Designing a healthy work culture in an era of remote and virtual work




  • The amalgamation of the physical and virtual has started taking its toll on many
  • By introducing a wellness series as part of a corporate initiative, the work culture, albeit remote can still be a healthy one


In the past year and a half, the pandemic has spurred companies to adopt a work from home or remote working arrangement. This merger has brought many benefits such as saving time on commuting, getting ready for work, and countless other little tasks throughout the morning. But along with its many advantages, remote work has brought about its fair share of consequences. In recent days, plateaued productivity has been the echoed sentiment along the office. The office environment has not transformed from a physical entity to virtual meeting rooms and digital workspaces. Maybe it is the unavoidable intrusiveness of the office environment bulldozing its way into the sacred intimate space of employees, or it could simply be the novelty of virtual meetings running its course. Ultimately, the message is clear. Our employees are tired.


Costco’s founder and CEO, James Sinegal’s adage is as relevant today as it ever was.


“When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors”. When we create an environment of positivity, our employees are happier and much more willing to invest their time, energy and effort into the company. So, how can we design an “E-cosystem” that nurtures the wellbeing of our team and help them thrive in an era of virtual and remote work?


Building the ecosystem for healthy work culture


When designing a modern office, our typical considerations include how to facilitate collaboration, encourage discussion, and how to spark creativity. Based on this, we ultimately map out a flow that best suits the needs of our workers and how to meet their hierarchy of needs.


In our haphazard transition to the virtual office, the immediate problem to solve was how to keep ‘business as usual’ and how to ensure our virtual infrastructure gets up and running so we could achieve that. This model, unfortunately, neglects the human side of the office. A virtual meeting room lacks the familiarity of a physical meeting room filled with memories of laughter and fun. It lacks the countless coffee breaks as a brainstorm session takes longer than expected. It lacks colours. It lacks life. We cannot interact freely and observe someone’s body language properly over a virtual office. Communication is more than just words and voices over a call.


As virtual offices become a more permanent fixture in the corporate world, we need to dedicate the same careful thought and design in to make the e-environment more collaborative so the office culture maintains the same dynamics. Culture transcends physical barriers. Whether online or offline, cultivating the same sort of digital infrastructure is imperative to maintaining the same level of productive collaboration and discussion.


Here are some tips and tricks to building healthy work culture for a happy, creative team!


1.     Instilling good screen habits as part of the office culture


Due to the nature of working from home, employees are no longer afforded the luxury of a little respite from digital screens The moment their feet touch the floor, it’s usually all hands on deck at the work desk. It is no wonder digital fatigue becomes a prevalent problem since there is no time for the brain to warm up before it reaches an ideal point capable of producing its best work. Help your employees make a conscious effort to set aside specific time within their calendars to be away from the screen! 


Introduce a morning routine 


Instead of the habit of going from the sheets to the desk, organize a simple morning routine within or around the office to start the day. This can be a simple 15 mins yoga stretch once a week that can be done virtually. Or educate your employees on the benefits of starting morning pages.  which is a lot like journaling. Check out morning pages based on The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. 

At MCI Singapore, we have piloted a programme of a bi-monthly morning exercise. With employees taking turns to lead the workout, we integrated a wellness/ workout programme within each participant’s life while facilitating bonding despite being virtual.


Having these little activities and exercises as a part of your office ecosystem will encourage and guide your employees to prioritize wellness as part of their life and frame their minds for great work.


2.   Switch it Up


After more than a year of working from home, most employees have a workstation of some sort in their homes. Sitting at the same spot day in and day out may give any normal person a serious case of cabin fever.


 A great solution to this is to provide a stipend to allow small refurbishment of some work-from-home gear. An ergonomic chair, a plant, or a desk fan can make all the different in reinvigorating a stale environment. This little initiative also goes a long way in transforming a workstation into a proper work set up with constructive tools that translate to better quality of work. Studies have found that introducing some greenery has a calming effect which helps reduces stress and increase productivity. 


Alternatively, should local regulation permit, introduce work at colleague’s initiative, or a flexible return to the office day. Colleagues could drop round each other’s houses to work for the day or work out a schedule to go back to the office during certain period. These initiatives should of course bear COVID-19 measures in mind, but this tweak in the environment occasionally helps recharge the mind and “blow the cobwebs out”.


As long as the best work is being done, the workstation can be wherever an individual deems fit!


3. Explore Productivity Tools


An inadvertent result of working remotely is the increased lag time in project management. Having employees in various locations may result in lead time between correspondence increasing. A longer project timeline as a result of inefficiency isn’t ideal when all project management tools can completely resolve this. Productivity translates to having more free time to pursue other projects or activities. It also means employees have more monopoly over their time, which leads to an overall increase in satisfaction.


Here is a list of resources may be just the thing you need for your quest to facilitating productivity


​With project management tools, planning, organizing and managing resources all contribute to a developing a more streamlined workflow. We recommend With a better understanding of respective timelines and more clarity on each team member’s workflow, no time is wasted being mindlessly glued to a digital screen waiting for emails or project updates. With a more productive and efficient workflow, mutual time is respected which fosters a healthier work environment. 


4. R E S T 


This cannot be stressed enough. Rest is vital. 


Sleep should never be put on a constant back burner in the pursuit to meet deadlines. Of course, this is easier said than done. Imagine an email coming in after the end of the workday and it’s a catch-22. On one hand, it’s better to start on the project as quick as you can, but at the same time, it’s impossible for you to finish it and get it down at a reasonable time. Instead, why not enforce a “no emails after office hours” policy. This not only gives employees the space and time to recharge themselves, but also shows them that their wellbeing is important to you as well.


Some individuals may have trouble falling asleep because of the blue light emitted by a digital screen which messes with your body clock. One way to help your employees get a better quality of sleep and rest is to introduce the idea of using a sleep cycle app to help them better understand their rest cycle and plan their bedtime. Another possibility could be to provide a corporate subscription to apps such as Calm or Balance, both of which have glowing reviews on helping individuals improve the quality of sleep. From the glowing reviews of the app around the office sharing and comments like “I feel energized and recharged when I wake up in the morning” and “I can focus better at work now!”


At MCI, we are in the business of creating and designing memorable experiences for communities. In this increasingly interconnected world where the physical and virtual are fast becoming one, we hope these tips and tricks will help you design a healthy work culture in this era of remote work.


Is your company finding new ways to help your employees overcome digital fatigue? Or are you on the lookout on learning to build an infrastructure for healthy work?


Get in touch to understand how we can shape your tomorrow, better.


MCI Content Team