Sometimes you make an intentional effort to adopt a new habit. Other times, life forces you to. And just like that, with a global pandemic, we embraced new work habits overnight. Some have stuck around, but are they all that valuable? And could it be time to replace some of them now that we’ve discovered the not-so-fun aspects of Zoom fatigue and blurred work-life balance lines?
Leadership and HR experts say yes. Here are eight remote work habits it might just be time to replace for better mental wellbeing and productivity.
1. Skipping Breaks
“In the office, time might be taken to gather one’s thoughts walking from one part of the building to another, making coffee, small-talking with coworkers or simply on the daily commute. However, with remote working, these ‘downtime’ activities are often replaced with meetings and other work,” says Liz Wootton, director of leadership and personal effectiveness at Human Nature Development.
“The problem with lack of breaks, rest, downtime, and working longer and harder than before, is that our brains require rest and downtime for creative thinking, problem-solving and collaborating with others.”
According to her, since we have now established that we can work remotely and be productive, it’s super important for employers to embrace work habits that support our brains and nervous systems. “Employers need to encourage taking intentional rest breaks during their workday and creating healthy boundaries for remote working.”
“It is more important than ever to equip workers with skills that help them relax and maintain balance, along with permission to use those skills as part of their work, not something they are only expected to do on their own time.”
2. No Transition Between Work And Home
Before the pandemic, our evening commute or post-work gym time provided us with a cue to leave the workday behind us and transition into downtime at home. But now, a lot of professionals got into the habit of not having any transition between work and home. And that’s detrimental if you want to sustain your energy levels.
“Our commutes used to serve as a transition and now that period of time has evaporated,” says Sarah Ohanesian of SO Productive, productivity coach, speaker and trainer.
3. Quick Responsiveness
Ohanesian adds that being quick to respond to messages is another remote work habit it’s time to replace: “At the beginning, people wanted to show that they could work from home and do it well. But that quick responsiveness is now leading to burnout. We feel like we need to answer people all of the time!”
“Companies didn’t have time to prepare a strong communication (email, Slack, workload management) policy. So, people aren’t clear on their boundaries between home and work time. It can feel as if you need to be on all channels all the time.”
“Multitasking is often seen as a positive habit that allows you to maximize the limited amount of time you have. Remote work is hailed as an arrangement that allows workers, especially working parents, to be with their children while still meeting work deadlines,” he says.
“However, multitasking where people are juggling domestic chores and office work leads to severe burnout. Encouraging people to multitask is not the solution; empowering workers to manage their schedules is a better way to go.”
5. Real-Time Collaboration
French also says that an underrated habit we should ditch is real-time collaboration:
“Collaborating with colleagues in real-time is the cornerstone of remote work; it is how things get done. But real-time collaboration needs strong leadership; otherwise, the team can consistently have long, circular collaborative meetings that can drain even the most committed member of the team.”
So how should you go about creating together with multiple contributors working remotely? By swapping meetings that spiral out of control with shorter, properly facilitated sessions. “Teams can replace unchecked real-time collaboration with well-coordinated sessions that are mindful of team members’ boundaries and respectful of their time.”
6. Unclear Expectations
“When everybody was sent to work from home quickly, we excused dogs barking in the background of meetings, spouses walking across a camera shot in a bathrobe, or employees who were using this opportunity to create their own flexible schedules and who were sometimes difficult to reach,” says Diane Gayeski Ph.D., who advises corporate leaders on assessing and adopting new rules and tools for organizational communication, collaboration and learning.
Gayeski says maintaining some professional decorum is helpful now that companies are embracing specific remote work models permanently.
“Now that many organizations are making remote or hybrid work an ongoing practice, it’s time to clarify expectations. While it might have been fun to work in pajamas, many people found that it made them feel and act less professional – and it certainly was inappropriate for video meetings with people who were outside one’s very close work circle.”
Also, flexible hours are awesome, but unclear expectations around who is working when is also a habit we need to break.
“Making one’s own hours made it easier for many people to balance out all of their obligations, but they quickly found that it was difficult to reliably count on working with coworkers who were also establishing unconventional work times.”
7. Frequent One-on-Ones
“It was initially believed that frequent one-to-one meetings between employees and the managers were essential to track progress. However, these meetings are now deemed as micromanagement and people avoid bothering employees so frequently,” says Irene McConnell, career coach, hiring manager and MD of Arielle Executive.
8. Non-Stop Meetings
Finally, it’s safe to say most professionals would gladly forgo non-stop calls at this point. “When remote work started, calls for the entire working hours became a norm. However, we later saw the idea of fatigue emerge,” says McConnell.
“This happened because people were finding it difficult to spend long hours under constant monitoring in the form of a video conference. We initially thought this was a great idea to keep the teams engaged. With time, we realized that this was becoming another reason for burnout and needs to be replaced.”