A new era of flexible work is here. It seems increasingly more evident that, even though the majority of employees will eventually return to their traditional offices, a considerable number will opt for flexible workplaces and hours. The prospect of working from home may be exciting at first; however, the reality may surprise you.
Working from home temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic is one thing; working from home long-term as the new normal is another. Two months into the new routine, the excitement about flexible hours and fewer office interruptions is winding down, and the downsides are starting to emerge—for instance, weariness. Personal circumstances differ from one employee to another, yet we’re all subject to remote work fatigue. As a self-employed person for the last 15 years, I can attest that working from home has plenty of advantages. Autonomy is a big one. You can create many of your own rules.
However, I can also attest to the fact that it can be a very lonely place. I could spend days without seeing another human being outside the gym or the supermarket. Your friends expect you to attend this and that event "since you're your own boss" or the best one I heard "well, it's not like your work is that important , like your husband's, who's in a real office" Ugh! For distance office workers, once the novelty wears off, it can get challenging.
If you end up working from home log-term, you must find ways to keep your motivation and saneness up. From the very beginning, keep an eye out for the mistakes listed below to avoid becoming disenchanted.
Busywork. You may feel that you need to prove yourself as a valuable employee. One who's always on top of things, replies to emails and text messages immediately, and is continuously busy. This is a mistake. Focus on your priorities and take care of lower-value activities only after completing high-value tasks. Schedule specific times to check emails, respond to texts, and return less important calls. Being busy doesn't make you productive.
Burnout. Feeling overwhelmed zaps energy and motivation right out of your body. And by now, many remote workers are feeling its effect. Multiple daily Zoom meetings take a toll on you, and well-planned days take discipline and will.
Take frequent short breaks. A good starting point is a short break every hour or so and longer ones every two hours. Also, communicate in ways that do not entail looking at a screen for long periods. Take a call while walking around your neighborhood. Whenever possible give your back a break by working standing up instead of sitting down.
Another mistake that fosters burnout is repeatedly saying “yes” to other people's demands that add to your already busy schedule. Either say "no" at once or offer to consider their request later when you're less busy. Don't commit to something just because somebody else asks you.
Loneliness. Remember when you were complaining that your workdays consisted of interruptions, unnecessarily long meetings, and co-workers wasting your time with irrelevant stories about their weekend plans? I bet you're starting to miss some of that human interaction now. Working from home is a lonely affair, not suited for everyone. Being in your little corner may have seemed exciting nine weeks ago, but not so much now.
Don’t let isolation get to you, be proactive, and find ways to keep in touch with others. Now that physical distancing restrictions are starting to relax, consider ways to safely meet with your friends and co-workers.
“Always-on” mode. Being always connected is a consequence of modern times. Unfortunately, technology has made it easy for us to be always “on” -which is helpful for the evolution of remote work, but no so for our mental health. Once your workday is over, it’s over. Disconnect! Create a short ritual to transition from work mode to personal/family mode.
Contrary to popular belief, being in "always-on" mode decreases your productivity. Your brain needs time to decompress and re-energize. When you give your mind space and time to unwind, it'll repay you with greater creativity and focus.
Lack of boundaries. It's all about communication. I cannot stress enough the importance of setting clear boundaries with your family and co-workers while you’re in work mode or family mode. Get together with your family and communicate your flexible times to tend to household matters and the times when you cannot be interrupted. When everyone is on the same page, your productivity wins.
On the other hand, make sure you and your team agree on what times of the day are off-limits for text messages and phone calls. Set times that work well for the whole team and respect those boundaries. Without clearly set boundaries, you won't find time to decompress and practice self-care. Self-care -whatever that means to you- is key to being ready for the next day at the new corner office.
I hope this helps you avoid simple mistakes that keep remote workers from achieving their goals. Breaks and time to think are just as important as focused work to advance your daily goals. Plan your days and protect the times you blocked for priorities.
Are you experiencing isolation and burnout working from home? What are you doing to overcome it? Share your experience below. I would love to hear from you! If you found this post interesting, please like it, share it and leave a comment so others can read it. Enjoy a productive week!