Technology has been a lifeline for many workers in the past year, allowing them to work remotely and earn a living during the various lockdowns.
The problem is, being constantly connected isn’t doing much for our mental wellbeing. When we’re not sending emails, we’re joining in on video meetings, sending updates via Slack and keeping on top of tasks on Asana. The boundaries between home and work are well and truly gone – and it has left us feeling frazzled.
According to a recent survey by Windsor Telecom, one in four Brits are overwhelmed with the amount of technology they need to use to keep in touch with colleagues and loved ones in lockdown. Of the more than 300 questioned, 58% prefer to communicate face to face at work and nearly three-quarters prefer to take notes using pen and paper.
Understandably, many of us are more stressed than normal. Add in the sudden shift from our normal routines and the lack of workplace boundaries, and it’s no wonder we’re feeling the pressure.
With many people set to continue working from home for the foreseeable future, working out a healthier routine is important. After the pandemic, some employers are expected to adopt a hybrid work model, allowing people to work out of the office at least part of the time. So how can we avoid feeling overwhelmed by the technology we rely on to work remotely?
Limit the number of apps you use
If you’re feeling pulled in a thousand different directions by apps and software at work, you’re not alone. Research from enterprise communication platform 8x8 found that the plethora of tools pushed on employees is proving too much for some.
Of the 1,000 people surveyed, more than a third (36%) felt they were using too many apps for workplace communication. A further 42% of respondents said they were using between six to 15 different platforms during their working day, while two percent reported using 16 or more.
It might be worth speaking to your boss to see if you can reduce the number of apps you use, without limiting communication with your colleagues. “In the rush to equip teams for remote work, businesses may be guilty of overwhelming their employees with too many different new tools, or failing to clearly outline what is and is not approved for use,” says Morgan Watts, head of IT at 8×8.
“The saying goes: ‘tidy desk tidy mind’, and this is as true in the virtual office space as it is in the physical. Businesses can help clear digital desktops by minimising the number of platforms employees are expected to use to collaborate and discouraging personal communication apps for work purposes.”
Turn your notifications off
If you can’t avoid being logged on to multiple apps and platforms throughout the day, turning off unnecessary notifications can help you avoid distractions. Take short breaks to check for messages so you don’t miss anything urgent.
It might also be possible to set your status to “away” on certain applications, so your co-workers won’t be left wondering why you haven’t replied to a message sooner.
Avoid back-to-back calls
As many people have discovered, video calls are exhausting. There are sound issues, glitches and screen freezes to contend with, as well as the urge to fill any silences when you're staring at people on a screen. It’s also mentally draining to spend long periods of time in front of your laptop without a break.
With this in mind, taking regular breaks from your computer and avoiding back-to-back Zoom calls is key.
According to the 8 x 8 research, the crossover between our personal and professional lives and the inability to unplug from the 'always-on' virtual working day were among the most cited reasons for increased anxiety levels among home-workers. Because of this, 42% said they felt more stressed and overwhelmed than when in the office.
Clear boundaries and expectations are essential for reducing stress among remote workers. Instead of dropping in on employees, managers should take a more formal approach to check-ins. And perhaps most importantly, leaders need to recognise that remote workers need regular breaks and proper downtime away from their laptops and phones to stay healthy, happy and productive.