Is work from home getting to you?

Last year I wrote about how to work from home efficiently. It’s a little over one year now for most working from home.

Is it getting to you now? You remember how this setup was running efficiently last year. Now it simply seems exhausting.

In my recent conversations with people across multiple levels of various organizations, the following have stood out as core reasons for work from home becoming more and more exhausting:

4 core reasons WFH is becoming exhausting:

1. The Zoom Fatigue:

It was a good idea to have video team meetings to see faces and sustain human interaction. Now it’s getting to most people. Long video meetings and at times with no agenda are contributing to employee fatigue.

In a traditional meeting, one can look away from the speaker, scribble notes, smile at a colleague, whereas in a zoom meeting (or any other video conferencing platform!) all eyes are on the speaker. Too much of eye contact can be discomforting. The monitor light tires your eyes. Further, video calls are tough for those who are uneasy with public speaking. Normal conversations flow with speeches and moments of silence. A silent moment in a video call can make people anxious – you fear if the internet is acting up.

Informal interactions are also mostly via video calls. This means interactions meant for relaxing you can end up leaving you stressed.

Here’s an article by Stanford researchers outlining the causes for Zoom fatigue and their simple fixes.

2. The Headphone Headaches are real:

The constant video and audio meetings can leave your head feeling heavy. Headphones are a fine way to have hands free and make way for focused listening. The voice clarity is better as the background noises get drowned. But then headphone headaches are real, we may not medically recognise yet them but the ones who get them know how bad they can be. Headphones add pressure on the inside of the ear. It’s not just the volume aspect but the physical aspect of headphones that can lead to a headache.

3. I am just bored of the room

Most of our homes don’t allow us to have multiple spaces for work. We did curate a work space with love last year but now we are just bored with that same space. Sometimes we need a change of place to work better. Remember when you could book a conference room to finish that important report or step into a coffee house to finish outlines of several reports? Not having the flexibility of working rom multiple spaces has added to boredom.

4. You miss the unscheduled interactions

The security guard, the pantry attendant, the housekeeping lady, colleagues from other departments near the water cooler or coffee machine – you never scheduled interactions with them but they formed an integral part of your human experience.  All these interactions were spontaneous. Casual interactions in its best form with no hidden agenda  – a simple smile, nod of the head, how are things – it gave a sense of belonging which perhaps you did not recognise then. These felt like superficial interactions and not strong bonds with close friends and family. Today perhaps you are missing those.

Here is an article that gives you insights into casual interactions and well being – It also outlines how you can recreate spontaneity in the scheduled interaction framework.

What can be done? Work from home is not going away anytime soon.

10 Tips to make work from home work for you:

  1. Limit the number of video meetings in a day. Firm policies need to look into how many minutes an employee spends (not engages!) in video meetings as there could be significant health (physical and mental) issues due to excessive screen workload.
  2. Invest in a good pair of headsets – yes the word is invest as you are looking at long-term ear implications. Bose headsets have worked wonders for me. Avoid wearing a headset non-stop. Take breaks to listen to silence.
  3. Rejig your current workplace with some indoor plants. A small water fountain or a bamboo plant can be a relaxing element in your room. Scented candles, incense sticks are a pleasant way to calm anxiety.
  4. See if you need a soft board, a small whiteboard – these days you get small ones that can be placed on your table without you requiring to fix them on a wall.
  5. Check the sunlight – if afternoons are getting bright and hot for you, black-out curtains are an excellent solution.
  6. Reach out to people just to say hi and be okay if you don’t get an immediate reply. Let them know you are dropping a hi simply to say hi.
  7. Try indulging in recreation activities that don’t involve a screen – painting, embroidery, board games come to mind.
  8. Learn something new but be careful to not increase your screen time.
  9. Journaling, yoga and meditation on a regular basis (Regular does not mean every day!)to take care of your mental health.
  10. Stay Hydrated!

Work from Home is here to stay for a while. If you are feeling low, just listen to Robin Sharma’s WTOH method. I am sure it will come in handy.

These were my thoughts. Do let me know how you are making work from home work for you?

Other articles that could be useful to you:
  1. How to handle the flattening productivity curve?
  2. How to lead a team from home? How to virtually manage a team from home?