If you want to grow, whether as a team or individually, you need a healthy environment that allows you to thrive. There are so many things that could contribute to a healthy environment, so I am going to pick just a few as examples. (I’ll skip development environments other than to say I use
vi when I write code or websites.)
The most tangible components include your desk, or wherever you work most days. I was lucky enough to have my study set up well before we had to work from home due to COVID. An adjustable sit-stand desk and two large monitors connected to a Mac mini meant my transition to long-term wfh was fairly easy. I had recently upgraded our home wifi and already had pretty much the fastest available internet connection. My company generously gave everyone a budget to upgrade their home office, so I took the chance to buy a chair that I’d wanted for a long time. I’ve made a few small tweaks over the year or so of wfh, but you can find many of the main items on my kit page.
The next area that people tend to think about when setting up a healthy environment is related to ergonomics. Big monitors are great but if you don’t set them up at the correct height then you’re going to strain your neck. Stare at them without a break and you’ll strain your eyes. Sitting all day (even on my nice new chair) can cause other health problems. It’s important to have a comfortable place to work, so it may require a few adjustments before you find what works for you.
The big trick I find that helps me is to move often, whether that’s switching between sitting and standing, or walking away from the desk for a short break. I already used the Pomodoro Technique to help with focusing on tasks, but now I have incorporated reminders to move more.
Part of the impetus to write this post is the (literal) pain in my neck – I know I need to stretch and exercise more, and I should probably put some small blocks of time in my calendar to remind me to do that each day. Thanks to Matt for recommending another stretch that I’ll be incorporating.
So far it’s all been about the physical environment, but it’s also important to think about mental health. I am very quickly going to be out of my depth on this topic, so all I’ll say is it’s really important for everyone to pay attention to their own mental health and to be supportive of those around you. Many companies are providing additional mental health support because the COVID restrictions and extended isolation many people are experiencing are causing additional strain. Here are some resources:
- Government of Canada – Mental health and wellness
- Canadian Mental Health Association has national and provincial websites and social media presence
- (US) National Institute of Mental Health
Like so much of what we observe and how we understand things operate in agile organisations and in the world in general, there are many interrelated factors and that’s why we should consider the system, recognising that changing one element can have an impact on others. It’s important to acknowledge that there are many components of a healthy environment and it takes effort to maintain them; ignoring them can have dire consequences. This can be daunting and that’s why it’s important to ask for help – no-one is an expert in all aspects so we should not be afraid to seek assistance, and hopefully we can support each other.