Project Management

Remote Work Burnout Is Real. Here’s How to Avoid It

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It’s Up to You and Your Teams: Turn and Face the Strange

By Mario Trentim

These days, many of us have traded in-person meetings for videoconference calls and business casual for sweatpants. We’re spending much more time working in front of our computer screens and in an astonishing number of new meetings.

The time spent on video chat apps has increased by 277 percent since March, according to research by RescueTime. As a long-time user of time-tracking software, I review my screen time weekly. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my activities. And it made me wonder about the remote work habits of my team members as a result of the new paradigm.

So, I decided to investigate further from two perspectives:

The Collateral Effect of Working From Home

Employee Engagement: Although some people enjoyed flexible work options prior to the pandemic, most project teams were not fully remote. My team, for example, had a chance to meet and greet at the office every day, building our unique culture through real-world interactions.

Shifting to remote work in the wake of the lockdown made people anxious. I believe that some of us felt a little disconnected. We lost our routines and rituals. Moreover, social and economic effects became a major concern for all of us.

During the first week of lockdown, we assured our team that no one would be laid off during the next three months. Multiple strategic changes and an enormous effort from all of us helped the company not only serve our customers better but improve efficiency, increase capacity and strengthen our relationships.

Despite the happy vibes described above, there was—and still remains—a lot of uncertainty. Another tipping point happened about 45 days into the lockdown. Confined to our homes, despite our new processes and best practices, we started to become disconnected again. We were struggling once again to find motivation and engagement.

Productivity: From the productivity perspective, it appears as if we are getting more done. There are several reasons for that. For one, cutting commute time down to zero gave people much more productive time.

Coordination and communication protocols were established around ground rules and organizational culture. Information technology helped a lot, improving productivity as manual and repetitive tasks were automated, processes were reviewed in search for operational excellence, dashboards and KPIs were made available to support decision-making and more.

In summary, the global pandemic forced all of us to ask time and time again what adds value and what is wasteful in every aspect of our projects.


5 Best Practices for Remote Work

As many of us adjust to the reality of our project teams working remotely well into the immediate future, there are some things we should all keep in mind to keep engagement and productivity up. Here are five ways to fight remote work fatigue and produce better results:

  1. Focus on what adds value for your customers. I know this seems like common sense, but there’s no room for misalignment in organizations working fully remote.
  2. Adopt a lean approach in the pursuit of operational excellence. Encourage employees to discuss processes and tools frequently. Get rid of what doesn’t work—or rethink it.
  3. Provide training. A lot of organizations were caught by surprise. They turned to any collaboration tool available and sent employees home. Unfortunately, not everyone is tech-savvy. Without the right training for digital tools, many people falter during remote work.
  1. Plan, execute and adapt. Digital transformation is a complex journey. Integrated platforms and architectural decisions must be carefully made. However, planning with no execution is of little use. Adapt as needed and manage changes.
  1. Promote a balanced life. There are various definitions of a balanced life. Promote whatever best suits your organization and culture. And leave room for some fun in the process.

How do you avoid remote work burnout?


Posted by Mario Trentim on: June 16, 2020 07:00 AM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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I have worked virtually for years. My tip is to stay organized by listing your priorities for the day in the morning and then at the end of the day. It is also important to walk away and not eat lunch at your desk during the day. I have also found that having a stand up desk is very useful.

Working with teams and clients from multiple time zones could make this even more challenging. You're still expecting to be online even though you've worked past midnight the previous workday.

I've found taking breaks in between for leisure (e.g. running, going shopping for groceries, coffee run, etc.).

Something interesting my organization has done is coordinate social activities. Some of these are simply virtual hangouts, but they've also coordinated whimsical live training sessions for cocktails, baking, and cooking.

Very interesting., thanks for sharing

Making daily schedules with work/life balance is crucial for not being burnt out. I make may daily activity lists and try to follow while working remotely. I hope this helps.

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