From the Comms Cupboard

How to beat remote work fatigue

Working at home doesn't have to be tedious. John and Shaun discuss ways to battle remote fatigue that you might eventually take back to the office.

You never know, you may communicate better! There are definitely lessons to take from at-home work life, but recognising what they are could be difficult.

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Episode transcript

John: We've been apart from lots of people for a number of months, and at the start there were lots of ... kind of exciting ... We were all on Zoom. We were having parties with our families. We were having end-of-week drinks with our colleagues. Has that faded a little bit now?

Shaun: Oh, I think so. I think these things are novelty for a while, and novelties wear off very quickly. And, I don't know – would people still be having those ... what were they called? The work pub sessions, and we all make a drink at home and we all get together.

John: Yeah.

Shaun: I didn't do it myself, but I saw lots of them.

John: I think they probably do still happen, but really a lot.

Shaun: Yeah, why?

John: I have a real theory that we spend all day on Teams and Zoom, and constantly having meetings with these people. And perhaps even when we worked together in the office, we didn't necessarily socialise together. So to prolong an experience where you're sat at a desk most of the day staring at a screen with your headphones in, do you want another hour of that?

Shaun: No, it's that enforcement, I suppose of feeling compelled to hang out with your workmates when you just want to go and watch telly. And I'm talking about out of hours now and I'm not talking about work hours. I'm talking about when someone arranges that six o'clock-seven o'clock: "Ooh, let's meet for a drink like we normally do." Actually, no.

John: Yeah, I'd rather just put my pyjamas on and go on the sofa 🛋

Shaun: Yeah.

John: I think I get that. Maybe it's actually because we've been working apart but closer together.

Shaun: Ooh, that's an interesting proposition.

John: Because, we're perhaps talking to each other more throughout the day, or perhaps messaging each other. We're perhaps having more collaborative sessions together. Maybe we're working actively with more people with a wider circle.

Shaun: Oh, dare I say it: Communications have improved now that we're not in the same building.

John: Yeah, I think so! I do think that. We also maybe injected more humour into our online conversations. The tools have got closer to how we do social media out of our work lives. The power of a GIF. Jiff? Gif? 🤨

Shaun: Gif. I'm old school.

John: You're old school. But the power of being able to send something fun and have a fun conversation with somebody that you may used to have had face-to-face occasionally. But being in the comfort of your own home, maybe those relationships have built. Also, we've been going through a crisis. Crises bring people together, don't they? You have more of a shared experience. And you've been working longer hours or really doing a lot of work, especially communications teams. It's a huge amount of work managing a crisis.

Shaun: I know you've been doing an awful lot of work on communications. It's been different communications than unusual as well, right?

John: Perhaps, yeah. Perhaps working more as a team in that situation; having to club together and all work a lot closer to get things done because there's things out of your control. Actually probably makes you a tighter team.

Shaun: That is an argument to say, you know if a leader was listening to this podcast right and thinking: "Well, I thought that was going on in the office, too." But it isn't, is it? The office is a very different environment and we often come office-ready, if you know what I mean. So in terms of personality and how you dress and how you act, I think there's an office 'you'.

John: Yes.

Shaun: Whereas remote working has broken down the office 'you' a little bit.

John: Yeah, the border between home and work has disappeared.

Shaun: And that's made some people uncomfortable, but I think it's been more positive than negative. I think people have perhaps been able to communicate better knowing: "Oh look, I can see inside their house and see what type of person they are. Look at the way they dress. Office Tim is very different from Home Tim, and I think I like Home Tim better."

John: Absolutely. My other thought around this: We're all working remotely. In the past, some people were in the office, some people were remote, some people were in a different office or a different time zone. And now we're all kind of the same; we're on this level playing field that perhaps those people working at home didn't get as much enjoyment because everyone else was chatting away off the Teams thing, and now everyone's in the same situation.

Shaun: There's more parity between everyone.

John: Because everyone's working at home. You also know the struggles of working at home as a home worker, and you're all adapting really well. When people do go into the office more, they'll find it quite distracting.

Shaun: But what we're really talking about in this episode is the fatigue that may have set in. So are we starting to want to become our office selves again or not?

John: I think some people certainly need a change of scenery, especially if you don't have a particularly big home or something like that, or you don't have the ability to have a comfortable space to work. There will be craving the coffee break with somebody or the walk to the shops, or being in the park and having lunch with somebody. Those things have disappeared for a lot of people.

Shaun: But I think personally fatigue is something that can be broken. Fatigue is a pattern. So whose responsibility is it to try to rejuvenate that sense of camaraderie of being together but remote? Is it comms team, is it leadership, is it everyone's responsibility?

John: I think it's one of those "everyone's responsibility" things. But I think if you're a leader in a business and you notice it happening or you're made aware of it, to think of new ways to rejuvenate people. Maybe the joy of the initial Zoom chats died off. Maybe bring them back less regularly. I think it was quite intimidating that these things were happening on a day-to-day basis and you didn't really have time to do any work! 😆

Shaun: It was too much. It felt a little bit as if it was doing it for doing its sake.

John: But I think as an individual, if you're feeling fatigue in your situation, then you should make changes as well. You know ... do you need to get better at switching off?

Shaun: Yeah.

John: You don't want to be online. Or maybe actually get really strict with yourself: "I'm working 9 to 5. I'm having a lunch break. I'm gonna go and take a walk. I'm going to leave my phone somewhere. I'm going to a different room in my house. I'm going to have a coffee break.

Shaun: Talk to the children or talk to the dog 🐶

John: Or to your family, or phone a friend (that's someone you don't work with). Actually take the time off. Also move positions. Put your laptop in a different room for the afternoon. Follow the light around your house. All these things can just make you feel a bit better and break the fatigue, right?

Shaun: I absolutely agree. And you were saying ... as you were listing all those things then, it made me think that these are the things that apply to the office too. Why should home be any different? Personally, when I've worked in offices – and you know how much I adore and love offices! – so I've worked in an office and I'll get up and I'll go somewhere else. I don't want to be tied to that desk the whole day for seven or eight hours a day. Why should I be at that one desk? So I go and take myself off. I go and work somewhere else. I think I've brought this up before, but if someone wanted a meeting one to one, I've suggested we go for a walk. Lovely day – why don't we do this as a walking meeting. They say: "Yeah sure." Because no one ever says no.

John: I think it is really, really interesting to have that in both home and work. I think the other issue of fatigue is it's a little bit because they can't go anywhere. "Oh, I can't leave the country. Why waste my holiday?" Sometimes holidays are just about not working.

Shaun: Yeah.

John: How do you reclaim your home on a holiday? If we're in lockdown, for example, again – if that's applicable.

Shaun: You want to change your four walls.

John: How do you reclaim your home as your home as opposed to your office? Can you light a candle, change the lights? Bake? Cook? Do whatever you enjoy.

Shaun: I love it when you bake. I don't suffer so much from at-home fatigue as at-home fatness.

👨‍🍳

Photo by Mel Elías on Unsplash

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