A recent article in the WSJ showcases how Big Tech is adapting their work-based tools to help workers carve out breaks and manage work time around remote working. We’ve heard a lot about Zoom Fatigue over the past year, but this doesn’t quite encapsulate the level of fatigue that comes from working remotely. I suspect that ‘Remote Fatigue’ is going to become a much bigger focus in workplace conversations going forward. Although Big Tech are responding to some of the issues around digital exhaustion, the changes seem to be more beneficial to companies than to employees.
Using technology to work remotely from the office has a number of positive and negative psychological implications. On a positive note, it can be easier to manage home and work commitment (especially for working parents) and allows more time for physical and personal improvements; there can be fewer physical interruptions from colleagues, which can lead to more focus time; for introverts, engaging less with others can be less emotionally exhausting.
On a less positive note, working remotely means we spend more time ‘signalling’ to colleagues and managers that we are online and productive; we can use our traditional commuting time for catching up on work (rather than using that time as a physical and mental transition between work and home); it is easy to slip into working longer hours, becoming more and more tethered to our work technology; it’s difficult to maintain a team culture, resulting in feelings of isolation and loneliness; lower levels of managerial and co-worker communication can lead to lower levels of motivation and anxiety; longer hours spent stationary at a desk is not good for our physical and mental wellbeing. These factors can all contribute to ‘Remote Fatigue’ and need to be acknowledged and addressed by managers and business.