Oxygen masks first – Twelve ideas for remote management self care.


As we move forward, it’s evident that we are entering a new phase of remote working.  Almost everyone we speak to is expecting the world of work to have permanently changed as a result of the (forced) experiment of the past year. 

In short, we are in this remote working thing for the long term, which means that everyone needs to stop and recalibrate what’s working for them and importantly what’s not!  

In our effective remote management phase 2 series, as are focusing on a number of new areas that managers need to stay abreast of.  One of these important areas we are calling “Oxygen Masks First”. 

It stands to reason that in order for a manager to be effective in supporting their teams wellbeing over prolonged remote periods, they must first look after themselves.  Many times over the past year I have heard managers talk about their desire for team members to be discerning over the segmentation of their work and home life.  Then in the next breadth talk as though that couldn’t possibly apply to them!  They just have to burn the candle at both ends, they have no choice but to start early, work last, blurring home and work constantly.  This of course is nonsense! At least we can say, this is absolutely a choice that those managers are making.  It does not have to be that way.  In fact it should not be that way!  Not only is this detrimental to the managers ability to look after the team, it is appalling role modelling.  

Remote managers need to take this seriously and put their oxygen mask on first, so that they can be of genuine help to their organisations.  Here’s a starting point.  In no particular order, twelve ideas for remote management self care:


  1. Establish a morning self-care routine.

Routines are very useful for remote working.  They set up patterns and habits that can serve us very well.  The morning routine is especially important in this regard.  It sets up the day and enables you to begin in a good place.  The ingredients of that routine can be very specific to you, one person may want quiet reflection and reading, another may want a noisy energetic Peleton spin class.  I might want one on Monday and the other of Tuesday etc.  Be intentional about the morning routine, take ownership of it and make choices that work for you.

  1. Reward yourself from time to time.

I’m a big fan of using rewards to motivate me.  They can be large or small but are usually commensurate to what’s going on.  The lowest level rewards I use are cups of coffee and 5 minutes breaks.  I’ll say to myself, I’m going to push through this piece of work until it’s done, and then I’ll have a coffee and a break.  At the larger end I’ve attached significant holidays or purchases to the completion of exhausting projects etc.  Being good to ourselves from time to time makes the hard stuff worth it.  We work hard, so we should plan at least some enjoyment from our labours.  

  1. Schedule days off.

Get your days-off booked early, and protect them jealously.  It’s all too easy to keep going without breaks and then struggling to utilise our holiday time.  Book the big breaks, but also book a number of odd days throughout the period so that you even out the relief and eliminate the potential to miss out on your breaks.  

  1. Automate what you can.

This is a slightly more difficult area, but one that is worth striving for.  How can you simply, automate or even outsource stuff that you have to do?  Always look for opportunities to achieve this, it will help in taking the strain of the day to day.  Anyone who has lived with a dishwasher will feel the reluctance to go back to the kitchen sink alternative.  Move us much in and out of work into the category of automated. 

  1. Get plenty of sleep.

Regularity is key here, get into some healthy patterns.  Work out how you chill before bedtime and make that your routine.  Definitely avoid work before sleep, and don’t get yourself into a rut of staying up late and starting early.  

  1. Reflect on the three best things that happened today.

Resilient people have a habit of focusing on the good stuff.  See our previous post on this topic.  

  1. Make time for family and friends.

We all benefit from a support network of some kind, but sadly we can squeeze out those closest to us when we over focus on work.  Understand who is in your circle of safety and then plan how you will nurture those relationships . This should be a smallish, manageable group of people, that are really important to you.  Protect this circle and always seek to nurture it – then it will bring the same back to you.  

  1. Do something creative.

You may not see yourself as a wildly creative person, but nearly all of us have something that we love to lose our thoughts in.  Some will be completely sure of where their creative interests lie; me for example, I love to pick up a bass guitar and make the house rumble!  Making creativity part of our week can do us the power of good.  

So if you are not sure of your potential, try something out, and then something else and something else after that too.  Keep going until you locate the thing that you love to create.  It doesn’t have to be typically ‘arty’ maybe for you, you love to create home, or create poems, or create meals, the potential list is endless.  

  1. Keep well hydrated.

Up to 60% of the human adult body is water.  The USGS tell us that the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water!  What does that mean?  Well, if you are dehydrated, you simply are not your best self.  Buy a water bottle and sip all day long.  The claimed benefits of this are endless.

  1. Crush simple tasks first.

There’s nothing quite like smashing through a task list to help with a sense of wellbeing and progress.  So forget that idea which suggests you should begin with the most difficult task!  Make sure you schedule specific time for those big ones, but first, smash the little ones.  Make some progress and bounce off that motivation for the rest of the day.  

  1. Pace yourself and set realistic goals.

Whatever anyone tells you, you cannot get a quart out of a pint pot!  Yes, you can brim the pint pot, but you have to get real about what can be achieved each day.  Over estimating what we can get through leads to frequent disappointment.  That alone is really rubbish for our morale and wellbeing!  Think through the sequence of events needed to achieve the todo list, and recalibrate for intentions with realistic expectations.  That way you will start to have successful days, rather than a continuous catalogue of disappointing ones.

  1. Relax, and let the tension out.

My final point is not some soft meaningless nonsense 😉  It is in fact extremely practical and tangible.  Much of the time, we carry a lot of unnecessary tension within us, it keeps us tort like a coiled spring.  Releasing this physically, within our posture and frame, is super easy so long as we remind ourselves to do it.  Let me prove the point, whoever you are, what ever you are doing right now, just relax your shoulders and let the tension out.  See, it’s that easy!  

Create triggers to remind you to do this and introduce them frequently.  For a start a few post-it notes could help you remember, but I like to attach my reminders to physical actions that I encounter during my day.  So I, for example, relax my tension every time I use the office hand dryer!  I have many more examples, but you need to create your own personal reminders to relax and let the tension out.  

Managers that put their oxygen mask on first will be better managers.  

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain