Before the pandemic
Do you remember when working from home was seen as a perk for the self-employed, or even a “treat”, reserved only for those lucky enough to work for cutting-edge tech companies?
For most of us, the only time “WFH” crossed our minds was under rare or exceptional circumstances. That was until March 2020 when, almost overnight, COVID-19 turned office life upside down. Our daily commute was replaced with more time in the morning, a packed lunch could be swapped out for a home-cooked meal, and office drama became a thing of the past.
In theory, it would be bliss, and even our dogs would lose weight as they were walked so regularly.
The reality for most is that the “treat” of remote working has developed into a trick. What started as a buzz during the first lockdown soon became a struggle and has raised anxieties for many over the subsequent two and beyond. But why are so many feeling so drained? After all, we had such high expectations.
While the concept of working from home may have seemed exciting when we first imagined it, we could not have anticipated the most serious global pandemic in a century. The term ‘remote working fatigue’ has been used excessively over the last few months, even if it is not an actual clinical diagnosis, but many of us are now experiencing exactly how it feels.
Before the pandemic, every one of us likely had some kind of stress in our lives, but the “new normal” has pushed stress levels through the roof. Our daily routines have been disrupted, and family lives changed in ways we could never have predicted, often putting relationships to the test. Working from home may have some positives, but it also comes with significant challenges too. Employees have been extending their screen time without taking proper breaks, and bad habits like working on “one last email before logging off” have broken the all-important work/life balance.
This sounds all too familiar, in fact it is another kind of burnout, but there are ways to ensure employees stay motivated, take adequate breaks, and feel supported. A way to rebuild the structure and routine which has recently lacked may be to introduce hybrid working. A solution that has proven successful for many businesses is offering a return to office strategy that is in line with the company’s culture and requirements whilst still allowing people the alternative of working remotely.
The new normal
A hybrid way of working is the new kid on the block, and now is the perfect time to implement it and get it the right first time. Businesses should now focus on reducing remote working fatigue and avoid trapping their employees back in the old model of working, which no longer fits our attitudes or lifestyle. Managers and owners can empower their team with the autonomy to work independently on their workload, allowing them to work wherever suits them best or take an extended lunch to fulfil parental duties or care for a loved one. Of course, there are occasions where physically attending the office will be preferable, such as meetings that need to be held face-to-face or in-person training.
Hybrid working means you can now work from anywhere without restrictions or the burden of installing office equipment. Everything you need to support your team can be found within Microsoft 365 and our Cloud Phone app.
We have worked on a list of tips on how both the employer and employee can make hybrid working a success.
- Call fewer video meetings and keep them brief. Being constantly on view in our homes creates a lot of pressure on remote workers. and ensure those meetings are planned to be as swift as possible. Managers should pick up the phone or use audio-only so remote employees will not sit and dread a surprise video call. Use email where appropriate and attend the office for important meetings when safe to do so.
- Keep to the 20/20/20 rule for screen time. Reduce screen time for everyone as for adults and children alike, staring at screens all day is not good. A daily commute, soundboard sessions with a colleague or grabbing a drink will all break up the amount of time spent looking at a screen. The 20/20/20 rule suggests screen users look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Alternatively try to allow 5 minutes each hour to move, stretch and get a drink. It works wonders for the eyes, posture, and general physical and mental wellbeing.
- Make good use of screen time. The Microsoft 365 suite makes collaborating easy and works time more productive. Remote colleagues can work on projects together while keeping communication open with a Microsoft Teams audio call, just like a group around a desk.
- The great outdoors is there for us all. Fresh air and Vitamin D is vital for mental health and supporting the immune system. Encourage outdoor online meetings, giving employees the chance to step away from their desk and have 10 minutes in nature. Try a ‘lunchtime meeting ban’ to ensure there is adequate time to eat and take a well-deserved break away from the desk and screen.
- Switch off, unplug, ‘Do not disturb’. Providing employees with the tools to regain control of the end of the day. It is not always simple to mute work updates especially when notifications are switched on for a calendar application, emails are still coming through, and video calls ‘pinging’ after hours. A company phone that can be turned off or put on silent during annual leave and outside of work times will allow a line to be drawn between the working day and the evening. This allows time to unwind and spend time with friends and family. As employees want to work from a mobile they already know how to use, consider SIM-only options and look at other business mobile deals.
Stay safe and keep social
There is nothing quite like the social element of the office. Working from home can mean less time spent with our colleagues and the less time we spend with each other, the less meaningful conversations we have and the smaller the impact we make on each other’s lives. When you think of all the birthdays and festivities we’ve missed this last year, we should make sure we take time to celebrate each other from now on.
Hybrid working offers many benefits to employees and their employers, from flexible working hours for those needing to accommodate childcare or caring for someone, to empowering employees to manage their own workload. Allowing employees to control where they work means they never need to miss a delivery again. A holiday away could even be extended by remote working, so a colleague can contribute to the team while still enjoying a relaxed environment. Remote workers can still benefit from team bonding activities, even if just in a virtual format. Treats, gifts and surprises can be delivered to the home to celebrate – all that’s needed is an excuse, such as a birthday, a campaign launch or closing a significant sale. With group calls available at our fingertips, there is no reason we cannot feel together, even if we are apart.
One size does not fit all
Remote working is an option, but not the only option. The beauty of hybrid working is that one way does not need to fit everyone anymore, and remote working fatigue can be managed by careful consideration of the stresses involved.