When the Overwhelm of Work Invades HomeFeb 16, 2022
Ask remote workers what they love about remote working, it’s the perks of being home. More flexibility. No commute. More autonomy. Fewer interruptions from colleagues. Better focus and thus better productivity.
Yet, it’s not all perks. Some things are harder and multiply the sense of overwhelm.
How so? The isolation or sense of disconnect from the rest of the team. Harder to separate work and home. Interruptions from others in the household. Too much time behind a screen.
Even though there are perks, a different kind of overwhelm invades our homes when we become remote leaders and workers.
Remote Work Means Juggling More Overwhelm
Raise your hand if you ever brought work home with you. Raise your hand if you ever spent time ruminating about work when you were out getting groceries or hanging out with friends. The line between work and home has always held the potential to be a bit fuzzy.
Since we moved to an increasing percentage of the workforce working remotely, that line is a whole lot fuzzier. Instead of bringing work home . . . it’s just always there. Staring at you. Calling your name. You might have been overwhelmed before working remotely. Now you are juggling more of the overwhelm as work is always around you.
Remote Work Increases Household Clutter
I’ve worked from home for many years. Long before the forced shift to remote work in 2020. You might think I was used to it. Some things didn’t change much for me. Except before it was just me at home. Now, the house is full with other remote workers infringing on each other’s space.
It’s a permanent condition for us as we adjust to a long-term remote working family. Our dining room is permanently an office. We are working around paper and printers and school books in ways we didn’t before. It’s just a whole lot more cluttered, which if left unorganized can create a sense of overwhelm.
Remote Work Makes it Harder to Stop Working
A recent survey by Robert Half of 2,800 employees found that 70% of workers that transitioned to remote work are now working weekends and 45% are putting in more than 40 hours a week. "While remote work affords employees greater flexibility, it also makes disconnecting extremely difficult," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. Here’s a few of their findings:
- The work day at home is flooded with personal pressures, too.
- The natural boundary of work in one location and home in another is broken
- The drive to and from work to decompress and unwind has been lost
- Fear of the impact of the pandemic on future job security adds pressure
Technology actually gives us the impression we can do more – however it actually makes it so that we are always “on” unless we intentionally put some guardrails up.
What Can You, A Leader, Do About It?
If you are leading a remote workforce, then managing the overwhelm that comes with it is a necessary skill you should have in your toolbox. Your team will thank you for stepping in and helping them manage the overwhelm. You will be grateful that your people are staying engaged and productive. So, what are a few things you can do to keep a pulse on overwhelm even when you're not in the office?
- Start with a conversation. Check in with your team regularly to see how they are doing. If they are expressing overwhelm, ask some questions to sort out their overwhelm and it’s source. Check out the Lead Your Leaders podcast, episode 3 “When the Workload is Too Much” for some additional ideas.
- Agree upon responding to priorities. Clarify when they need to be available or how quickly they need to respond. Find out what works for them to be productive while still striving for work/life balance since things have shifted at home as well.
- Manage to outcomes. Finding a way to manage toward the outcomes instead of just tracking time can enhance this conversation. I chatted with Christa Hutchins on this topic Check out Lead Your Leaders podcast, episode 6 “Leading Differently In a Remote World” to get some ideas on how you can do exactly this!
Giving employees remote access and a laptop doesn’t teach them work/life balance. You gotta talk about it and help them come up with strategies that will work for them and clarity on achievable outcomes for the team to create a win-win. If a quick strategy session will help you design the conversation you need to have and questions you can ask, then sign up for a free 27 minute strategy session and let’s talk. Remember, overwhelm is not a foregone conclusion if you keep in mind the line between work and home has a purpose. It helps your team do their best work when they have a chance to refresh and recharge.
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