 2020 projects is keeping track of upcoming deadlines and small details like who’s working on what and where people are in regards to meeting these deadlines. It can also be stressful to keep track of communications and documentation when these are spread out over multiple systems. EMDESK features relieve this stress by allowing you to track and see all upcoming deadlines and the progress that’s been made at a glance. Save time and relieve stress by having a central hub for communication, storing and sharing information, reporting and consumption, and schedule management, such as due dates and responsibilities with EMDESK. Stop making team members search for the correct version of documents and being endlessly notified with irrelevant emails. By consolidating your project into a single cloud based tool that operates in real-time with varying access rights and notification settings, you’ll be able to keep everyone up-to-date with the best information on only what’s relevant to them.
Yvonne Osborn, freelance writer