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Even the most zealous remote work advocate admits that remote work can cause stress, just like any other way of working. Working from home or from any other place than the office is not the antidote to work stress. In this post we dive into managing stress while working remotely
Even the most zealous remote work advocate admits that remote work can cause stress, just like any other way of working. Working from home or from any other place than the office is not the antidote to work stress. Work stress is a broad topic. I might write about it next time. Today I’m focusing solely on the stress caused by not working at the same place or time as your colleagues.
Signs and sources of burnout
Remote work is said to help people establish a healthy work-life balance: You can cut the commute and spend more time with family. But on the other hand, the boundaries between work and life can be more blurred. Stepping away from your office is one of the hardest things for a remote worker. Consequently, the most essential skill to learn is to set boundaries to protect your mind and health. That’s what I tried on Saturday when I eliminated WiFi.
Let’s start with signs
There isn’t one precise, easy diagnosis of burnout. It isn’t like a blood test. There are physical signs of burnout. But you don’t need to experience them all or a certain proportion. Just one can be enough. The best way to spot signs of burnout is to keep track of how you are feeling. Reflective journaling has helped me to pinpoint indigestion as a big red flag for stress. You would have never guessed that I’m stressed looking at me; it never surfaced and was visible to others. Common symptoms of burnout:
– Anxiety and depression
– Chronic fatigue and not able to sleep
– Angry and being irritable
– Physical symptoms, such as indigestion, headaches, heart palpitations
– Lack of motivation
– Lower job performance
– Cognitive issues, such as inability to focus, forgetfulness
Sources of stress
Internal sources of burnout: Burnout can be caused by yourself. But that is not a reason to blame you and beat yourself up. It is an opportunity for taking agency and changing your way. Over time, we develop behaviors and strategies to deal with situations. Some of these are shortcuts. In that instance, they work and help us, but their effectiveness fades, and the problems resurface over time. For example, by being a people pleaser, you avoid confrontations, but over time this leads to resentment, unhappiness, and feelings of exploitation. Other behaviors or personality traits that can cause burnout are:
– No boundaries
– Low self-worth
External sources of burnout: Burnout can also be caused by factors you are not fully controlling. The most obvious example is too much work. If your work demands are too high or higher than the support you receive from your employer, chances are you will burn out (or switch jobs pretty quickly). Other external factors of burnout include:
-Lack of recognition for your work
-Isolation from colleagues
-Lack of autonomy
Digging deeper into the relationships between work and burnout, Christopher Weinert (University of Bamberg) and colleagues studied what work factors cause remote work exhaustion. The most significant predictor of feeling exhausted from remote work was feeling overloaded with work, followed by work-home conflicts (i.e., blurred boundaries between work and home) and unclarity about one’s role. Now, the question is, “What causes work overload?” The answer is feelings of isolation, lack of information, and lack of autonomy.
On how to remove external factors causing burnout.
Ideally, you don’t need to know about symptoms of burnout, only about what creates it. Then you can work actively to remove them before they are damaging your health and well-being. Your work environment and your employer are responsible for external factors of burnout. If you want to remove these stressors, you need to engage in conversations with others. Of course, ideally, they would notice that you are burned out, but they might not have the skills to do that (or lack the tools and processes to spot it).
Autonomy & decision making freedom
Autonomy exists when remote workers are given the freedom to solve their challenges and decide how and when to complete their work. It goes beyond what should be done and also includes how it is done. Think about the tools you have, such as what computer or laptop you use, what software you have access to. Create a list of work processes and tools that you like to change and why. Go and talk with your manager and colleagues and discuss where change is possible.
Clear asynchronous communication
Another way to reduce work stress is by increasing the amount of information. Clear asynchronous communication allows employees to be online when they want to work. At the same time, they have all the information they need to do their job. One danger of asynchronous communication is that it is cryptic and not helpful. Make sure when you write a message that the receiver has enough context to understand it.
Build a strong team culture
Create social channels, games, and virtual coffee meetings among employees. The goal is to create strong social bonds between team members. You want them to feel as if they are part of a vibrant, active community. In that way, they don’t feel alone.
Want to figure out if you are experiencing burnout? Use reflective journaling to get clarity. You can also do this as a team. Reach out to us to discuss how to do reflective journaling as a team.
1. Autonomy and decision making freedom
Think about the tools you have, such as what computer or laptop you use, what software you have access to. Create a list of work processes and tools that you like to change and why. Go and talk with your manager and colleagues and discuss where change is possible.
2. Clear asynchronous communication
For asynchronous communication to be successful make sure when you write a message that the receiver has enough context to understand it.
2. Build strong team culture
Create social channels, games, and virtual coffee meetings among employees.You want them to feel as if they are part of a vibrant, active community.
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