Everyone I have spoken to in the last week has Zoom fatigue, and it’s a real thing. When you can physically move from meeting to meeting you get a burst of energy, change in scenery and perspective. We have limited changes in scenery these days, and very low energy. The pandemic is mentally draining in itself. So, for those of you who have been adjusting to working from home for the first time, congratulations. You have learned a new discipline. It may have been clunky, but you’ve done it.
Cheer Partners has long been advocating for the remote workspace. And there are so many benefits. By eliminating a commute, you are saving green-house emissions, and sanity from what is a very physically and mentally stressful part of the day. Remote workers tend to be more productive, efficient and drive business results. Employees experience better wellbeing and engagement. When you have the time to set yourself up for success, by designating a work only space, honoring the beginning and ending of a workday to separate professional life from personal life, you can really succeed and find a fulfilling, mindful work experience.
What we are doing now is not that.
In the effort to be business as usual when it is anything but, we have developed an “always on” workforce that is unsustainable. Many were rushed into working from home with little preparation for the technology and space it requires. People feel like they have to work longer hours, take less breaks- often skipping meals, and constantly be in front of their laptops. This triggers a reaction in the brain, which decreases focus, and inevitably leads to sloppy work. While what we are doing is sustainable for now, it is not long term. The burn out effect is real, and I know we all want to get things right, not just done.
Here is what I propose.
Have less of them. Period. Only invite mission critical people to meetings and always have an agenda, and goals for next steps after each meeting. Send a recap. Back to back meetings do not result in strong decision making or results. Having fewer more impactful meetings will not only drive better outcomes, it will also drive engagement. Which leads me to my next point.
Pick up the phone:
Call your people. If you can ask a quick question rather than have a meeting, do that. If you can answer a reply all email in one phone call, do that. And when you do, be human, show empathy and your own vulnerability. Ask how folks are doing, give a minute to reconnect. Many people are experiencing increased stress levels from being on video all day. A phone call can be a welcome contrast. I try to walk during phone calls with my earbuds in, which allows me to get up a move and be present in the conversation rather than checking email at the same time.
Sometimes chat features can be stressful, but by managing your settings and notifications, you can really maximize the channel. Start a remote work channel or virtual water cooler to infuse fun into chat. We have done this ourselves and for our clients and it relieves pressure and anxiety while strengthening the bonds of the team. If you can get a quick answer in chat, do that.
Keep your office hours:
Just because we are home, doesn’t mean we are always available. Honor the office hours. Yes, sometimes we will have to work after hours on a time sensitive project, but these days, everything is treated as time sensitive. We need to audit that. What we are experiencing now is a marathon and we need the energy and resilience to make it to the finish line. Start by modeling the behavior, others will catch on.
Make time for team activities. Create an online learning curriculum to continue learning and development. Encourage ERG’s to bring their programming and celebrations online. Have a fitness challenge. By honoring your culture, you will amplify the employee experience and bring a sense of fun to the organization. Joy, laughter, sense of belonging are even more important when you work remotely. Be intentional about it.
Remote working is here to stay, but let’s rework how we work from home to improve the employee experience, increase engagement, and manage wellbeing.