You might think working remotely is an ideal setup for introverts, but it’s not. Working from home is actually kind of an ordeal for them.
It’s been over a year now since coronavirus has driven many professionals out of our offices. Since then, people have occasionally struggled with how work has changed. Today, a typical work day comes involves:
- Endless video calls.
- An unhealthy amount screen time.
- An overlap between work and home.
Here’s the truth: The issues that make remote work challenging for introverts make it difficult for everyone as well. Clearly, everyone experiences burnout.
Quite possibly the most difficult part of working remotely is the frequent video calls. Why? Because being on camera is like a performance. But if you’re not careful with scheduling video meetings, you’re essentially performing eight hours a day.
However, unlike in-person meetings where it’s easy to see people’s reactions through body language, video calls don’t give you any of those hints. Besides, looking at your team members’ faces on a screen is a poor substitute to face-to-face interaction.
The experience will likely get worse if you have social anxiety. Imagine having a camera trained on your face while communicating with a group of people. That’s just exhausting.
The key to working remotely and preventing burnout is by conserving your energy. Here are some effective ways you can do that.
Before the pandemic, people commuted to work. You’re probably not a fan of the practice (particularly because of the traffic), but as much as we dislike this part of our day, travel to and from the office separated work from home life, and the setup worked.
At the workplace, the little breaks that are part of our day – like chatting with your team or grabbing a cup of coffee – are now gone as well.
So how can you re-establish boundaries to prevent burnout? The trick is to deliberately establish new rituals. For instance, you can:
- Change your lighting and music after work to give the room a different feeling.
- Call a friend for an inspirational talk while you’re winding down.
- Go on a quick jog around the block in the morning before work.
It doesn’t matter what activity it is; what’s important is that it helps place a boundary (psychological or otherwise) between work and home, helping you transition between the two.
Otherwise, these two worlds will collide – and you won’t be able to prevent burnout that way.
Manage your pace and work area
Here, “pacing” refers to managing interactions that sap your energy. To pace yourself, the most basic measure you could take is arranging fewer video calls. You can also take frequent breaks, especially after important video meetings (they’re performances, after all).
Consider time when pacing yourself. Some are more energetic early during the day (i.e. morning people), while others thrive when staying up late (i.e. night owls). You can summon more energy during your own peak hours, and save your strength when your favorite hours have passed.
You’ll also need to exert better control over your workspace to set boundaries. If you can help it, work in a separate room – ideally with a door you can lock – to minimise interruptions. Otherwise, you can define your work area with a folding screen or curtain.
You can simply end work by stepping out of that space.
If you’re a business owner or leader in your organisation, you have a special role to play to prevent burnout. You need to help remote workers protect their pace and space. During video calls, take control of the virtual room – especially when extroverts monopolise discussions.
To create a virtual workspace that empowers everyone to be heard, you can:
- Plan the agenda for video calls ahead of time.
- Implement rules for presentations.
- Minimise brainstorming video calls. Group-sharing ideas may scare the wallflowers in your team. Instead, encourage people to write their ideas before a brainstorming session.
Here’s a suggestion: Try sending an asynchronous video for potentially contentious one-on-one meetings. Record and explain your perspective, and send it to the team member in question. Your team member can then respond and react in their own time.
This lessens the pressure and anxiety from a possible confrontation, but both parties are still able to express themselves.
Along with the challenges from working remotely comes opportunity. Remote work is here to stay, so don’t just transfer bad habits and existing company culture when working remotely. Create something better.
To get started, ask the introverts in your office what their ideal day looks like, and take your cue from there.
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