How to avoid remote work burnout: a chat with Scott Dawson

Scott Dawson, author of Art of Working Remotely, collaborated with us on this piece about how to avoid remote work burn-out.

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Remoter
3 minute read

The team at Remoter recently found an article from Dice, where they have published some numbers on remote work burn-out. 

Concerned that many remote workers may be heading down this path if they’re unaware of the traps and pitfalls, Remoter recently partnered with Scott Dawson — moderator of the popular #RemoteChats on Twitter and author of The Art of Working Remotely — to come up with an actionable list of ways to avoid what is a very real issue. Here are his thoughts:

How do you make space so you don't think about work when you're not working? 

It’s just not translating to mental balance — Mental balance requires solid boundaries. You have to cultivate an environment where you don’t ruminate about work when you’re not working.

  1. Literally section off an area for work that’s separate from where you eat, sleep, and play. That way, you won’t have visual reminders of work as you enjoy your leisure time.
  2. Be intentional about the hours you plan to work and stick to them. Have strong cues/routines about when you’ll start and finish. Better yet: make a plan to be somewhere at the end of your workday (fitness class, dinner, a hike with a friend) to signal that the workday is over.
  3. Avoid using your personal devices (phones, tablets, computers) for work.
  4. Refrain from checking and replying to work email after hours.
  5. Fill your non-work time with things that fulfill you personally. What do you love to do?

The importance of one-on-ones with your higher ups

40% said they felt as though they were expected to contribute more. — This is definitely a problem with goal-setting and feedback. 

Establish a recurring 1:1 with your manager. If you feel that expectations aren’t clear, clarify them. Just because you’re remote doesn’t mean you should constantly feel pressured to work 24/7 and suffer the effects of burn-out. Just like an on-site worker, you need to have clear expectations, goals and get feedback from your stakeholders on your progress towards those goals.  

Potentially affecting those in a more hybrid situation 

49% feel a lack of integration into a company’s culture — Part of the responsibility here is on the company (to be intentional about integrating remote workers into the culture) and part of it is on the remote worker.

I imagine this is more prevalent for a hybrid situation, instead of all-distributed, and that’s the situation I’m in. I’m very intentional about keeping an eye on what the company is doing direction-wise, how to best communicate with and relate with others on the team who are onsite and have a healthy expectation about things I’ll be missing out on purely because I’m not there in person.

In other words, if you have the proper expectations — that you’re not going to be as plugged in as an on-site person — you can more readily embrace that as a drawback of being virtual.  That said, I try my best to chat with colleagues about what’s going on in the office — people, projects, and politics.

Communication styles 

4% say they are “not able” to communicate easily with their team.” — As the numbers are low but still exist, I wonder if this is a tooling problem or a culture problem? If the leadership has not made an adequate effort to foster communication with the team, it’s on you to speak up and cite that as a problem that’ll affect morale. 

I did, and the result is helping: we have adopted periodic team meetings with topics ranging from projects to personal highlights, and also tech talks where we can learn from each other. We don’t have a problem with tools — I feel like I can easily communicate with anyone, remote or not, because we’re all accessible: by email, phone, or chat.

 

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