Coping with always-on remote work

Culture and people
Coping in a remote work environment
It has never been more important to talk about stress than in the post-COVID “always on” environment we find ourselves in. Many of us are exhausted, overwhelmed and, frankly, frazzled by the pace and intensity of work.

Don’t get me wrong, I thrive on a healthy dollop of stress. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. It motivates me and drives me to operate at increasingly higher levels. The accumulation of stress, however, is toxic and will ultimately lead to burnout.

I have had first-hand experience with spiraling levels of stress. The signs? Waking up every morning at 2am ruminating about work; my husband telling me outright that my priorities were out of whack; and continuously dropping balls at work and at home.

I have actively explored how to increase resilience to avoid burnout. The term “resilience” in physics describes a material’s ability to return to its original shape after absorbing a blow. I love this description; although, in my experience, it is more about returning to an improved form after a blow, which is where the real value lies.

Practically, how do I increase resilience?

Well, I have mastered the art of the brain reset. I force my brain to reset itself throughout my working day by taking a couple of 15-minutes breaks to do something that brings me joy, like playing with my kids. For those 15 minutes, my brain is forced to do something different. This halts the increase of beta waves (those associated with stress) and, essentially, disallows the accumulation of stress that leads to burnout.

This strategy is backed by research from Microsoft Human Factors Lab and really works for me, which is why I also encourage my team to follow suit.

Your wellbeing is ultimately your responsibility. Be brutally honest and self-aware enough to distinguish healthy vs toxic levels of stress and act responsibly to ensure you give your best to your family and to your work.

Your employer should be delighted for you to take the reset time needed to ensure you can apply yourself creatively, and with renewed inspiration, to the important work you do.