If you ever thought that working from home is fun, just pause for a moment and think again. First and foremost, are you doing it RIGHT? The lockdown in the global pandemic forced many professionals to Work From Home (WFM). Many are working tirelessly. Few with the fear of losing their jobs amid this pandemic have begun to treat workdays as a single, endless activity. From break-less days to unduly long hours of work, and no time management people are driven to exhaustion and finally burnout. It’s time to smart work from home, time to take short breaks, time to re-energize the body, and time to re-organize your workday. The importance of taking time-off from remote work is inevitable to be able to persistently deliver 100% productive results. Let’s understand why…
Definition of remote work
As per the Cambridge English Dictionary, ‘remote work’ is defined as “a situation in which an employee works mainly from home and communicates with the company by email and telephone”
Until a few years earlier, the concept was not too popular. But recently the global coronavirus situation forced offices to shut down and people to work from home. It is the new emerging way of working outside of the traditional offices and centralized workplaces, with the help of digital technology. This wave has given management especially in professions like IT a reason to rethink and adapt to the rise in feasibility and the popularity of remote working.
What is Burnout
In May 2019, World Health Organization (WHO) included BURN-OUT in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon and mental well-being in the workplace. It is not a medical disease.
According to WHO, it is defined as, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Further WHO states, “taking time off from work is more important now than ever, as stress levels rise and days become indistinguishable from one another. Add the ever-present feeling of being ‘always on’, exacerbated by blurring lines between work and life, and you have a recipe for burnout”.
The system of work from home
Work from home has interdependencies, both human and technological. Therefore, before you embark on long term remote work the company and the employees jointly need to put a system in place to make it work. This involves:
- The technology and productive tools necessary to make the remote system workable,
- The company policies, practices, and processes needed to function including HR considerations like LTA, medical benefits, etc., and
- The rules and norms needed to continue and enhance the same office culture and values.
Steps to stay healthy and productive in remote work
Change is the law of life. After Jack Dorsey announced Twitter’s remote work policy, Mark Zuckerberg shared his plans for the future of remote work at Facebook. By 2030, he promised, at least half of Facebook’s 50,000 employees would be working remotely.
While companies are forward-leaning about remote work, we as employees also need to scale up on our thinking by embracing this new paradigm for work. A home office may just become the most essential part of your home décor.
At its core are few fundamentals to follow on how to disconnect from work while working from home in order to maintain physical and mental well-being. They are,
1. New learnings
With a change in geography, practice, technology, and rules it might require you to think differently at your remote workplace for it to work smoothly. There might be a need to adapt and learn new ways of work to deliver results. Be open to learning.
2. Plan the day
Working from home is not a compulsive activity. It has to be comfortable and rewarding. So, prep, prep, prep and plan your day before sitting aimlessly before your laptop checking emails and getting into zoom meets one after the other. As a manager, are you delegating or forgotten the concept while working from home?
3. Prepare to declutter and disconnect
Work from Home (WFH) means declutter not just your desk at home but the areas around you that will allow you to be more efficient with a positive impact on output. Instead of using sticky notes to take down points discussed in a video meeting, explore an automated meeting assistant like Marsview.ai.
Once you are better organized, prepare to disconnect from work. Remote work definitely does not imply peeping into the screen 24×7. Learn to mentally transition out of work mode after office hours.
4. Let your team know
While you are always available on mobile/WhatsApp, the reality is you need to clearly communicate with your team about how and when you’ll be available. There are also other elements to consider. As we redefine the very purpose of a corporation changing office-work-hours to home-office-work-hours, employees must be clear on how to communicate and continue to work as a disciplined team in line with the organization’s long-term goals.
5. Time management
Time management coach, remote work expert, and founder and CEO of Real Life E®, Elizabeth Grace Saunders offers five key moments we can step away from remote work: Pre-work, pre-lunch, lunch, post-lunch, and finally, post-work. Her ‘Schedule Makeover’ guides us to the perfect work-life balance with flexible schedules that help to overcome frustration, guilt and stress.
Remote work or Work From Home is not a fad. It is a concept that will become a greater reality in the coming months and years. In Donald Rumsfeld’s words, “there are known knowns and known unknowns, and also unknown unknowns that you must take account of”. Only time will tell how well-prepared we are for the new normal remote work.