The second wave of COVID-19 has proved to us once again that we live in unpredictable and uncertain times. It has also highlighted the competitive advantage that wellbeing provides - especially true for the Indian Millenials and Gen Zs who've only read about plagues and famines in history books. But COVID-19 has made us all witness a reality we all wished we could escape. This reality has come with its own share of problems for individuals working from home. A "sledgehammer" approach to curb COVID-19 has resulted in more than 50% of the world's population living in lockdown - the World Economic Forum calling it the biggest psychological experiment ever conducted.
Remote working is part of the new normal. While the idea of working from home used to feel great in the pre-COVID times or BC (before COVID as I like to call it), a Deloitte report of the year 2020 states multiple reasons why it is nothing like that during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Here are some insights:
Untimely Working Hours
Living in the challenging times that we are, our working hours have stretched beyond the usual. With breakfast and lunch breaks happening at odd hours, no water cooler or coffee breaks in the evening, or no traffic jam to beat the morning blues, you might think this time will be utilized for self-care or recreation. Instead, working remotely / from home often results in a fusion of work and private life, and some of us may have difficulties disengaging at the end of the workday, a 2020 study cited. Among survey respondents,
- 89% said demands on their personal time and daily routine have changed due to the pandemic.
- 40% of working women who experienced negative shifts in their daily routine say they’re unable to balance their work and life commitments.
- And nearly 40% cite significant consequences to their physical and mental wellbeing. As individuals, start your day with a quick five minutes meditation and breathing session, list down your personal and professional priorities for the day before going on with your work. As organizations, fix up some learning time for your employees, give them an opportunity within working hours for recreation and learning, hire a professional for mentorship and work-life balance sessions.
Zoom/ Screen Fatigue
The four consequences of prolonged video calls contribute to what is known as Zoom Fatigue. According to a recent study done by Stanford University:
- Excessive amounts of close-up eye contact with your screen (that are highly intense) lead to extreme tiredness due to exertion.
- Seeing yourself during video chat constantly in real-time is sometimes not only distracting but fatiguing too.
- Video chats reduce our mobility and end up making us more tired and lethargic.
- Plus, the cognitive load is much higher in video chats.
As an individual, you should take a 5 minutes stretching break from your screen every hour. Wash your face often and stay hydrated. As organizations, the leadership or HR professionals should create activities to help their employees stay stress-free to enjoy having great working weeks. A weekly casual catch-up can help boost the morale of your team and so will surprise digital messages telling your employees why you care.
If we consider zoom fatigue a cake, then technical glitches can be the icing on this cake quite literally. In remote working during the pandemic where you are already not directly engaged with your team members and may feel disconnected, less creative, or less productive, technical glitches make matters worse. These internet server issues, software, or system crashes, logging in to a specific technology, or using all features of virtual meetings, can be frustrating while working from home and may even result in a feeling of helplessness. Companies like Google have assisted their employees by setting up their mini-home workstations. As organizations, these things might be small but, as an employee dealing with a zillion things during a pandemic at home, this can be another reason for them to depend on their workforce.
Unclear Performance Metrics
Are you aware of your performance metrics? By what standards do you measure the performance of your employees, or by what parameters are your performance measured? While working from the office, sometimes, the easiest way a mediocre manager reviews an employees' performance is by the long-stretched working hours they spend on their workstations, while working from home, how then is your performance measured? Managers and workers alike need to get complete clarity on precisely at least one key performance indicator (KPI) that reflects how well they’re doing their job.
As we move past the second wave and as we see a rising number of cases in the country for the Delta virus, one thing is clear, remote working is going to continue for a tad bit longer. Don't let the stress linger around for longer, it is time to create a healthy and nurturing working environment for all where distance doesn't stop the good work and neither does it kill our good vibes.